By Tim Middleton The main reason children go to school is to learn vital life lessons, crucial lessons on how to live lives, especially in community — it is simple. Those lessons are more important than any academic lessons and will produce the type of school-leavers that employers and universities desire. In that regard, there is a useful article on ‘10 Life Lessons for Children’ that has recently become popular again on social media https://raisingteenstoday.com/10-life-lessons-every-parent-should-instill-in-their-kids/. As the article is clear enough, and indeed correct, there is no need for us to discuss them here again.
The question though is this: are these actually life lessons? If they are indeed life lessons, then we will see adults living by them through their life; children will not just be taught them but will see them in action in teachers, parents, leaders, politicians. Do our children see these lessons lived out?
Instead of being thankful and showing it (the first lesson), children hear adults taking all the glory and credit for what has happened. They think they have done everything to deserve it and need not attribute any glory to others. “If you love someone, tell them”, is the next lesson. However, the world tries to present the picture that expressing love is showing weakness. All we see from leaders is hating, ridiculing, bullying, threatening, accusing, shouting, denouncing, criticising.
Rather than own up when they are wrong (the third lesson), adults tend to cover up. They hope that folk will not see their mistakes; they believe they will not be caught. If they cannot avoid being caught, then they will find a way to justify or excuse it, hire expensive lawyers to turn the attention away from their wrongdoing, failing which they will only own up to what they think others know.
“If you are confused, ask questions”, children are told. Yet adults tend to spend their time trying to convince others (and perhaps secretly themselves) that they know all the answers, especially in interviews or appraisals. In a similar way, the fifth lesson is to teach others if you learn something. The problem here for adults is twofold: firstly, leaders, elders, adults do not learn much (they pretend they have known it all along) and secondly, they demand or dictate it, not teach it.
Children are then to be taught that “If you are stuck, ask for help”. That might seem a bit strange as children are made to undergo exams and tests when no help is allowed — they are told they must learn to solve things themselves. We teach children to be independent, instead of being inter-dependent. It leads on to the next lesson which states that “If you made a mistake, apologise”. Adults though go by the mantra that if they made a mistake, cover it up first of all and if it does come to light, blame others. They are more concerned they might get sued.
The eighth lesson makes much sense — “If you trip, get back up”. The only trouble is that adults, if they trip up, first look to see if they can pull others down too. The converse lesson which follows (“If you see someone needs help, help him”) is ignored by adults who have the aim to keep others down so they can benefit. If they help it will cost them now and perhaps it will cost them in the future. If someone needs help, they are just thankful it was not them (see first lesson above – even though they do not show it) and that it is one more person out of our way.
Lastly children are to be taught that “If you see wrong, take a stance”. Oh, yes, adults do love to take a stance (a posture would perhaps be a more fitting word to describe what they take) but the only time they will take a stance is if it will win them some credit, kudos, votes. They take a stance based on popularity, on profitability, not on principle. If they see wrong, the only thing they do is to learn how they did it and try to do it better than them, not call them out for it.
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We have to ask, then: is it one rule for children and another for adults? Are our children really going to believe that these life lessons really are lessons for life — and not just for school — when they see them ignored by adults? If these lessons are valuable for children, they must be valuable for adults. We teach our children these life lessons in order to avoid raising adults who are clueless. Clearly, we have not done a good job in instilling them in our children when today’s adults were children once. And if we do not believe what has been said here, just read this newspaper.
- Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
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