Issue 16 | July 13, 2012 | Effective Discipline
While at the NARHS graduation last month in Maine, I briefly met a graduate who has a remarkable story to tell. This young man benefits tremendously by taking life as it comes with peace and acceptance. You probably will not forget Peter Somero's story for quite a while. But first read an article with practical insight that can be valuable for anyone working with children.
EFFECTIVE CHILD DISCIPLINE
From A Child Development Point of View, by James L. Hymes, Jr.:
The means for effective discipline is clear for every age. Be friendly, sure. Be warm and approachable. Be decent, but be an adult. Children want you to be. They need someone stronger than they are - more aware, more alert - as a prop to their own efforts to do the right thing.
Youngsters don't want rules staring them in the face wherever they turn. They don't want to be picked up on every little thing they do every second of the day. They appreciate a little flexibility. If the same law is broken time and time again, they hope you will take a second look at the rule to see if it really is a good one.
They want some patience on your part. You cannot pass a law and expect children to be letter-perfect on it the vey next second. Children need time to learn how to do the right thing, the way it takes them time to learn to read or to do arithmetic.....You have to allow time for mistakes in grammar to straighten out. The heavens must not fall every time there is a slip.
Youngsters like it best, too, when you talk things over and keep talking them over, day after day. If you are harsh, you push children away from you. If you are severe, you push them back. If you are tough, you push them off. When you explain, interpret, discuss, then you draw youngsters in. If you have a rule, if it is a good rule, stick by it. Your sensible, reasonable rule joins hands with the friendly talking way you uphold the rule. The two together - your rule and your friendliness - develop strength and security in youngsters.
FEATURED STUDENT: Peter Somero
Peter Somero, from New Ipswich, New Hampshire, was the son of an accountant father and a homeschooling mother. Life was busy on their 2-acre farm with eggs and strawberries to sell, bicycles to repair, scrap metal to collect/sell, beekeeping and academic studies to fit into the daily schedule. Later, Peter and his brother, in the third year of their maple syrup sugaring business, expanded by building a large 2-story sugar shack with a 2 foot by 6 foot wood-fired evaporator, a growing hobby/business that will continue into their adulthood. Just a year ago when Peter began training in automotive repair, he found it sparked his interest. Peter will continue that training after graduation. Other aspects of his life: much traveling, strong church life, hiking, hunting and fishing, make Peter's childhood seem balanced, healthy and stress free, except for one episode when he was 11 years old. In late spring, his mother passed away.
For the next year of school, his dad, Roger, hired a teacher who taught the boys in her home. After that teacher quit, another was hired. Roger was obviously committed to home schooling his sons. The next spring after Roger married Cathy, she adopted the boys and continued their homeschooling. Peter commented on the fact that since they were married in mid May of the next year, the family did not miss out on celebrating Mother's Day. Quite quickly Cathy discovered that the boys' reading and writing levels were not where they should be, so she targeted those skills for much practice. When I asked Peter to name the most difficult adjustment during that time, he was quick to say that the extra work in reading stands out in his mind. The "new mom" was insistent that the boys get additional practice. Setting their sights on preparing the two brothers for adulthood, Roger and Cathy decided to delay Peter's graduation one year, so his reading skills would have more time to develop. Peter is so glad they made that decision. He feels ready now.
As I probed a little more about the tough adjustments during that transition time for the family, Peter could only express how grateful he is for his new mom. Cathy told me on the phone that both Peter and his brother have told her that they are so thankful that she married their dad. "You have made him so happy, and I don't know what we would have done without you." Over and over during my talk with Peter, I got a sense that this young man knows how to count his blessings, rather than dwell on his losses. With his outstanding education and attitude, I can only imagine that graduation this year must have been a tremendous celebration.