Last week, Linda Rener’s column discussed her "shock" about 6-year-olds being suspended from school for inappropriate behavior and how schools have gone overboard with "no tolerance" policies. Several months ago, she wrote about a 5-year-old having a temper tantrum in public and how the mother should have cradled this acting-out child in her arms to show her an alternative way of behaving.
While I agree that sometimes schools may overreact to some situations, I applaud the fact that more individuals, including school principals, are learning to stand up to their kids. In my opinion, too many parents are allowing kids to run rough-shod over them and everyone else around them.
While I also agree that 6-year-old Little Mary, who told the class that they were all "assholes," may be too young to know everything, most 6-year-olds I know would know that was definitely wrong. Secondly, as principal, I would wish instead that I could suspend the parents for giving this child an environment where apparently this type of language is used.
While Little Mary might be the one caught in the middle here, it may be her parents who need remedial education in parenting. Unfortunately, suspending the parents isn’t appropriate. However, Little Mary (and hopefully her parents) will likely think twice about such behavior again. Not a bad lesson to be learned at 6 rather than at 16, when teenagers’ independent personalities leave them rebelling against any life lesson.
Personally, I’m sick to death of standing in grocery stores and listening to screaming children having tantrums over gum or candy or God knows what. Do parents think it is going to get easier to say no later, if they can’t teach their children the meaning of the word at age 6 and younger? For the most part, I applaud the schools for their ‘no tolerance’ policies. I put my child in private school in 7th grade because I got fed up with public school and all the Little Mary and Little Johnny ‘bullies’ the schools couldn’t or wouldn’t control. When I interviewed the middle school principal of the Catholic school we were considering (and I’m not even Catholic,) my main question was, "What is your discipline policy?" His answer was, "You see that door? Well, if your child doesn’t work within our philosophy, we show you the door and we keep your tuition." I knew I had found a place that thought the same way I did.
Let me assure you, I’m not into beatings, extreme punishment or the stereotypical nun with the ruler. All I ask is that children are taught right and wrong for whatever their cognitive age and ability allows, (even 2-year-olds in preschool can learn it is unacceptable to hit another child) to respect authority of adults and to take responsibility for their actions.
My daughter is 20 now and a pre-med major at the University of Denver. While in high school, some prankster students who worked in the office of the all-girl’s school photocopied their breasts and posted them in various places. While the prank was harmless, when their identities were discovered, they were all expelled. It was deemed inappropriate behavior – especially at a religious school! I would have to agree.
When I told my daughter that if any of those girls had been my kids, we’d be having some serious discussions, her response to me was, "Mom, if any of them were your daughter, it would have never happened. They would have known right from wrong when they were 2." I was so surprised by her comment, but noticed that she was smiling genuinely when she shared that with me. She meant it.
Yes, all small children are sponges and positive role modeling is the most beneficial way to teach them. Yet, as parents, it is key to know that all children seek boundaries and will frequently push every limit until they find them. So set limits and stick to them! Teach them lovingly. Be a great role model. Give them unconditional love. Teach them right and wrong and to be responsible for their actions. And when the principal sends them home on suspension, don’t badmouth the principal. Thank him for working with you in setting appropriate boundaries.
Mary Jo Fay is a motivational speaker and author of the book GET OUT OF YOUR BOXX! She can be reached at www.outoftheboxx.com or at 303-841-7691.