Being a teacher can often have heartbreaking moments. There are many children who cross my path daily, who are suffering. The suffering comes out in a lot of dis-empowering and unproductive ways.
Basically, underneath all of this is a desperate desire to feel loved and wanted.
I only teach casually at the moment, which makes it difficult to connect with and leave a positive impact upon the students. Last week, I had a student who was messing around, not doing his work or following directions. I’ve taught, let’s call him Bill, several times before, so I know what he is capable of and that he is a sweet boy.
After addressing his desire to do the total opposite of what I asked, he rolled his eyes, and made statements to the effect that I was picking on him, as so many students do.
I sat down to speak with him. I told him that I didn’t understand why he was being so uncooperative, that I knew he could do so much better, and what a sweet and lovely boy he was.
“Bill, do you understand who you are really letting down here now, by not doing the right thing and getting your work done? You are not hurting me at all. Who do you think you are hurting?”
After back and forth for awhile, he eventually let his pain out–his parents hated him so why should he care.
This is when the mother in me moved to let him know that is not true.
“Honey, you are your parent’s baby. They love you more than anything.”
“It’s not true. They don’t at all.”
I thought about it some more, and as much as I cannot ever believe how a mother, or a father, could not love their child so naturally and deeply, I realized that this is not always the case. You hear the stories, and although I can never understand it, there are some children in this world who are living with parents who don’t really love them, or who are so swallowed by their own pain that they can’t.
My heart began breaking as I thought of Kalyra sitting in that same place, thinking that I did not love her, and carrying that abandoned ache around with her every day.
How can a child overcome the thought that the one person who brought them into this world, the one person they should be able to rely on to love them no matter what, didn’t? How could they then begin to have the self-love and respect to know that other people outside of their parents could possibly love them as well?
“Well honey. I know at times it might seem like they hate you. But you know, your parents are doing their best to raise you in the best way they can and teach you how to make good choices. Sometimes parents have to make decisions, or be a little strict or tough on you, as they know it is for your best interests. You know just like teachers.
I have to do my best to have you act in a certain way so you can listen and learn. If I am not strict with this, then you won’t learn and neither will others around you and then no one gets their job done. But, that doesn’t mean, Bill, that I don’t like you. I think you are such a sweet and kind boy and you have so much you can offer. There’s so much you can do with your life, and I don’t want to see you waste it.
Here’s the most important thing Bill.
There are always going to be people in your life who make you feel bad, who make you feel like they don’t love you or that they hate you. You often don’t have much control over this. What you do have control over is how kind and loving you can be to yourself. As long as you treat yourself lovingly and know you are a good person that is all that matters. You need to be kinder to yourself Bill. You need to give yourself a better chance, by making better choices.
For the rest of the day, Bill behaved perfectly, but not only that he became my shadow, which broke my heart even more. This young tough kid was desperate for some positive love and attention. I made sure I gave him lots of positive encouragement, “I really like how you settled down for me and listened through assembly Bill.” “Thank you for being so co-operative Bill, I really appreciate it…” and so on.
We had sport in the afternoon, and he sat by me not wanting to play, but to stay with me. I convinced him to go and have fun. Halfway through sport, I saw him hobbling over to me from across the field. A frisbee had hit his leg, and a small bruise and bump was coming up. It was nothing really, but I knew he just needed some attention.
I gave him a chair to sit on and told him he could stay with me for the rest of the day. He walked with me back to class once the bell had gone. As much as this Mumma Bear wanted to give him a cuddle and tell him it would be alright, to stay strong and believe in the goodness of yourself, I couldn’t. I gave his shoulder a squeeze and told him to have a wonderful weekend.
Of course, all of this made me think about how good I am as a mother. I am not the perfect parent, no one is. I make a lot of mistakes and sometimes let the frustration get the better of me. Will these slip ups make my child think that I hate her?
Will she carry that painful burden around for ever?
Sometimes the frustrated or angry acts come about from a need to discipline your child. It is coming from you parenting for the bigger picture. You want to do what you can to prepare your child for the world when they are ready to enter it alone.
Children don’t need spoiling or moddle-coddling, but they do need love. You can be strict with them for certain behaviours, but you can also be very loving. I have found this brings the best results as a teacher, and so far as a parent.
The most important thing you need to remember when disciplining your children. If you are in the wrong, then you tell them and you say you are sorry. There is so much power in this act, and they learn from you that mistakes are okay and forgiveness is one of the most powerful and easiest things they can do.
And always let them know how much you love them. Don’t hold onto the anger you feel when they don’t behave the way you want them to. Don’t punish them or resent them forever.
Let the moment go and move onto the next one filled with love. Look for ways to really encourage their positive behaviours. They will be less likely to act up in negative ways.
I usually always say, “Mummy can get a little sad..disappointed… angry… frustrated.. when you do X because … Then I explain the alternative option, what you should do and why.
I’m sorry for getting angry, Mummy will do better next time. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Mummy loves you so much.”
Despite my stuff ups and my somewhat firm hand (figuratively that is) Kalyra always knows how much I love her.