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This week’s blog is a continuation of last week’s inquiry.
But these suggestions will be more focused on the different personal relationships between parent and child, or educator and student, and some important things to consider along the road to independence for every child.
This right here is probably the most understated skill in parent/child or educator/student relationships. Note that there is a gulf of difference between talking, debating, or discussing, and actual communication. Communication entails a deeper understanding of the people involved, not only about the subject of conversation itself. There’s a saying, by some psychologist I’m sure, that says that people do not listen to hear, but that they listen to respond. I’ve never heard something more true. This is often the root of the problem in most relationships, and when it comes to parents and children in particular, it can be a difficult road to navigate.
But effective communication is paramount to having the ability to guide a child or student in their right direction. For a parent, this means having a strong relationship with your child; for educators, it means having a professional relationship with your student. Regardless of what that relationship might look like, there is the common characteristic of integrity between both individuals. That is a non-negotiable.
The reality is, though, that people are different. People jive differently, connect with some individuals deeper than others, or create more meaningful bonds with each other than could have originally been imagined. This isn’t in anyone’s control; it’s dependent on personalities, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and, to an extent, the surrounding environment. Not every educator or parent is going to be every student’s or child’s cup of tea, or vice versa. And that’s okay. As long as there is a relationship based upon integrity and understanding, and value is placed upon effective communication, the ability is there to encourage a child or students’ interests in a meaningful way.
Teaching a student or child to develop discipline is one of the pillars of a purposeful and fulfilling life as an adult. Discipline is not something that comes naturally to many people, and indeed, is not something easy to teach.
How does one teach a child or student discipline? Many times, my students have put the question to me: “But why do I need to do this? I’ll never use it in real life.” Now, 9 times out of 10, they are asking me this because they do not want to do whatever task they’ve been assigned.
To which, my answer is always: “Regardless of whether you will use this or not, it’s useful to you.” They are usually puzzled for a few minutes, and will ask me what I mean, and this inevitably leads to a conversation about the value of doing things that we don’t like, in order to develop discipline, understand what perseverance means, and be proud of ourselves for doing difficult or unwanted things. No one develops discipline by doing things they like to do, or things that are easy for them. (Cue a larger conversation about why most adults are somewhere they don’t want to be in life.)
So, to the question: how does one develop discipline, or help a child or student to develop it? Quite simply, doing things that are not enjoyable (at first) or are difficult. Here is where the value of communication comes in. If you have a child or student who can understand why they are being made to do something unpleasant, you have made it past the first hurdle. If there is a cognitive understanding of why something is taking place, because it’s been communicated as such, it removes a resistance that would be there otherwise.
The skill of self-regulation can not even be approached without the skill of discipline first being heavily developed. Without discipline, self-regulation is non-existent, because without discipline, one does not grasp even the concept of self-regulation.
In order to develop interests and hobbies of their own, students and children must be motivated to actually do something, often something outside of their comfort zone. This motivation is more than rewards and level, or exterior things; it must be a drive that comes from within the child or student. Accountability and self-regulation go hand-in-hand with each other, and neither of these will exist naturally within most people.
Teaching a child or student self-regulation is not as difficult as it might seem originally. Every student or child is different, but there are some common denominators to how humans operate that make teaching self-regulation a little easier.
Having an accountability group or partner is one such way. Owning, and actually using, a planner, scheduler, or online tool is another way. The goal here, with a child or student, is to develop their own sense of accountability. If a child or student is able to hold themselves accountable, they’re going to be able to self-regulate their life and their time much better, and hence look outside the daily routine of life for new things to do, different avenues to explore, and creative activities they take an interest in.
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