Positive Relationship Renovation for a New Year

Positive Relationship Renovation for a New Year

September 8, 2017

The start of the school year always offers us an opportunity to rethink how we might learn from the mistakes of last year and make better choices in matters educational in the coming months. It offers a rare chance for a 'do-over', where we undertake some psychological renovations to improve our outlook for family harmony for the year. In the same way that we can become accustomed to living in a home environment that needs work – perhaps some fresh paint or minor repairs to floors and walls – we can become habituated to a negative interactional mindset that can taint our daily interactions with those around us.

For parents, try this: think back over the past few weeks and try to recall all of the positive interactions between family members (parents and students) that have taken place each day since the start of the school year. There are certain interactions that come to mind fairly easily: warnings about trying harder in tests, anxieties about forgotten homework, frustration about getting up on time, disappointment over electronic distractions, fear of failure. Trying to think of the ways in which we may have acted positively to encourage, uplift, or inspire another person is sometimes harder. We are gifted when it comes to the forensic analysis of deficiency, but perhaps less talented when it comes to seeding success in the crucible of daily life.

Of course, for parents and teachers, we feel very strongly the pull of our adult 'accountability' to point out the shortcomings of our children. Adults instinctively fulfil their duty to instruct, warn, and correct. It is, after all, for the 'good' of the child.

Students, particularly younger ones, on the other hand, can feel powerless and perplexed at what they perceive as the 'pointlessness' of much of their daily activity. Lacking the experiential frame of reference held by the significant adults in their lives, they can feel passively adrift in a confusing and sometimes hazardous sea of demands and discipline – all for their own 'good', which they often don‘t understand.

Adults (parents and teachers) crave perfect children who are creative, self-disciplined, motivated, and successful. In other words, they want 'adult' children. Children crave perfect freedom to explore and perhaps create their own world, with self-discipline, motivation, and success. In other words, they want to be 'child' adults. Parents have an instinctual drive to care for their children; children have an instinctual need for parental care and attention. Each wants and needs the same thing.

So where does the negativity and unhappiness arise? Parents want their children to be what they are not – yet. Children also want to be what they are not – yet. It is largely a matter of timing.

While time and wisdom (and some patience) will work its magic in the maturation of children, and perhaps their parents, please remember that our attitudes and actions are mostly chosen, rather than imposed. If you have the precious privilege of caring for a younger person, choose inspiration over exasperation; they do not share the riches of your life experience. If you are a younger person with boundless potential, but limited experience, be patient and listen attentively to those who have already journeyed before you; they know the road ahead because they have already walked it.

Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School

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