What expectations should we have of our children in high school? How much freedom is appropriate for a sixteen, seventeen or eighteen year old? When it comes to school, what should we expect? What kind of accountability should be in place?
Most high school students believe they should be free to come and go as they believe, especially if they go to school every day and maintain an above average GPA.
The average high school junior or senior does not see the need for a curfew or a closed campus. Many high school students feel that if they are honest with their parents, that is all that should matter.
Honesty is central to any parent child relationship. However, what do we mean by honesty? Do both sides tell all? Is the high school student willing to put on the table all of the facts and figures of his or her life, even risking a consequence for some behaviors that might be problematic?
Most parents value honesty and will probably be much more tolerant and even lenient, if they feel a son or daughter is being totally honest.
Real honesty between people is not inborn. It is nurtured and developed in a relationship. People usually have to make time to talk to each other without yelling and screaming or imposing shame, blame or guilt. Genuine honesty develops over time.
Unfortunately, in our present culture, honesty too often gets buried in the rubble of living. Most families are too busy. Everyone, including parents, is overcommitted and running in too many directions. All in the name of good activity, few people spend quality time with each other.
Twenty years ago, most families tried to gather regularly for a real family meal, not just a quick bite on the run, but rather a genuine sit down, "let's talk a few minutes" meal that lasted more than five minutes.
Too many families are allowing the heresy of good activities become the regular excuse for why families don't eat together.
If we don't spend time with each other, how will we build open, honest relationships with our children? Before we know it, they will become anonymous strangers that we feed and clothe but don't really know.
In early elementary school, while most of our children are still open and unblemished by the world, we need to develop patterns of interaction that foster conversation and honesty. Our children need to see that we value this dynamic with them.
Thus, we need to explore our own activities and commitments. As parents, we should prioritize what is really important to us. If we want our children to talk to us, we must talk to them.
If after school activities like sports, band and performing arts are important, we need to support them with our consistent presence. In those developing years, our children need to feel valued. It is not enough to merely say it with words, it needs to be demonstrated by actions.
Do you know where your middle school and high school children are? Are they clear with you when they go out as to where they are going and who they will be with? Or, do you have such a casual attitude that your son or daughter feels you don't care or it really does not matter?
There is a delicate balance between being intrusive and being concerned. At times, depending on the age, it is hard to find our balance. If you have to err, err on the side of being nosey rather than conveying indifference.
Try to encourage open communication with your children around their social behavior, so they voluntarily share where they are going and with whom.
Too often, as parents we become control freaks. We want to protect our children from tragedy, but we cross over the line and end up sheltering them from life. That kind of interaction does not foster honesty and openness.
All middle school and high school students should have a curfew. It should be flexible based on the activity and whether or not it is a school night or a weekend. Living at home should never be a free-for-all. There should always be clearly defined boundaries.
In our state, children are mandated to stay in school until they are sixteen. Too many students have a counter productive attitude about school. A growing number of high school students hate school. They claim to be bored. There is probably some truth to that.
However, most of their boredom is probably self-infected. School should be seen as a gift, as an opportunity to grow and learn as a human being. Too often, our students perceive school as nothing more than glorified babysitting.
Unfortunately, we are allowing high school campuses to become wastelands of human potential. We are not holding students and teachers accountable.
We have to work harder at creating environments that are stimulating and engaging. Those who are not serious about education, after they reach sixteen, should possibly move on to some other alternative. They should not be disruptive and cause teachers to spend an excessive amount of time disciplining disruptive students.
Most students like school. They may not like going to class, but they like connecting with friends. For many students, school is the one place they feel safe and feel like they belong, even if they do not apply themselves. They even see some of their teachers as being significant in their lives. Some struggling students will see their teachers and their coaches as confidants.
Schools should capitalize on the fact that most students like coming to school. As educators, we need to work harder at engaging them, especially those who are hard to engage.
As educators, we need to treat our students with honesty and openness, if we expect them to be honest and open with us. Honesty is especially important when disciplining and enforcing the student code of conduct consistently and fairly with all students.
If there is a dress code, then all students must comply. If the campus is closed, then any students cutting out should be held fully accountable. Parents should not be able to rescue students from consequences, especially by lying and writing a dishonest excuse note.
Probably the greatest impediment to learning today is that so many students (even good students) are easily distracted. Almost anything can cause a student to lose focus. That is why hand held video games and cell phones should be banned.
We survived before they were invented. We will survive, even if their use is seriously restricted during the school day. We have too many lame excuses for why they are necessary.
While a student is in school, if there is an emergency, there is always a phone for the student to use. As parents, we can always call the main office and they will be sure our child gets the emergency message.
Cell phones going off during class; students text messaging and even now connecting to the internet are not only distractions, they are unnecessary.
School is for school, for learning and for growing as a person. It is not communication central or the latest top forty played on one's Ipod. Cell phones and Ipods have their function and their place. It is not school.
Schools need to reclaim their undistracted environment so students who want to learn can, without all the chaos.
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