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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Control Yourself!

He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. Such is the nature of all living things. – Friedrich Nietzsche
With the arrival of the Christmas season also comes the end of the Fall semester in school and as such is a good time for parents to take an assessment of where there child is academically and socially. The information for this assessment is garnered from thoughtful questions to your child, from a conversation with your child’s teachers, and quite likely you, your child, and the teachers, all sitting down together. Garnering as much information as possible is vital if you are going to ensure your child’s success both while in your home and then after, once on their own.
Research completed in 2004 at George Mason and Case Western Reserve Universities show that a child with good self control has “a higher GPA, better adjustment, less binge eating and alcohol abuse, better relationships and interpersonal skills, secure attachment, and more optimal emotional responses”. The conclusion in this study is consistent with the other research I found on student discipline and so we can draw the conclusion that if your child has difficulty behaving in the classroom, they will have great difficulty doing well academically and later in life.
Tax payers feel the pain of children that are not in control of themselves at school on a number of levels:
1. School discipline (or the lack of it) is consistently the top reason listed for teacher burnout.
2. Learning is significantly shortchanged when a teacher spends half a class with a whip and chair instead of whiteboard and books.
3. The extra programs that must be provided for discipline problems, everything from in school suspension to entire campuses in some communities, all cost more than general education.
4. Few would argue the discipline problems that manage to finish High School and enter the workforce have obtained the caliber of education as the students that were not discipline problems.
Of note here is the fact that this is a complex issue, without a simple answer. This means laying the problem at the feet of the school system and telling teachers and administrators to “deal with it”, not only hands the problem to people with little ability to fix it, this problem is not the school’s responsibility; education is, while discipline is the parents’ job. Criminology research from Florida State suggests self control is largely taught, or not, by the age 10 and that “Good children [those with self-control] remain good. Not so good children remain a source of concern to their parents, teachers, and eventually to the criminal justice system.”
Corporal punishment has largely been taken out of schools, children from dysfunctional homes are very difficult to motivate and support on a consistent enough basis to make a lasting impact upon, and out of school suspension not only doesn’t help the student behave better, research consistently shows it actually results in worse behavior problems. Only if we as a society are willing to “throw away” large numbers of students will out of school suspension work, and the result of that policy has its own economic costs such as increases in the prison populations and a less educated workforce.
Politicians have been quick to dump the issue of school discipline in the laps of the school system because there are fewer teacher votes than the public at large. We the public go along because it means we don’t have to take a hard look at ourselves. However at the end of the day we as parents, not teachers or anyone else are responsible for our children’s behavior and academic success. For the sake of our kids and the state of our nation; parents had better start doing our jobs.
Next week I will focus on specific things parents can do to instill self control and discipline in their children.

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