by michael on April 24, 2011

I have been away a few days. I have a new phone, something called an Epic, from Sprint. I don’t know how to use it very well and thus, I did not tweet or blog with it these past several days. I visited my friend and colleague, consultant Roger Fransecky of the Apogee Group, in Omaha. We enjoyed a magnificent dinner at the Flatirons Restaurant in downtown Omaha. Truly great food. The conversation was better. I stayed at my brother-in-law’s bucolic home in Lincoln and drove back to Denver yesterday.

Early this morning I read this article by Sheila Dunnells, “Parenting Mistakes that Mess Up Kids: Children Are a Reflection of the Adults in Their Lives.”
I had blogged previously about an article written by Sheila. See “Fix Parents; Children Will Follow: Saving the Nation’s Schools.” April 7, 2011.

I have been corresponding with Sheila by email and twitter. She is an impressive thinker. I like her perspectives, which emphasize moral reasoning and the parental duty to develop their children’s moral character.

Here are a few paragraphs from her latest posting, titled “Parenting Mistakes that Mess Up Kids: Children Are a Reflection of the Adults in Their Lives.”

Sheila supports her astute insights with several anecdotes. The first, “Teacher is Always Wrong,” raises issues about a parent enabling a dishonest child. The lessons are easily drawn. The second example that I cite from Sheila’s article presents rather difficult and complex issues. It would seem unreasonable to expect a teacher or a principal to deal with these issues effectively or comprehensively.

Parenting Mistakes that Mess Up Kids

No couple starts out hoping to be inadequate parents. Most parents dream about this beautiful baby coming home to a Majestic Carriage Crib that looks like Cinderella’s Coach and retails for$19,995.00. In the fantasy, the baby smiles, never cries, just coos. This little princess will be a perfectly behaved child, who is a pleasure to be around.

Unfortunately, reality bursts in and babies cry, day care is inadequate and husband and wife are tired and cranky. In two months, you are back at work. Bills need to be paid, shopping done, laundry folded and you and your spouse are running on empty.

Teacher is Always Wrong (summarized)

Bobby arrives home with a note in his hand. He tells his mom that he left his backpack in after-school care. As a result, he cannot do his homework. He starts to walk toward the computer. “Just a minute, young man, why do they want to meet with me tomorrow?”

Bobby’s mom is instantly furious at the request for a meeting.

“What did you do, Bobby?”

“Nothing mom; nothing. My teacher hates me. She always picks on me. Today, when Kara said I took five of her pencils, right away she asked me why I did it. She didn’t even ask Kara to look in her backpack to see if they were in there.”

“Bobby, did you take Kara’s pencils?”
“No mom. I didn’t. I don’t know why Kara said that. She just wanted to get me into trouble.”
“Look,” says Bobby’s mother, “I don’t have time for this. Bobby says he didn’t take Kara’s pencils and I believe him. He never lies.”
Mom turns to Bobby and says, “Tell them.”
Envisioning his toys flying out of his bedroom window and onto the front lawn, Bobby insists, “I didn’t take her pencils.”

The principal reaches behind her chair and grabs Bobby’s backpack .She hands it to him and says, ” You might want to take out your pencil case. I think the mystery of Kara’s five pencils will be solved.”

What did mom teach her son?

In my mind, here’s the most challenging example cited by Sheila:

It was a dog of a meeting. Marcus, a first grade student, is constantly drawing the human body, male and female, with very realistic genitalia, including hair. Marcus is also obsessed with words like butt, boobs, kissing, and penis. He not only likes the shocked reaction he gets from his classmates and teacher, but he feels big because he knows more than the others. Each time he draws one of his pictures, he shares it with his buddies

The first few times Mr. Burns caught Marcus, he called home and asked Marcus’ parents to speak with their son. Mr. Burns feels that Marcus is very young to be so obsessed with this?

Ultimately, Marcus’ drawings resulted in a meeting with the principal. Mr. Burns, Principal Smith, Marcus and his dad attended the meeting.

Principal Smith began. “We are very concerned that a little boy would be so obsessed with naked bodies and words that describe their parts. Have you any idea where this is coming from?”

Marcus’ dad said, “Don’t you think you are overreacting? All kids talk about butts and boobs. He hears me tell his mother she has a great butt and her boobs are the envy of my guy friends. What’s wrong with complementing my wife?”

Mr. Burns asked Marcus’ dad where his son was getting such vivid pictures of the naked body? “I don’t know. Sometimes my wife and I watch adult movies but he is asleep. My collection of Playboy is in my closet on the top shelf. I don’t leave it around where he can see it. What kind of a parent do you think I am? I wouldn’t expose my son to that.”

What did Marcus learn at this meeting?

Sheila concludes, in part:
After Twenty-five years in education, I have learned this about parents:

Parents teach children how to feel about school.
Parents teach children the value of hard work, ethics and a moral code.
Parents unknowingly give their child permission to lie.
Parents usually deny their child has a problem.
Parents who maintain their child’s innocence, in the face of evidence to the contrary, will raise toxic kids.
Most parents believe that their child never lies. (of sixty students in an eighth grade class, all admitted to having lied to their parents at least once.)
Ninety-nine percent of parents will deny their child is using drugs, even when ten professionals say otherwise.
Parents whine, threaten, bully, and defame any educator who points out a fault in their child.

Much to think about

More later

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