Posted by Renee Van Der Vloodt 1175 Days Ago
A recent report out by ATL, the British education union tells us that last year 6 out of 10 teachers were subjected to aggressive behaviour from pupils. This also included physically abusive behaviour.
Dr Leonard Sax, whose latest book Collapse of Parenting came out this month, tells us that parents are no longer in charge. He comments on children’s rudeness and disdain towards their parents that he witnesses in his surgery on a regular basis.
Parents, he says, are reluctant to take up their role of authority.
So, how come we’ve drifted this far from the natural order of things in such a short time? Are parents solely to blame for the state children are in?
Of course not!
These facts and figures should not be seen in isolation.
Society at large is getting more aggressive and there are many factors that contribute to the rise of angry behaviour. Children copy what they see others do. Anger is often a sign of frustration and overwhelm. It’s what happens when we are unaware of how far we’ve drifted off from our natural state of well-being. It’s rarely about that last straw.
So what can parents do to reduce the likelihood of their children’s behaviour escalating out of hand?
We can take a step back and look at the big picture first. Find ways to rebalance our lives and quit the ‘race to nowhere, as Sax so poignantly puts it.
Human beings, like all other life forms, are wired up to connect - physically and emotionally - with the outside/external world.
How well we feel emotionally and our self-esteem is closely linked to:
One of our most primal instincts is to care - for ourselves and for others. You see this in animals too. Our older dog licks and cares for our puppy when she’s been told off. They look after each other.
Disrespect and chronic anger then, are not natural states of being.
Learning to connect is a lifelong process and children need opportunity and guidance to develop this natural skill. Quality of connection has everything to do with the quality of attention we give to the person or thing in front of us.
Our ability to focus on another person, to imagine what it might be like to be him will determine how well we relate to others.
So what happens if you grow up in a world overloaded with external stimuli - crowds, sounds, images, digital screens and shop windows? Our attention grabbed at, from dawn till dusk. How does a child learn how to select and prioritise a single object of attention?
The answer is that without conscious guidance he won’t be able to do this.
We also come into the world armed with mirror neurons that help us connect and empathise with others. These neurons help us feel each others’ joy and pain.
For those antennae to develop, we need to learn to focus and pay attention to other people. We need to be in their presence. How can you do that if your attention is constantly being grabbed and you don’t learn to mono-task?
So, Dr Sax’s suggestions make good sense. If we follow those up for ourselves and our children, we much reduce the likelihood of them becoming chronically angry due to overwhelm and lack of time to absorb and learn right from wrong.
Here are some of his best tips, and a few of mine to add in the mix.
Take (back) control and help your child make good decisions.
For that we all need to relearn to live in, and connect with, the real world.