Teenagers and Apologies
Consider the situation – a noisy classroom, a stressed teacher and an exercise that needs considerable 1:1 between one student and the teacher leaving the others unsupervised for a large part of the lesson! It doesn’t take much for the teacher to blow their fuse, pick on a child who is making a noise and use him/her as an example to the rest by throwing them out of class even where that student is talking constructively to another to gauge understanding of the task at hand.
Who in this situation is in the wrong? The child for talking in the first place despite the teacher having asked for quiet or the teacher for not controlling the class en mass and picking on one child when a number were actually culprits.
Far too often this happens in classrooms throughout the world. To a certain extent it is human behaviour – stressed situations heighten emotions and people get hurt. But how then, as a parent do you deal with the child who comes home feeling angry and violated by what has apparently been a miscarriage of justice in their book. How do you deal with the teacher who wants to punish your child when maybe there is no clear cut perpetrator/victim apparent? How too do you avoid creating a victim’s consciousness in a child who feels unduly hard done by?
Parents nowadays have less and less influence in schools. The general consensus of opinion is to blame the parents. There is little accountability despite home/school agreements and parents are constantly being challenged by government policy in terms of how to parent their children, how to educate them, how to do this and how to do that. But with an increasing propensity to do this the truth is often lost that a child’s whole environment (both internal, parental and beyond) can have a marked impact on a child’s behaviour. Nevertheless parents do have a big part to play in supporting, teaching and nurturing their children in terms of discipline so that when life goes awry they are encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour and to appreciate that consequences are part of the rich tapestry of life!
Children like justice! They like an ideal world where right is right and wrong is wrong but sadly too many children also like an eye for eye! As parents we have a huge responsibility to nurture our children through childhood and beyond to not only understand right from wrong but also to appreciate all the shades of grey in between. Critically and most importantly however they need to be encouraged to grow up to be responsible and accountable adults. Helping them to see their part in a situation and to understand is all part of growing up to appreciate the subtle nuances of life to the outright lessons that good and appropriate behaviour demand.
When they were little hopefully children were taught that bad behaviour had consequences. Bad behaviour was taken as a teaching moment to help understand, reflect, show remorse and reconcile. Bad behaviour was labelled bad and importantly feelings were discussed to help the child in question learn to appreciate others emotions particularly if they had been wronged by the chid. A consistent approach to consequences for deviant behaviour led to a deeper appreciation of what it was to do something wrong or to choose the wrong pathway. And so with love from parent to child, a clear understanding of good and bad, right and wrong started to be understood by the child.
However, in their teenage years, bad behaviour can become a trickier pathway to navigate. Children are exposed to multiple environments that can affect their behavioural outcomes. Identifying the good and the bad can sometimes become blurred but nevertheless it is still the parent’s duty to continue to help their children understand what are the right choices and what the wrong.
Communication is key to this as is the ability of the parent to remain neutral. If for instance, a child has been punished at school and there is a grey area over accountability, take an altitude view that remains impartial to extrapolate the saliencies that need dealing with. In the example above, clearly despite the injustice of the situation where the teacher has picked on one child and their classroom management is questionable, the fact remains that the child should not have been talking. They had been asked to work in silence and had deliberately chosen not to. That is the bottom line. Confounding factors can be looked at but importantly the lesson that a parent can help their child learn is one that appreciates the complex arena of human emotions and behaviours outside their own.
As a parent the most important part is to continue to deal with our own children’s behaviour. There is no point in forcing an apology. A pressed “sorry” that is said to appease another person rather than being heartfelt has no value. Apologies need to be from the child and in line with matters that they are truly sorry for otherwise the lesson isn’t learnt and behaviour remains unchallenged and unchanged. Where a teenager feels they have been mistreated or don’t understand that their behaviour is inappropriate, an apology can just be a mask and a victim’s consciousness can become apparent which is a slippery slope.
However, the parent that can help their child to step outside the box to see the other side of the coin, to appreciate all perspectives will validate their child much more than the one that simply takes the hard line of judgement. During adolescence it is crucial for lines of open communication to remain in place and a drive towards understanding other people’s emotions and feelings instigated.
And so going back to our original example who was wrong? Clearly there was error on both part but the essential point from this is that as a parent we have a duty to help our child understand their part. If we want to challenge the teacher (or whoever else) then that is an entirely separate issue that doesn’t need to, and probably shouldn’t include the child. The key is to lead our own children into a life that takes responsibility and accountability seriously.