To what are we asking you to say ‘no’, with us?
Underage drinking; underage sexual relations; supply of alcohol to underage teenagers; unsupervised parties; weekend parties as the ‘norm’ during term time; inappropriate posting of photos or commentary on social media – by teenagers, about others or about themselves and/or in a way that would discredit the reputation of your son or daughter, your family or the School; illegal ‘everything’, like ‘fake ID’ to access nightclubs; bullying – through exclusion or through exertion of power over another student, or through mindless, inappropriate behaviour... Please refer to our Parent Information Book, for the details of our response, as a School.
In interviews with prospective parents, I am increasingly engaged in conversation about the School’s stance on issues such as those listed above. Essentially, the question is: ‘to what does the school say ‘no’? In reply, I usually include a similar question to gauge our alignment – parent/School – ‘to what do you as parents say ‘no’ and how is that working, for you?
Parental boundary-setting or stage-setting is vital to a child’s development. During formative years, parents routinely say ‘no’ to children to keep them safe and teach them about relationships and respect for others. As children mature, clear boundaries remain essential, to help teenagers to develop emotionally and build resilience. So, why say ‘no’ (or ‘not yet’)?
1. Emotional development
According to Family Therapist Lori Freson, ‘Children are not emotionally or developmentally equipped to make major decisions or rules, or to self-regulate’. While teenagers may think they know what is best and want to exercise ‘control’ of their own lives, they needs clear boundaries that help guide them. For parents, the aim is to teach your teenagers what you know and help them to realise there is still a lot they have to learn. Further, it is crucial to communicate the reason behind the boundaries you have set so that they come to understand the importance of making considered decisions.
2. Tolerating disappointment and building resilience
Children that have every demand and whim gratified may fail to develop the skills necessary to cope with disappointment and frustration. It is important that your son or daughter be given the opportunity to process feelings of disappointment to build resilience that will help her cope when things inevitably fail to go their way in adult life. By saying ‘no’ you will teach that disappointment is a part of life and – with your help and guidance – that he or she can develop ways in which to cope.
3. Decision-making skills
Teenagers do not share your level of knowledge or life experience and are not equipped to make decisions like an adult. While they may benefit from having clear boundaries, it should not mean protecting them from failure. It is suggested that you ‘pick your battles’ and let smaller things slide, to provide the opportunity for teenagers to learn from their own experiences, allowing them to feel that they have some freedom in making their own choices and learning from their mistakes. While saying no to wilful teenagers can be difficult, it is a parent’s ‘job’ to help their children stay safe, while also allowing them to develop the skills to become emotionally and physically healthy adults.
Important also, parents (whilst more experienced than their offspring) do not always have all the answers. If you are having trouble communicating with or managing the ‘stage-setting’ for your teenager, seek assistance from someone that they respect and trust. As you are probably aware, the same advice delivered by someone influential in their life may be more readily accepted.
At Frensham, our mission is to provide a caring and supportive environment where we actively encourage students to grow in wisdom, self-assurance, leadership by example, integrity and humility, to become responsible, contributing members of society. Our efforts focus on the fundamentals of good parenting — providing both care and discipline — enabling teenagers to grow into trustworthy, resilient citizens. In partnership with parents, we aim to provide a consistency of guidance and care, so that your child can thrive in terms of character, leadership and wellbeing.
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From Parenting for Character (Andrew Mullins, 2005):
Good habits and parenting (p.44)
Parents are facing a great deal of competition in raising their children, competition from the peer group, from the media, from the bad example of role models in society. If, in the face of that pressure, parents abrogate their responsibility to raise their children well, children will suffer. A good parent, an effective parent, does not throw in the towel.
In the words of Aristotle (384-322BC):
It makes no small difference whether we form habits of one kind or of another, from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.
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