The other day I saw a meme on Facebook that said, “One of the greatest threats to America is that the school system is not teaching the next generation morals…..” What?! It went on with a list of things that the school system isn’t teaching, but the whole thing just made me shake my head.
First, let me tell you that in the amount of time in a school day minus the time spent on recess, in the lunch line, waiting on everyone to use the restroom, taking attendance and managing a classroom full of squirmy kids, we should be grateful that they learn to read and write and do basic math. As a kid, the school day may have dragged on forever, but for teachers, the day flies by and there Is often a whole pile of things that had to be cut out of the lesson plan because there just isn’t enough time in the day.
All of that aside, what really irked me is how we, as a nation, are all too willing to pass the responsibility for raising our kids to someone else. When did the school system become liable for parenting too? Just because you send your child to school, it doesn’t negate all of the training that you should be doing at home. It is OUR job to teach our kids manners and morals and the value of hard work. It is OUR job to teach our child to have integrity and treat people how they want to be treated.
There are 168 hours in a week. If your child sleeps 10 hours per day, you still have 98 hours of teachable moments in a week. Even if they go to school for 6 hours per day, they still have 68 hours a week that they are with you or with someone you designate. I know that many of those hours are being filled with dance lessons and scout meetings and ball games, but you are in control of the schedule. If you don’t have time to pour into teaching your kids to be decent humans, then pare down the sports activities.
I home schooled my kids, so all the burden for teaching morals AND math skills rested squarely on my shoulders. (I know that isn’t the lifestyle for everyone and I’ll be the first to tell you that if you don’t feel called to it you probably aren’t cut out for it.) My point is that they were MY kids and MY responsibility. If I took them to an art class at Hayner, I expected them to be taught art. I never expected that the art teacher would take over my job of teaching my kids to be hard workers.
You are the first and best teacher for your kids. What you teach them will be more important than anything they’ll learn in school about the Revolutionary War or Geometry. Lessons about friendship and the value of family are best learned IN THE FAMILY. Lessons about money management and people skills will be learned at the knee of the parents. In fact, we need to be careful about what we model at home, because no amount of “schooling” is strong enough to overcome the attitudes and behaviors that you will make the norm in your home.
I’ll wrap this up by saying, “Yay, teachers!” Your job is hard and you are often underappreciated. You are doing great work in teaching quadratic equations and sentence diagramming! But parents, let’s make sure that we understand that our job is all of the other stuff. We will raise better citizens by passing on the morals and values that we feel strongly about and leaving the school system to do what it was meant to do: educate.
It’s open window season, when all the neighbors get to hear just how happy your household is….or isn’t. Does your place need a happiness overhaul? Sometimes we just need to press the reset button to get back on track. Here are a few of my best secrets for righting the ship.
1. Ditch perfection, embrace realism. I love Pinterest. I can gaze at someone else’s magazine-worthy living room all day long. I love watching HGTV and don’t mind standing in the check-out line if I can browse through decorating magazines. The problem with this addiction is that comparison is the thief of joy. As I look at the paint colors and the furniture, it makes me reevaluate my own home and how out of date it looks compared to the newest trends.
In these photo shoots, there is very little evidence of real life. Where are the shoes kicked off under the coffee table or the stray toys and dog bones lying on the carpet? When I was raising kids, I drove myself crazy picking up after everyone. It made me angry and resentful to constantly remind people to put their things away, or even worse, to pick up their things myself. Finally, when I had enough, I started thinking strategically about the problem. I ditched HGTV perfection and embraced Grant Street realism.
For instance, since shoes were a major issue, I put a shoe rack by the back door and a large basket by the front door. This doesn’t look beautiful, but it keeps the mess corralled. Shoes that aren’t on feet have to go in one of these two places. I got the boys on board with the new plan quite simply. Shoes that I had to pick up would be hidden. They could have them back whenever they found them. The first time, I hid them in easy enough spots but then subsequent offenses were met with more creative hiding places and I quit hiding them in pairs. No more yelling or cajoling. (From me, at least—hahahaha!)
2. Know yourself. I don’t like to be rushed. I am not a procrastinator because I hate the pressure of finishing things under the gun. When I have company, I like to spend the last hour or so before the event reading a good book. I don’t want to be cooking or finishing a last minute decoration when people arrive. The underlying issue here is that I’m a control freak and there is nothing that makes me feel out of control faster than time pressure. Because I know this about myself, it informs the way I live. When I entertain, I only serve foods that can be prepared ahead of time and I make any decorations and favors well ahead of time. This way, my family will still like me when the party starts. Maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but I bet you can relate with whatever it is that makes you grouchy and mean. Know yourself and what makes you feel good, then find ways to make this the norm for your household.
3. Check your perspective. There is nothing like volunteering for checking your perspective. When I help someone who needs it, I find that it makes me appreciate the things I take for granted. I also think this works in a similar way with our kids. Get them involved in helping out in your community. Serve at a soup kitchen. Help at a food pantry. Serving together affords your family many new opportunities to discuss the needs of others. When we direct our focus on others, it takes the emphasis off the things we don’t have and makes us aware of how blessed we really are.
We offer a summer reading program that pairs older teens and adult volunteers with kids in our community to eat lunch and read during the lunch hour. It is a great program and all of our own kids have grown up volunteering for it. In households where enough food is never a worry, sometimes we forget that lunch is not a guarantee for every kid. (P.S. We're always looking for volunteers, so let me know if you want to help out!)
4. Express genuine gratitude. Thank others and model gratitude for your kids. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated. When we say “thank you” out loud, it sets a tone for the household that positive and encouraging. Look for opportunities to point out good behavior in your kids. I get it….sometimes you really have to search for it. When we have a student at the Rec that I find myself getting after frequently, I try to watch closely for a chance to praise them and thank them for making a good choice. Does it do miracles? Not always, but I do think that it makes them more inclined to repeat that behavior.
So do you need to do a happiness overhaul? What are your secrets for back on track when you find yourself off the rails?
Hi! I'm Janet and I've been the Director of the Before and After School and Smart Start Preschool Programs at the Troy Rec since 1994. My hubby and I have been married 30 years and we have two grown sons. Each of them is married and blessing us with grandchildren left and right. Life is good even when the nest is empty!