It is usually a huge struggle for teachers as well as children in schools with disciplinary confusion. The management of such schools are usually at their wits end strategising for improvement. Improved staff-training resources and opportunities are provided. Workshops and seminars for students to improve their knowledge and competence on challenging areas are also helpful. The desire of every professional educationist should be to develop children who are morally and academically sound without recourse to abusive practices, even in environments without legal restrictions against corporal punishment of school children. Schools which are able to achieve this are those that have competent and principled administrators, standard and well-monitored school policies and teachers who are qualified and well supervised.
I have realised that teachers who were physically abused by their teachers and parents when they were young tend to cling tightly to their belief that children must necessarily pass through the same experiences. Most of such teachers would boldly describe the various effective child development methods such as Montessori as mere theories. Their unfavourable disposition to any improved method is obvious from their negative comments and rhetorical questions even during workshops and seminars. In fact, it can really be so bad that the only classroom control skills such teachers are willing to accept are corporal punishments and use of negative and abusive words. The undoing of a school at the turning point of embracing any improved method would be to underestimate the extent such teachers can go in frustrating the positive move for change, even if they are in the minority.
Stories have been told of how dissident teachers in such circumstances have done a lot of things to frustrate a good purpose.
- They have exaggerated the children’s behaviour to parents to ginger them to kick against the school’s improved method.
- They have completely dropped the old violent method but refused to apply the new method. Such teachers have even withdrawn their support to the children and lied against the children so that issues would really be exaggerated.
- They have blamed any challenge by any child on the change in approach.
My advice to schools in such situations is to be focused and insist on establishing a better approach in order to achieve improvement. No school should be overwhelmed by the activities of such dissidents. The school should take an inventory of such teachers, ensure that they apply the right standard of practice in line with the new prescribed school policy and monitor them closely. The option they have is either throw in the towel on their own or otherwise be subjected through the school disciplinary procedure for misconduct or negligence. It is important that the orientation programme of new teachers should include programmes that equip them to relate with children in conformity with school policies. A better approach is always preferred. No school should therefore be frustrated into giving in to cheap blackmail by dissident teachers and abandoning the good purpose of embracing an improved approach of achieving moral and academic excellence.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
A story was told of a boy named Isa who was taken to his village to live with his maternal grandparents at the age of five years. Isa’s father yielded to this request because of his confidence in the moral standards of his wife’s parents. In the first few years, it seemed as though everything was alright because Isa gradually became responsive to his traditional value system. His parents were quite impressed to hear him speak their native language perfectly.
Their bubble, however, burst at a birthday party Isa attended when he was on holiday with his parents in their township house. There was a sudden uproar and children were screaming. The few parents who were around ran towards the direction of the noise. It was an unbelievable sight. Isa was on top of a slightly bigger boy on the floor in a serious fight. It was a struggle separating Isa from the other boy. Isa’s mother was ashamed and embarrassed when she saw the ugly injuries her son gave the other boy on his neck and face. The other boy’s mother could not hide her feelings.
“Madam, from where did you bring this beast into this decent environment?” she asked pensively.
Isa’s mother apologised to the host and the family whose child Isa fought with and hastily left the party in humiliation. His father was also embarrassed by the horrible incident. Isa’s parents therefore took a studied look at their child’s personality formation and value system. Their findings revealed Isa as a child who would go to any length to violently attack anyone physically and verbally as long as a wrong is perceived. The boy he fought with at the party only stepped on his new shoes mistakenly.
Isa’s parents didn’t have to search too far to understand the environment Isa acquired the aggressive attitude from. His siblings were decent and emotionally stable. The need to ensure that their son was properly located in a decent environment for the necessary value re-orientation was obvious to Isa’s parents.
It is noteworthy that children urgently and desperately absorb environmental values and attitudes through the practices and experiences of people around them. Parents should be conscious of this in deciding on the people they accommodate in their homes, the communal environments where their children are raised, the audio and video films and programmes their children are exposed to, the disciplinary measures their children are exposed to by their teachers and caregivers. It is good to raise children in environments with good values that children will feed on.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
A disciplinary confusion is not so easy to identify in a school because teachers in such schools are always seen coercing or threatening students with force and aggression to make them perform one activity or the other. School and class prefects have to necessarily bully other children to extract obedience to simple instructions. It is a common sight, and in fact seems right for pupils and students to always be found crying, pleading or serving one form of punishment or the other even while academic activities are going on.
This situation is even worse in primary schools where activity-based teaching methods are no longer used, while children are expected to behave like adults and always made to feel guilty of noise-making. I had to complain at some point to the school authorities because almost all of the children in a nursery class of school were always told to kneel down, close their eyes and raise their hands up when parents came to pick their children after school. The teacher’s explanation when I asked was that they were always making noise.
Teachers in such environments are always heard making negative comments about children and talking in anger and frustration. Love and confidence in student-teacher relationships are usually at the lowest level. Students resent their teachers and learning is negatively affected. Despite the ‘efforts’ of teachers, acts of rebellion are common among the students in such a school. No wonder such schools would usually always describe her graduating students as ‘stubborn’ and also accommodate one form of exam malpractice or the order from the students during external exams.
The way forward for any school at the disciplinary turning point is a reorientation of its educational philosophies and methodologies, change to the non-abusive and acceptable disciplinary approach, training and re-training of teachers, and close monitoring of teachers to ensure that they fully comply with the prescribed improved method. A school in transition to the better method should be ready to contend with the actions of some teachers who would device strategies to resist change and make comments that would imply that the improved method would not work.
Readers should watch out for more on this topic.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
My interaction with Andrew, a disciple of the effective parenting approach is worth sharing. Andrew grew up in an environment in which bullying was the predominant parenting tool in the homes, schools and society. Expectedly, he commenced its application immediately his first child arrived. He believed that he had to necessarily drum instructions into a child’s ears in order to achieve results. He therefore started yelling at his first daughter even before she started talking.
“It was really frustrating because most times I had to scream my head off or use the whip to get my children to obey simple instructions” Andrew confessed.
“At first when my wife and I got tips on how to effectively raise disciplined children, we thought they weren’t going to work for our children. In fact, my first attempt at talking to my children with my ‘chatting’ voice was like a joke to them. I didn’t get the result I wanted because they thought I was not serious!” He further explained.
Andrew said that he explored more learning opportunities on effective parenting strategies and achieved improvement in his parenting skills. Eventually, he and his wife were able to gradually withdraw bullying and abusive parenting practices and replaced them with the preferred ones. Over a period of time, his children understood and embraced the improved parenting relationship he introduced. His children are becoming increasingly responsive to his chatting voice and instructions. It is a big relief to Andrew that the era of always talking harshly when relating with his children is over.
Parents should never yield to the discouraging thought or argument that a decent and effective parenting practice will not work in their homes. The reality is that children helplessly react or adjust to whatever approach parents adopt, and can always adapt to any change. How swiftly children will adapt to a change to improved parenting approach will depend on how much parenting skill and knowledge parents have acquired.
The window of learning should never be shut as far as parenting is concerned. Parents should keep learning, practising and sharing the preferred and more effective approach.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
I strolled down my street to buy something from a nearby shop on a Saturday morning. When I got to the shop, I observed that the owner was a woman who was assisted by her teenage son. The boy was holding a broom to sweep the surroundings of the shop. He was about to start sweeping when his mother instructed him to start from the opposite direction. The boy hesitated and then ignored his mother’s instruction and continued sweeping. When his mum noticed that her instruction was not obeyed, she yelled at him to stop sweeping from that point and go over to the other side. The boy stopped sweeping and murmured while making daring gestures. Suddenly, his mum picked up a big aluminium scoop and charged at him.
“If you don’t go over to the other side I will throw this scoop at you!” His mum roared hysterically. The boy quickly ran to the other side of the compound and started sweeping as if he was remote-controlled.
Even though the boy’s quick response almost forestalled my objection to his mother’s threat, I still expressed my reservation. Her explanation revealed further the extent of her struggles with her son. She said that it was almost impossible to get her son to obey any instruction without such threats. I wondered at what she was really saying. Did she teach him how to sweep correctly and why he should sweep from a particular direction? Was she saying that her son’s personality was so underdeveloped (spiritually, mentally, emotionally and socially) that force and threats of violence must be used to make him obey instructions? If that was what she was saying, then there was real danger looming in the air.
The danger in this kind of situation is that if nothing is done to intervene and achieve improvement in the boy’s relationship with his mum he may develop into a rebellious and violent adult personality. At a point, he may stop responding to her threats and damn the consequences. On the other hand, his mum may become frustrated, throw in the towel and abandon him to his fate. The street children in our environment are evidences of such mishaps. I therefore left that shop with a big burden of how that woman could be helped to improve on positively communicating with her son and adopting a parenting approach that will ensure that her son is effectively developed physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially into a responsive and responsible adult.
There is an urgent call on every informed parent to mentor adults in his/her neighbourhood and community. Schools should also be diligent in providing proper parenting guides for parents through the PTA meetings. Religious organisations should also be involved in preaching and teaching proper parenting skills.
Uchenna N. Nduka
Children may easily be shackled into whatever behaviour adults deem fit, but the paradigm for reckoning in any society on the propriety of its parenting beliefs and approaches is the extent of discipline achieved in the adults that have been raised over a period of time. A studied look at the disciplinary content of the average behaviour of adults raised in a particular society will surely inform the way forward on the necessary improvements to make on the prevailing parenting practices. It may be necessary to ask such questions as: Are political leaders disciplined? Are government ministries and parastatals administered with honesty and discipline? Are adults so disciplined as to willingly obey law and order without being seriously closely marked by various law enforcement agencies? What is the trend in prison congestion? What is the trend in crime rate? Is that society generally secure and peaceful?
It is really worrisome where the personalities of adults in a society are formed in such a way that only a few can be trusted to manage public funds without the mass media being littered with news about corrupt practices and looted fund recovery. The prisons are congested and crime is on the increase. If in security is rising and peaceful coexistence is elusive, then the heart of such a society shouldn’t just bleed and her tears freely flow at these alarming dimensions of rebellious manifestations. Such a society is truly at the turning point and its parenting and educational processes require urgent overhauling.
This is food for thought for those who passionately administer wrong violent and abusive parenting practices for mainly cultural purposes. Societies that have established standard parenting and educational laws and practices have better stories to tell. A parenting approach will be effective if parents are sufficiently available to model discipline and provide the right support and guidance for the proper development of their children. Therefore, our little individual efforts at ensuring that the parents in our respective communities apply effective parenting skills will surely help in reducing crime, violence and corruption. Workshops and seminars should be organised to teach the right standards of practice to parents, teachers and care-givers of children. Yes, it will greatly help in achieving the kind of improvement that will transform a dysfunctional society into the kind of societies with admirable and functional systems.
Uchenna N. Nduka
Clem was the first son of his parents. Expectations from him to be of good behaviour and make a success of whatever he did were high. All eyes were on him to set good standards for his siblings. He struggled through his childhood to live up to the high expectations until he stepped on a banana peel in his adolescent period. His relationship with his parents turned sour. Anxiety heightened and all corrective measures adopted by his parents seemed to be failing. He became greatly delinquent and took to the streets.
He was on the streets for some months until some relations intervened and started the process of reconciling him with his parents. Surprisingly, his parents were not favourably disposed to the reconciliation move as a result of their belief that Clem would never truly repent. When his parents chose to relate with him at arm’s length, Clem had to struggle through life without palpable parental guidance. He became emotionally alienated from his parents and siblings.
Eventually, in their adult years, Clem became a thorn in the flesh to his siblings even long after the death of their parents. His personality was greatly underdeveloped. He could barely take care of his family. He kept frustrating every move for peace and progress among his siblings. He turned their joint heritage and moments of joy and celebration into platforms for rancour and confusion.
There is a lesson to be learned from Clem’s story. Parents should remain the brace of endless love even in the face of challenges. We recommend that parents should prayerfully love more, get closer to the child, listen more and talk more with the child in order to cope with any issue bordering on child-upbringing. Wise parents should be proactive in laying a foundation of love and harmony among their children to forestall siblings’ rivalry. A passionate parent forgives his child even before the child asks for forgiveness so that he will be close enough to the child to continue his parenting role. Excluding any child from the canopy of parental love is a condemnable act which would likely result in the deterioration of any child-development issue.
Uchenna N. Nduka