In Creating Happiness by Barbara Jacoby

Many years ago when I started teaching school, I was troubled by the fact that the many students were misbehaving and doing whatever they wanted both within and outside of the classroom.  Furthermore, whenever the behavior got out of control to the point where the parents were called in, I found that the parents defended their children and were usually rather abusive toward the teachers and held the teachers responsible for not being able to control the classroom.  After 3 years of seeing this problem escalate, I decided that the classroom was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my working life.  However, I did learn something that explained what was happening and why there was no way that the teachers were going to be effective in the classroom in such an atmosphere.


I knew that when I was growing up that if I had done anything to cause a problem in school, I would be disciplined there, my parents would be informed and I would be punished when I got home as well.  The discipline resulted not from fear but rather from having been taught respect.  We were taught how to behave, how to present ourselves when we were in public and how to treat each other.  Those fundamentals served us well at that time and throughout our lives in each and every situation in which we found ourselves.  And my parents always worked in tandem and enforced whatever punishment they chose to hand out.


As a result, we respected our parents.  We were taught how to behave.  We were treated fairly and the teaching applied to each of us three children equally.  We were fortunate to have two parents in the home who believed that their children were their primary responsibility and did monitor us and our behavior pretty much at all times.  We were given rules and regulations to follow which continued into our adult years as long as we lived under their roof.  And to this day, I am most grateful for the structure that we were provided.


What I figured out was that if we were taught to respect our parents, this automatically filtered on down the line.  We respected our siblings, other family members, teachers and all authority figures and from there, we respected property.  We learned the value of a dollar and it was explained to us that we simply could not and would not receive everything that we wanted.  Financially, it was not possible and we understood that.


By the time I started teaching, I realized that the students that were causing problems were those whose parents had no time for them.  In the majority of the cases, the parents were busy chasing the almighty dollar and never had time for their children.  That meant that the instruction and guidance that we had received was not available to these kids.  The emphasis had switched to parents believing that they were successful if they could accumulate lots of stuff and they dealt with their children by handing them money to get them out of the house and out of their hair. 


The value of the dollar was more important than the value of a person.  If a child is constantly pushed aside, he/she soon learns that they are not as important as mom and dad making money.  In many cases, the parents tell the children that they wouldn’t have to work so hard if it wasn’t for the fact that they have to feed and clothe them and keep a roof over their heads.  And when you are constantly ignored and told to go away because you are a bother and that you are the cause of the discontent in your parents’ life, you have no respect for yourself.  And a person with no respect is a life that has been ruined.  I can’t think of anything that is sadder.  Most children who are treated this way will never recover in their entire lifetime and will tend to raise their families in the same way.  But if each of us learns to treat each other with respect and dignity, we can teach by example that there is a better way and perhaps, by chance, we can make a real difference.