“Education begins at home. You can’t blame the school for not putting into your child what you didn’t put into him.” Geoffrey Holder
To date, becoming a parent was the single biggest life changing event of my life. I did not realize it then but with parenthood came days, weeks, months, YEARS of unpredictable moodiness, sick days, feuding, friendships found and lost, foods loved and hated, compromising, letting go…On the flip side, parenthood also brings newfound discoveries of patience, pride and unbridled love and protectiveness. An added bonus, we parents experience a revitalization of our childhood games, toys and movies allowing us a second peek at our youths with the added spice of our adult perspective. Kind of like reading a book you love but already knowing how it will end because somewhere tucked away in your memory is the knowledge of having read it. With that reawakening of ones inner child within our older selves yields an insight into just how much balance was involved as our moms and dads walked that parenting tightrope all those years ago when teaching us how to grow up right.
Are we negotiating that same narrow rope when teaching our children the fundamentals of kindness, ethics and socialization? Perhaps, but this is the deal we enter when bringing our babies to being as did our parents and their parents before them and their parents before them. It is the perpetual classroom. It is the handing down of life’s lessons that remind us of who is in charge and why those who aren’t, are not, and it is ultimately how we begin the process of letting go. What we give them at home they will take out of the home. And the sooner we start arming them with the tools for success the easier the transition will be for everyone.
Somewhere in my children’s early elementary educations I noticed the subtle change in the role of the classroom teacher. New terms such as ‘life skills’ and ‘self-confidence’ and ‘bullying’ were used when discussing happenings in the classroom. It seemed to me that in addition to the expected 3R’s, the students were receiving life lessons, lessons taught at home or so I thought. I once queried a teacher about these new strategies and learned that it was becoming necessary for them, the educators, to bring these topics into their classrooms, introducing discussions that perhaps were not happening at home.
How can it be that we are not teaching our children the importance of being a good citizen prior to kindergarten? I considered it my job to provide the solid foundation about such things as sharing, being a kind friend and you can grow up to be whatever you want. Of course as little ones venture out into playgroups, school and other social settings they will put to use the skills we have worked so hard to infuse into their personalities. And it is in these group situations where our children test the boundaries of what works and doesn’t work thanks to the adults guiding them at the moment. Yes, it does take a village (I am NOT taking a political stance here, merely agreeing that it is within our communities where we stretch and grow into our larger selves with the assistance of so many important supporting cast members!), however, we must not solely be dependent upon our schools (or others) to teach our children how to behave as we would want them.
I truly believe that behind every successful child is a parent or adult figure at home who cares. When we ask our children about how something makes them feel, they learn to explore and trust their feelings. When we implement boundaries, they feel security. When we show our emotions, they see we, too, are human and learn empathy. When we allow them to fail, they learn to make different choices next time. These little decisions they make in their early years are in preparation for the larger, more profound decisions to come. While all of this is happening, while we are caring about and for our children, they learn self-confidence.
This education must begin at home and begin early.
If parents don’t take the time to teach their children the fundamentals of kindness, ethics and socialization, those children have been seriously neglected. I would no more send my child out into the snow without boots than send him off without knowing his ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’s’, how to follow rules and in essence be part of a team, be respectful of her elders and understanding that to have a good friend you must first be a good friend. These little lessons were daily explorations for my children whether we were visiting the grocery story, library, pediatrician or playgroup. I don’t think I could have survived parenthood without these guidelines in place, guidelines that naturally exist when mutual love and respect are the order of the day.
And now that I am beyond my child-rearing years and am enjoying the college and post-graduate years with my babies, I have stepped back to watch them make their life choices. I feel blessed they discuss with their dad and me their decision-making steps while planning their futures. Ultimately, they remain true to themselves reminding me they were infused with the overall theme of that early at home childhood education:
A loving home + rules + respect = self-confidence → SUCCESS