The Other 3 R’s

Recently, on a CBC radio talk show, the new curriculum in Ontario was described as “being on Steroids”. The show focused on how stressful the transitioning process of the new curriculum in schools has been, and on the amount of stress and pressure the teachers and students are feeling under this compressed load. More than ever before the necessity for the school to be a peaceful haven, a safe, positive, cooperative environment in which children thrive and learn is accentuated. Children and educators have so much on their academic plates that the more positive and peaceful the environment in the classroom and school, the better the academic results.

What can we do at home to help our children contribute to making the classroom environment a learning sanctuary? Well, let’s look at the other three R’s- equally important in a child’s education, but not necessarily as concrete as reading, riting & ‘rithmitic.

As parents we can help our children build a framework for educational success based on:

  1. RESPECT
  2. RESPONSIBILITY and
  3. RULES

RESPECT: is the scaffolding on which all other material is placed. Respect underlies the types of encounters the child has, determines the types of relationships s/he forms, and is a predictor of success in the world. In order for a child to develop respect, they must first experience self- respect. “I Matter”. This takes place as children learn that they are important, valuable contributing members in their family, school and community. As such, they learn to make healthy choices, and develop courage to try (and courage to make mistakes). With self -respect, a child learns to treat him/her- self well and expects to be treated well by others. They understand that they have fundamental worth as a human being. Within this framework of self-respect, the child learns to respect others understanding that others have worth and also deserve to be treated respectfully. We can help our children learn to show respect by emphasizing the importance of respectful communication. Children can be taught to communicate respect by listening and using eye contact when spoken to, by using respectful language that neither blames nor is offensive, and by respecting another’s personal boundaries.

RESPONSIBILITY: looking up the word responsibility on the handy computer thesaurus offers these synonyms: blame, liability, accountability. With children, getting away from the negative, blame model of responsibility found in such exchanges as “who is responsible for this mess” and moving toward a positive connotation of responsibility which empowers a child to feel capable and gives the child an element of choice over possible outcomes is helpful. Thinking of responsibility in terms of having the ability to choose a response or an action is an empowering way in which parents can positively assist their children to make choices that are not based on reactive feelings but involve a process of considering alternatives and options, then choosing a response. Parents help children to learn that responsibility is an ongoing process of learning to choose our responses to life’s tasks or challenges, then being accountable for the choice.

RULES: in family life can sometimes seem to operate on an automatic, unspoken, unquestioned level, whereby sometimes members of the same family have a different understanding of what the family rules are, and why they exist. Are rules in your family dynamic? Do they change and move with the changes in the family structure or are the rules unclear, static and limiting? If our desire is to help children understand that rules are a positive, necessary element of family, classroom and community life we need to include children in the process of defining rules. We can help children understand why a particular rule been set, the benefits of adhering to this rule, and the consequences of disregarding the rule. Including children in a discussion of family rules enables a child to gain a better appreciation of what rules actually are and why they are necessary. A fun, interesting and clarifying exercise is for all members of a family to sit down together and discuss the family rules. Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family therapy recommends that in such a discussion, one person write down all of the perceived rules that guide the family. The next step is talking over the rule inventory and clearing up misunderstandings. Then, look at which rules are out of date, and whether or not the remaining rules accomplish the desired result. In this family meeting you can discuss who makes the rules, what to do when rules don’t fit, and how to change or discard rules. By examining, and discussing rules in our family, children gain a greater awareness of how clear, well understood rules contribute to peace, well-being and safety, in the home, the school and the community. Parents are the first and most influential teachers that a child will have. Providing our children with a framework in the family to learn and develop respect, responsibility, and an appreciation for rules helps to create harmonious environments in the home, the school and the community.

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The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.