A secondary school administrator once discussed with me his desire to make his final year students to be more committed in the preparation for their external exterminations. When he told me that he announced to the students that any student who failed the forth coming mock examination will be flogged ten painful strokes of the cane during the morning assembly, I identified a knowledge gap. Since the burden he had was on how to motivate his students to study with more commitment, our discussion therefore became expository on the right motivational technique in his situation.
He concurred with my explanation that if the physical and managerial structures are sound in a school with the right quality of teachers and teaching resources, learning would be greatly enhanced. Reward would provide additional drive for increased commitment to academic work by students. Reward in this context would include the achievement of high scores in a fairly assessed examination process, recognition and celebration of success, gifts, awards and ultimately, securing admission into the university. For instance, outstanding students could be decorated with a special badge with motivational inscriptions during morning assembly.
Although he did not share with me his opinion of how sound the learning environment in his school was, he wanted to know the right approach to students who still would not be serious even in optimal learning environments. My response was that such students will likely be few if the reward system is properly implemented over time. However, the ‘rod’ is always available for correction. The ‘rod’ in a school environment includes policy statements that define the benchmark of expected conduct, below which unfavourable consequences are allowed to provide correction. For instance, an average score in the mock exam may be defined as a prerequisite for registration in the external exam. Students who fail the mock exam could be required to forfeit part of their holiday period for extra lessons. My opinion is that one of the reasons why moral decadence is on the increase among children is because the rod is spared, while the whip and the cane allowed. If it is really true that school administrators encourage and enhanced exam malpractice during external examinations, then even a hundred strokes of cane will not achieve any good result.
The planned flogging of students who fail the mock exam is punishment-oriented which is substandard. A skilled and resourceful teacher will be occupied with the variants of professional support he would give his students in their respective areas of need. I learnt in school that punishment is a deterrent and not a motivator. The effect it produces is usually transient and sometimes would barely outlive the physical presence of the teacher or parent. In this context, the students whose knowledge contents are truly deficient may be pushed to explore evil options of achieving the desired scores because they would always be at their wit’s end on how to avoid the painful experience of flogging.
Therefore, to achieve the desired result, the proper approach by the school administrator should have been to first establish an effective, reliable and well supervised service delivery process in the school. A school system that supports, rewards and motivates hard work achieves better results and is preferred to that which just focuses on applying punishment.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
The fact that enduring relationships are built and sustained on love and understanding is as much of a truth in parenting relationships as it is in all others including relationship with a spouse, in-laws, neighbours, colleagues in the office and classmates. Love weaves the hearts of different individuals together towards the achievement of shared feelings and values as well as common perceptions and understanding of issues and events. Since the hearts and minds drive people’s actions and inaction, healthy relationships must necessarily be fed with the right blend of love, understanding, forgiveness and clarity of explanation and expectations.
It is easy to spot when things go wrong in a relationship. Lovely feelings are attacked and faults and offences are exposed. Intentions and expectations are misunderstood and wrongly communicated. One wrong action by one person may spark off a vicious cycle of many wrong actions. The respective hearts are drawn apart when the strands of love that wove them together are loosened. No wonder words that were previously gentle and clear would become very loud and yet very unclear.
Frequent yelling at a child is a common symptom of an unhealthy parenting relationship. It usually shows how very far away the hearts and minds of the parent and the child are from each other. It is indicative of the training need on the part of the parent, and the parenting vacuum that exists in the life of the child. Such parenting relationships may even hit the rocks at a point leaving the child without any parental guidance. I have met many of such parents at the point when they have become dazed and disillusioned because they could not understand why their ‘efforts’ could not achieve the desired discipline in their children.
Adults in passionate parenting relationships are ‘braces of endless love’. They are passionate parents who give priority and attention to all issues concerning the children they nurture. They are great parents who uphold and skilfully establish godly standards of behaviour in their children. Passionate parents devote time to interact well and positively with their children. Children raised in such relationships do not just respond to force and threat, but are willing to engage in dialogue in interpersonal relationships. Such admirable parenting relationships are easy to spot because children are usually cooperative, even when clear instructions are calmly and faithfully given.
It is then obvious that yelling as a communication strategy cannot find a place in a healthy parenting relationship because it is ineffective in achieving enduring results and causes resentment. Effective communication is the preferred approach. Communication is usually effective in a serene and lovely environment where children enjoy the confidence of their parents, who talk freely with them applying good listening and persuasion abilities.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
From a distance, I could see all the nerves on her neck stick out as if she was on a battle field. She applied all the strength in her as she issued instructions to her children on how to comport themselves in the children’s service at the entrance of the hall. Her children were two boys and a girl, within ages three and eight. Immediately she left, the senior boy somersaulted into a corner of the hall where I, as the coordinator of that service, could not easily see what he was doing. It didn’t take him time to align with other children who were uncooperative. He always had a mischievous smile on his face each time he was expected to obey any instruction and would figure out a way of actualising disobedience speedily and skilfully.
At the end of the service, I had a discussion with this mother which confirmed my perception of the disciplinary atmosphere in her home. Immediately I mentioned to her that I wanted us to discuss her children, she became apprehensive. Her first statement encapsulated it all.
“I know that my children are stubborn. They are very stubborn” was her confession. I had to look around to be sure that they did not hear their mother’s statement. I didn’t even ask her questions in detail about her relationship with her children because the symptoms of an unhealthy parenting relationship were obvious. I had a counselling session with her on the ingredients of a healthy parenting relationship as well as the disciplinary pollutants she needed to expunge. I emphasised that it was very unnecessary to describe them as ‘stubborn’ and would lead to increased stubbornness if she continued with that description.
Another mum was observed who took time to take her children into the hall and ensure that they were properly seated. Her children were about the same age with the children of the woman in our first story. Her conversation with them was barely audible, but love, peace and joy were discernible as she bade them goodbye. She could not but peep through the window to be sure that they were all ok. She was seen checking on them through the window midway into the service. She was really passionate with her parenting role. My interactions with her children were quite impressive. Her children were interactive and cooperative during the service.
It is untrue that some children naturally need to be handled with aggression. The truth is that it is a parent’s choice to determine how much of aggression he or she would bring into the parenting process. Almost all the parents I have met who asserted that their children would always require flogging or threatening introduced such things from the onset. Their children therefore had no other option than to ‘react’ to the associated discomforts.
Well, the difference is clear. The preferred approach is obvious. The results of effective parenting skills are unrivalled. It is never too late to chose the right approach. All parents should really learn, practice and share the parenting skills that produce enduring results.
-Uchenna N. Nduka