Positive Education Starts at Home
Given the society in which we live today, children are not lacking in the materialistic items parents can give to them, but what is more important than this, is the child’s ability to do things for themselves, to communicate positively with their peers and elders and have a general level of cultural and social awareness.
Having had the opportunity to spend a week on a parenting tour to Japan with a group of 7 families, my belief is stronger than ever that positive education needs to start at home.
The objective behind the organisation of the tour was to provide an opportunity for parents and children to spend time together as a family and create memories for everyone to reminisce over in the future – a tried and tested positive psychology intervention for the creation of happiness and positive emotions.
Hence with hindsight I think we should have reminded everyone of this when we boarded the tour bus so that everyone could “disconnect” with their gadgets for a short period of time at least.
We had a driver who obviously loved his job and he was enthusiastically introducing the different sights we were passing during our three or so hour drive from Tokyo to Hokute, each introduction was met with silence as everyone was too engaged with their iPad or iPhone. I think the use of two of the 24 VIA character strengths would have been very appropriate here, one is the appreciation of beauty and the other is curiosity, it was after all the first time in Japan for so many people.
Another character strength I see as important to cultivate is the ability to approach everything with zest and vitality. During the city challenge part of our tour, where our young leaders had to navigate Tokyo’s metro system and take the adults to various tourist spots within Tokyo, I could see their energy and enthusiasm levels wane within the first hour and I heard so many “I am so tired” comments! I remember being full of energy and curiosity when I was that age! So parents, I think more activities’ outdoors and with nature should be encouraged and arranged for your children when you are back home.
I could also see instances where parents should positively point out to their children that they have crossed certain boundaries, there were so many situations where I saw children “ordering” their parents to do things for them rather than asking.
You are not being too strict when you let children know this, boundaries have to be set and children made aware of them, if this sort of behaviour is allowed to persist between parents and their children it is very likely that this will be carried over to their conversations with teachers, peers and future employers, being able to communicate positively is a very important social skill.
The concepts of self-determination and autonomy should also be instilled to parents, as this highlights the need to intrinsically motivate children to do things for themselves thus promoting “self-care” and independence amongst our children, this would limit the number of times parents/grandparents need to remind their children to have a drink or carry bottles of water for them as the children would know that they need to drink something when they are thirsty and be able to carry bottles of water in their own backpacks.
I cannot emphasise more the need for social intelligence and cultural awareness. From the outset I knew going to Japan was going to be a bit of a culture shock for our families given the inherent differences between Japanese and Chinese customs. I understand that time is needed to get acclimatised and to let our children know what not to do, if they are given free reign at home, but after being asked not only by us (the tour leaders) but by the shop keepers themselves to turn down the volume of your gadgets or to not run around in restaurants, there should a certain degree of empathy and compassion from parents themselves, and they should have tried harder to ensure their children sit at the table when having meals and be able to participate in conversations rather than run around and have their gadgets on so loud that it causes disruption to other patrons of the restaurants. This would lead to more positive conversations being had at dinner times and stronger relationships being built as family members will have more “quality” time to create stronger bonds and connections.
Taking away some positives...
I know parenting is not easy and you probably did not study how to be a parent before having your first child, but I believe that you can take comfort in knowing that towards the end of the tour, the children were indeed ‘disconnecting” from their phones and they were playing with one another as relationships were being established, you just need to take the lead and act as the role model. So please do disconnect when you are home and with the kids.
Their resilience was on show for everyone to see, they were able to adapt to last minute changes as we had to build a makeshift camp site in a greenhouse as we were hit by a typhoon. A great strength to have as they encounter different challenges in life.
Food for thought...
So for parents out there, some of these life skills should be taught at home and by you, you should not be relying on teachers to instill these into children, as per some of the comments I heard from you at the beginning of the tour.
These are your children; it is your responsibility to raise them, no-one else’s. So positive education really needs to start at home, not just for children but for parents too.
Author: Yuen Pang