Character development: secondary school is too late

The realisation since becoming a teacher that nothing comes naturally and, subsequently, my own commitment to old fashioned parenting techniques has also made me fully understand how influential and important parents and carers are, particularly in the earlier years of childhood (before hormones wreak their havoc). I wish more parents fully understood this. Also, it makes me realise how futile it is when primary schools in particular attempt to ‘teach’ things like self esteem and values like hard-work in the odd PSHE lesson or assembly, especially when you consider that the whole ethos of progressive ed (which still dominates UK primaries) is about following the child and therefore just sort of lets poor habits and attitudes become entrenched while allowing those with good habits and attitudes (given to them by parents) to race ahead academically.

I also think that, sometimes, primary schools actually undo the hard work of traditional parents because they ‘teach’ the message that children should only do what makes them feel good at the time which of course means disadvantaged children choose the easier option. A classic example of this is the ‘Ofsted approved’ and classic technique of teachers creating differentiated tasks and letting children ‘Choose their challenge’. The ‘challenges’ will be presented as ‘tricky’, ‘trickier’ and ‘trickiest’ for example, thus further allowing those children who would opt for the easiest option to feel good about themselves whilst handily opening up gaps in learning and allowing children to fall behind, thus creating a vicious circle of differentiation that leaves the year 6 teacher having to present twice the above amount of ‘challenges’. You can see how the soft bigotry of low expectations is alive and well in primary schools, but of course primary educators will tell you that ‘choosing a challenge’ helps children take ownership for their learning and encourages a love of learning. How? If even one child makes a poor choice that is one child too many. For those parents who are trying to tell their children that academic achievement and the hard work that goes with it is important, it is incredibly frustrating to send their children to a state school that is indoctrinating them with the message that first and foremost children should feel happy and have fun.

Although lives can be changed, turned around by the hard work of secondary school teachers and leaders up and down the country, it does seem to me that putting in place the kind of environment that positively affects a child’s character development can and should be done during children’s earlier years. Firstly, I believe we should empower parents to understand how influential they are and secondly we should have primary school environments that back up those traditional parents as well as not allowing the disadvantaged to fall behind. The only primary schools I have seen who come close to this ideal are the Catholic primary schools which are basically stricter (is that a word?), unashamedly encouraging of academic achievement and all things intellectual, and teach Christian values that are all about thinking about others (including one’s parents and making them proud) rather than thinking about oneself and one’s feelings all the time. Perhaps we should take note of how parents vie to get their children into these schools, even resorting to dubious practices such as address fraud or faking Church membership to get their child in.

I really don’t think we ‘need’ grammar schools if we focus on what is happening in primary schools that seems to create such a chasm between the disadvantaged and the advantaged that is the natural outcome of progressive education.

It’s good to know that I am not on my own in thinking this. Further, for those that still feel that the way to improve children’s self-esteem is all about making life instantly pleasurable and telling children that they are wonderful no matter what, I would argue that true self-esteem, the kind that sticks around, comes from being proud of working hard and achieving and it also comes from thinking about others and not oneself.  If it’s not being encouraged at home, then we need to be encouraging this kind of work ethic and values at school.

Who’s with me?

When I became a teacher, I became a better parent

Although my hours are long, my body is fatter and less healthy and my mind is weary of worry, it has become increasingly clear to me that I have improved as a parent since becoming a teacher. You would think I’d get worse, given that teaching is practically consuming my soul and I oscillate between self doubt and misery and trying to convince myself that I am doing a good job. However, being with many children and seeing for my own eyes how no skill or acquisition of knowledge comes ‘naturally’, this has made me question some of my own previously held assumptions about how children develop, especially with regards to social skills.

As you know, I believe that nothing comes naturally and everything is in fact taught in some way, even if the teacher (parent) is unaware that they are teaching. Take language development: if we let a toddler grow up without any adult input at all he/she would not ‘spontaneously’ learn to speak, or even do anything remotely civilised really. So why do we insist with pushing this middle class view of childhood, that parents (and teachers) should be daintily following the children and letting them delay their own essential milestones such as learning how to use a knife and fork, knowing what is right and wrong, being able to be still and wait their turn to speak and, of course, learning how to read?

I had this massive realisation that even social skills don’t come naturally. You’d think I would have ‘got it’ a while ago, but even I had been sucked into the fallacy that children will just spontaneously programme their own neural circuitry and become excellent orators and listeners with the lightest of adult input (and that we should just let them play all day long). In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this whole ‘everything comes naturally so let them play’ thinking is some kind of conspiracy to further disadvantage the disadvantaged and just as progressive education condemns the disadvantaged to lower achievement because it pushes the whole ‘they’ll learn to read when they’re ready’ thing, progressive parenting condemns the children of disadvantaged parents to poorer social outcomes because their parents never knew their own power to teach their children how to be decent people by making an effort to talk to them, discipline them and get them into good habits through routines.

So, I made a mental note to ‘teach’ my own children how to listen and take turns, how to take an interest in other people, by making sure that every single day we had our dinner at the dining table and that I deliberately modeled a script that began with ‘So, how was your day?’ I have been very committed to this and have rebutted any sly inference from fellow teachers that my insistence on spending time with my children, by leaving work at a decent time, makes me a lazy or selfish teacher and colleague. Fast forward a few years and my deliberate attempt to do something that was the parenting norm 50 years ago has paid off: my children now reciprocate and they have much better social skills than I ever did at their age and I genuinely look forward to spending that precious time with my children, engaging in intellectual, interesting and heart-warming conversation with them.

This contrasts severely with my own childhood experience. I grew up in a single parent family and ate dinner on my own or with a sibling. There were no other adults around the home and I only ever saw grandparents infrequently. Despite having a wonderful but poor childhood, my social skills were (and still are, to some extent) dire because, looking back, I didn’t have much in the way of instruction on how to talk to people. I was also very shy, quiet and preferred books. As I got older, my own social inadequacy led me to sort of hide away and I comforted myself with books and study, thus further ‘programming’ myself to be almost on the spectrum in terms of my ability to empathise, read between the lines, understand people’s emotions/feelings (there is a lot of autism in my family too). I secretly struggle constantly with feelings of inadequacy in this regard and frequently feel frustrated that I just don’t seem to be like other ‘normal’ women. I’m almost hard-wired now to be socially inadequate and I don’t want this for my children.

So, by deliberately modelling/teaching my children certain skills, I feel I have become a better parent. I also feel confident that doing other old-fashioned things like making them do chores around the house is also the best way to teach them to take care of their surroundings and to work hard, because even attitudes and work habits need to be taught. This has happened because I became a teacher.

Who’s with me?

What if…..they just faced the front?

Often I think about how teaching and learning would be so much better if children were paying more attention. We spend so much time and energy trying to make learning ‘fun’, ‘relevant’ and ‘engaging’, but it’s never enough; nothing can compete with those iPad games and YouTube videos, the crack cocaine of children’s entertainment. We even jazz up our lesson powerpoints and source interactive visual aids, fuelling children’s addiction to the screen and encouraging children to never actually look (or listen) to the teacher or just any human being really. Children also cannot concentrate or commit to hard work (because they just don’t read a book any more or do chores) and increasingly the critical mass will not be used to any kind of discipline in the home. This particular wave of very young children are addicted to screen time in the same way that male teenagers traditionally are and I believe secondary schools have yet to fully experience this wave of children who have been mainly goggling at their iPads since about the age of 4. I reckon the first few are trickling into secondary year 7 about now, but the peak of normal distribution will arrive in a couple of years’ time*. This blog post argues that in order for children to learn and to develop good social skills, we need to break their collective addiction to screens and we need to force them to look and listen to adult humans because it sure as hell ain’t happening in the home.

For the sake of clarity, I would like to reiterate the problem with children being entertained by looking at screens and playing iPad games. Reading and looking at books requires children to decode print and create an image inside their own heads (creative thinking), whereas looking at a hypnotic iPad clearly doesn’t. Of course, at this point many middle class primary teachers are already thinking about commenting about how their Tarquin and Pandora absolutely love reading Enid Blyton, but I’m talking about the ordinary masses here, ok? Playing iPad games usually involves minimal effort both in terms of coordination or general problem solving. Compared to the traditional entertainment (doing painting, playing with play-dough, role-play with siblings/friends, just making up games using whatever is lying around, like a stick and a leaf for example) of very young children, development of coordination, communication and  creativity is vastly undermined. Like I said, secondary schools have yet to fully experience the increasingly weird situation whereby children just don’t seem to look at adults any more or find anything remotely interesting, even if it is accompanied by a whizzy powerpoint. It also doesn’t help that primary teachers are on average very young and only have a few years of experience, and even if they are parents themselves their children will tend to be very young, therefore there is no frame of reference, no comparison, no understanding of trends, so they just accept the status quo and, even worse, add to it by feeding young children’s addictions to iPads by bringing them into the classroom. I am not only a very rare parent teacher, but also an even rarer (is that a word?) parent of teenagers and I also was a parent long before I became a teacher; trust me when I say that early childhood is changing incredibly quickly.

It seems ironic that I have both written about how to be a (mostly successful) strict teacher and about how I am struggling to control my current class who are the loudest and collectively the most ‘ADHD’ in terms of group psychology that I have ever experienced. I have changed down year groups for the sake of career ‘progression’ and I wonder whether I have jumped onto the year group who represent of that normal distribution I was referring to earlier? Let me throw down that gauntlet now: why not just have them at individual desks facing the front, as they seem to do in the U.S and in other places around the world? Also, while we’re at it, why not just get rid of the IWB instead of having this mandate that we use technology in our classrooms constantly. Is an adult human being, a large surface to write on and a decent textbook not enough anymore? If you think so, then perhaps you assume that children’s brains are not the same as previous generations, that they are no longer capable of thinking for themselves?

At this point I’d like to tell you that my own vision (it’ll probably stay just a vision though) of a ‘Slow School’ just crystallized in my mind. It’s a really peaceful, calm place where young children study hard in the morning, all concentrating on the teacher and putting their own thoughts to paper. In the afternoons, they would do interesting hobby lessons, with the very little ones being able to do a bit of free play and roaming about outdoors. There would be no tech, no screaming colours, words and pictures with stary eyeballs jumping out of all the walls at the children and there would be no distracting group work or group seating in the morning. Because the children would be working and thinking so hard in the mornings, listening to the crystal clear voice of the teacher, looking at the textbook or the no-tech whiteboard, their learning would be accelerated and they would have more time for playtime and lunch. Can you imagine how their vocabulary would be so much better than children who are constantly immersed in the whole ‘talk to your partner/group; what do you feel the answer is?’ Unhinged from the dominance of the giant computer screen that currently occupies the space where the teacher used to be in all primary classrooms, the children would be given the opportunity to just listen to a magical story brought alive by an ordinary human being.

Many primary teachers would recoil in horror at this vision, citing that it would not help children learn how to be social, mainly because most primary teachers are extroverts and primary leaders extroverts too (we hire based on public performance, not intellect) and these people hate The Quiet. However, when children spend all day at group tables, chatting about anything but the work (admit it, this is what they do: they’re little children, not employees at Google head office), sometimes messing about, endlessly distracted by each other and by the noise of their increasingly loud and shouty voices, are they really learning social skills? I don’t think so. No, we’re basically training the children to be rude, talking over each other, with the extrovert children believing that they have a free pass to show off and inflict their noise and jokey antics on everyone else. Is there not enough time outside of school or during playtime for children to do this? If you’re one of these teachers who thinks the modern workplace is one long shouty conversation (oops, my bad, I meant ‘collaboration’) and that we need to emulate that in the classroom, you seriously need to take a sabbatical and go visit a few workplaces yourself because they are not like that at all. Modern working life is not an episode of Friends and even open plan offices require people to work on their own thing, alone, occasionally getting together for a meeting or making a phone call to clients etc**

I just can’t help but think that the simple act of turning the desks so that primary school children face the front rather than each other, and removing the constant screen time that conspires to stop them from developing the skills of concentration, would be immensely beneficial. It might even help to reduce turnover because teachers wouldn’t have to work so hard, almost fighting, to gain the children’s attention with loud voices (painful throats), clapping, a little bell, cajoling, putting a whizzy song or video on the IWB, use of various ‘sticks’ and ‘carrots’. That exhaustion that accompanies constant, literally every second of every minute of every day, behaviour management and requires an additional set of eyes and ears in the TA, would melt away. How much would the achievement of young males, because they operate best in a hierarchy, working hard for the approval of one leader rather than their friends (who would prefer them to mess about), in particular absolutely skyrocket? Further, how much would this change cost? NOTHING.

Who’s with me?

*First iPad, which revolutionised tablet use for the masses due to the novelty of ‘apps’ and easy-to-use interface (that competitors tried to emulate), released in 2010 and by the time the iPad 2 was released over 15 million had been sold: let’s assume it took a year or two before it became the norm to buy an iPad/tablet for very young children aged 4 in 2011 + 7 years of primary school = 2018 is the year that secondary Headteachers, who thankfully will be older and more experienced/worldly wise than the primary equivalents, will notice.

**And, by the way, adults are rewarded for their productivity not their effort. Perhaps we should think about that before we hand the termly assembly prize to a child for making an effort to do the bare minimum and not mess about in class.

Why am I quaking in my boots. Again?

I have another tough class. Day in, day out they talk over me, despite me doing everything I can: a mixture of sticks and carrots as well as the usual recourse to trying to make things more interesting, or get them jumping up and down. I feel I have no choice. Still, nothing works. They are so, so loud that my ears hurt and teaching is almost impossible.

In our school, and in many/most primary schools the class is the responsibility of just one person: the class teacher. I’m as strict as it gets, but this year the class is even tougher than before. It’s like they just don’t give a shite.

We primary teachers live in fear of the unannounced visit or observation. You see, headteachers and SLT usually enter the classroom to check up on the teacher, never the children. So, here we are, quaking in our boots, worried that the child that keeps on making stupid comments over everything we say is going to be doing his stupid comment thing, taking the piss out of everything everyone says, while the HT/SLT ‘drop in’ to the classroom. The behaviour will be bad and we will be told to tow the progressive line even more.

What would be great is if The Management would check up on the children instead. That way, the children have an added incentive to behave.

Who’s with me?


Focus on primary #2: behaviour

This is a quick and snappy blogpost about aspects of primary education that I believe encourage certain behaviours and attitudes among children that are detrimental to learning, particularly when children go on to secondary education. It’s basically a re-hash of something I’ve written before, I can’t find it, but that doesn’t matter because I like a challenge (am running out of time to write this) anyway.

Nutshell: I think children’s behaviour in primary schools is poor and that by the time they get to secondary, poor behaviour is entrenched. Those who run strict secondary schools that manage to change children for the better must feel like they’re trying to turn the Titanic with their year 7s.

As in the previous blogpost, I think EYFS makes things worse for many children rather than better and this includes behaviour. Child-led learning does not teach children any self-control whatsoever. If anything, it encourages children to simply go with their immediate emotions about a particular subject, rather than thinking rationally (which is what growing up is about and what we should be encouraging). The brain circuitry for inhibition, self-control and focus isn’t exactly being developed or re-enforced when children are allowed to ‘choose’ their learning, or if they are allowed opt out if they ‘feel’ that things are too difficult/uncomfortable. It’s this encouragement of only thinking of oneself and one’s emotions that feeds through into poor behaviour, except at this age the behaviour may look cute or silly rather than really annoying to classmates.

Behaviour policies too, created with good intentions and evidence of the kindness of educators, may work with most children who are parented well (discipline, routine and boundaries in the home), but don’t seem to work on the minority of children who display behaviour that would fulfill all the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Sometimes it is assumed a poorly behaved boy (and it is mostly boys) is just ‘like that’ rather than in need of some strict discipline, so these children continue to just not care about others, doing whatever pops up in their heads whenever the teacher is trying to teach. We’ve got lots of ‘carrots’ in primary schools, but ‘sticks’ are discouraged or in some cases forbidden. The result? Boys who mess about during the many years of primary education effectively have their behaviours and attitudes hardwired because they spend their time ‘practising’ doing the wrong thing.

Group-work and group seating (compulsory in primary schools) is another area where I believe poor attitudes to learning and general laziness is tacitly encouraged. In the younger years, when children are (allegedly) working, their occasional recourse to chat about the weather or whatever pops up in their heads (that is not related to the task) is assumed to be just a symptom of their immaturity, rather than something for us to discourage so that good habits are formed. Some of the things that little children say are quite cute and funny; a little chit-chat with the TA about home life is encouraged, you know, just in case Mummy isn’t being very nice and this needs to be recorded in a special folder somewhere. Over the years, children get used to not focusing 100% on a task (how can you when there is never any silence?) and the cute and funny chit-chat turns into raucous banter and inclinations to mucking about as well as seriously inhibiting the learning. Also, if children are just allowed to talk constantly while they are working (in fact, many primary teachers encourage it; they say they love a noisy class room and hate quiet, serious atmospheres), then again there is this tacit encouragement for children, particularly the extroverts, to not give two figs about the person sitting next to them. By the time they get to year 7 they believe they have some kind of right to be allowed to chat and they are hardwired to not concentrate. This is also incredibly sad for the young introverts. Just writing this causes me to feel deep sadness about my own childhood, of wanting to learn and loving facts, but having to endlessly put up with extroverts talking loudly about any old shite that popped up (their ‘opinions’), shattering my thoughts into a million shards of glass inside my own head.

Finally, and I have to wrap this up, although I’m sure there is much more I could say about poor behaviour in primary schools, many teachers end up having to spend their energy and time in the classroom almost superglued to the child(ren) who seem to have ADHD and those with poor behaviour. This means less time for those children on the spectrum, or who have reading difficulties; these are the children that really do need the teacher to help and guide them.

A quick conclusion? Primary schools need to be strict.

Who’s with me?




Focus on primary schools will help children achieve at secondary.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the whole prospect of grammar schools coming back into the mix, I reckon that the re-introduction of grammar schools would provide a further incentive for primary schools to make sure that they are catering for those very studious children who would be likely to pass an 11+. Parents from all walks of life would (quite rightly) demand it. This surely has to be better than the current system whereby only the children who attend private junior schools or who have tutors have a chance?

Anyway, it has bothered me for quite some time that most, if not all, soundbites from DfE personnel seem to be focused on driving through changes to secondary schools and I think it’s high time we focused on what could change in primary schools so that children, particularly those from working class backgrounds, have a better chance of achieving academic success. I have always maintained that many of the problems secondary schools deal with are a direct result of 7 years of inculcation into progressive schooling that children receive before they step foot in Big School.

Certainly the introduction of the 2014 curriculum, the uprating of expectations at the end of Year 6 and of course the mandate to teach synthetic systematic phonics in the younger years has helped to drive progress and achievement (all very positive so far), but I think we could go further. One of the reasons I think that politicians in particular may have shied away from ‘meddling’ in the affairs of primary schools is because the language surrounding primary education is so much more emotional; parents and teachers alike speak about primary school as if it were a special zone protecting ‘childhood’ and ‘innocence’, as if hard work and academic foci should be something that children be protected from. Primary educators can simply whip out the ‘Whole child’ trump card whenever anyone mentions arithmetic tests.

I will bang on, probably until the day I die (unless things change), that the current EYFS curriculum and the way it is implemented essentially entrenches disadvantage from day 1. If we think about the child from a disadvantaged background who is coming to school without having a basic vocabulary to speak with and possibly without basic self-discipline (ie can’t stop messing around), here are just some of the reasons why that child, let us call him Harry, is effectively condemned to fall behind and stay behind forever:

  • Group work and the inevitable chatter of children means that Harry cannot hear the crisp enunciation of the teacher’s voice, or the extended and interesting vocabulary she is using. Instead, he hears more from his peers: poor vocabulary, poor enunciation.
  • An assumption that children should learn through play-based activities (for example, toys grouped together in a certain way so that children can discover early numeracy) might go over Harry’s head as he simply plays with everything and chooses to ignore the educational aspect of The Toy Dinosaur table, for example.
  • ‘Choice’ means that Harry, who has no idea about his future and is also inclined to want to mess around, simply chooses to do the bare minimum at the experimental writing table and instead chooses to go outside to hoof it up on a tricycle.
  • If Harry cannot sit still and concentrate, it is assumed he is ‘not ready’ and is effectively allowed to fall behind. It is not a conscious decision of the teacher, but inherent within the ideals that underpin EYFS.
  • If Harry is inclined to messing around when others are sitting and concentrating, it is assumed that he might have some kind of ADHD, rather than his being in desperate need of discipline (just being firmly, explicitly told how to behave).

EYFS needs to change.

Further, if you glanced at any primary school’s ethos or mission statements you will find that there is a commitment to progressive education. The words ‘child-centred’ predominate. How is this allowed to continue when research shows that prog-ed is detrimental, particularly for children from working class backgrounds? Even simple things like enforced group-work and group tables means that children turn up at year 7 used looking at each other and not the teacher. How can a subject specialist at secondary school teach a class that has been trained to just talk to each other, effectively ignoring the teacher? We primary teachers are constantly told to dial down the teacher talk, that the ‘ideal’ is for us to be only talking for a couple of minutes before setting the children off on their learning journeys (I was told this only last week). How is this preparing children so that they can focus and concentrate on ever trickier concepts that need to be explained by their subject specialist teachers? This is a problem that already emerges in the upper years of KS2.

In the next blog post I will delve a bit deeper into subjects like behaviour and spending.

I think it’s time decision makers in the DfE focused on what is going on in primary schools

Who’s with me?

What bringing up siblings tells us about effective behaviour management.

In this blogpost I’d like to explore and challenge commonly held views about behaviour management in primary schools (and possibly secondary schools). In particular, I’d like to counter the accepted view that we should differentiate our behaviour management based on the child’s ‘needs’, circumstances or abilities and put forward the case for old fashioned rules and regulations as well as high expectations for all. If you’d like to know a bit more about differentiation of behaviour management, I have found a video here which sums up the concept, but to me it just looks like lowered expectations for children from certain backgrounds. My own argument is based on my observations of bringing up children and from conversations over the years with fellow parent friends who have also brought up 2 or more children.

“My children have exactly the same personalities and like exactly the same things!” said no parent ever. What all parents know, and teachers fail to grasp, is that despite pretty much the same DNA, lifestyle, nutrition, upbringing, culture and family can still turn out siblings that are completely different, yet parents still seek to do their job of guiding and bringing up all their children to be decent, kind, hard-working and successful (we want to be proud) regardless of how different they are as people. One of the key differences that arises between siblings is in their behaviour and many parents will happily trot out some horror stories about the one child who was a pain in the arse during their toddler years (and at various other points during childhood). Primary educators would typically say that the child displaying behaviour at the naughtier, more defiant end of the behaviour spectrum is clearly not having his ‘needs’ met, is possibly struggling with some aspect of his homelife (maybe the middle class mum is too ‘pushy’ or ‘cold’, maybe the working class mum hasn’t taken him to enough museums or craft fairs) or maybe has mild ADHD. The accepted course of action deployed would be:

  • More praise
  • More rewards
  • Easier or different work (or less work)
  • Lowered expectations
  • Reduced punishments
  • Suspension/alteration of the usual rules and regulations applied to the rest of the class
  • Acceptance of poor behaviour as somehow inherent to that child’s situation or personality
  • Viewing the child as a passive victim, unable to control his own actions or emotions

Here’s a picture of how a typical primary teacher would look when confronted with a flying chair from a child:

I am accommodating of all the children’s needs! Nothing phases me!

Let us compare this to how a typical parent will deal with the one child in their home who is more defiant and inclined to poor behaviour:

  • Less praise
  • Fewer rewards
  • The same amount of chores
  • No change in expectations
  • Increased punishments
  • No change in rules and regulations
  • Refusal to accept poor behaviour as part and parcel of their son or daughter’s personality
  • Viewing the child as a competent human being, able to control his own actions, emotions and make good choices

Basically, a parent of a difficult child won’t differentiate behaviour management for two reasons:

  1. They don’t want to merely accept that one of their children is naturally naughtier than their brothers or sisters; they want to ensure that all of their children are loved, appreciated and respected in the future.
  2. They know that to ‘differentiate’ the behaviour management (the way an educator might) would lead to deep resentment from siblings and (justified) accusations of favouritism. The brothers and sisters who work hard to be good, hard-working, kind and helpful might wonder whether if there is any point in behaving and they might also feel rejected by the parent who, instead of praising them for doing good things, is busy praising the brother or sister for not smashing up the toys.

What this approach entails is a re-doubling of effort for the parent, even if the parent is at their wit’s end, utterly exhausted and privately contemplating relaxing the rules or turning a blind eye to the constant barrage of slight misdemeanors. I’ve been been in that situation and it ain’t pretty. The child might have felt that they had it a bit tough, that I should’ve relaxed a bit, but I’m ok with that; I’d rather the child resented me a little bit for being so relentless with my expectations and for dishing out those punishments without fail than for that child to have grown up thinking that poor behaviour is OK.

There is another aspect to the ‘Instinctive Parenting’ approach to behaviour management and it’s rather difficult for many educators to stomach. Basically, behaviour management can be influenced by the parents’ emotions and sometimes these emotions include anger, hurt and frustration. We’re only human after all. I’ll be the first to admit that I have got it slightly wrong on some occasions because I have been angry and annoyed. However, to some extent this is ok because I do believe that children need to know that their behaviour has an effect on others. How else would they develop empathy? Out of anger I confess I have given my offspring a rollicking that left them in no doubt that they had done something bad. Many would recoil in horror at my admission because of course the ideal is for us parents (and teachers) to remain super calm, maintaining our Mona Lisa smiles, at all times. The thing is, this is not how society or civilisation works. I believe that the parents’ approach to behaviour management better prepares a child for success (measured by happiness and wealth) in our society because the people that they will eventually mingle with will also get pissed off with bad behaviour and there are also rules and regulations  (aka The Law) that are applied to everyone regardless. Be assured though I am not advocating we lose our cool completely in the classroom, because we are paid professionals after all, but that it is OK to be angry and frustrated and for children to see a bit of that. In fact, for some children who come from homes where domestic violence is the norm, it’s educational for them to see how adults can be angry and not let that anger get out of hand. I don’t think it is normal or healthy for children to think that adults remain placid and almost happy to be on the receiving end of poor behaviour.

You know what’s great about this approach? It works. I feel pride when strangers and family tell me that my (now much older) children are well behaved, although the job of parenting continues as ever! If I told said strangers about the behaviour of one of the children when they were much younger, they would not believe it, such is the turn around. Many parents would verify that the kindest, most decent people they know used to act like complete shits when they were little children.


Instead of differentiation of behaviour management, let’s be sticklers for rules and have high expectations of all children.

Who’s with me?