When I was teaching, l learnt the very important lesson of stopping to take stock of how things were going, reassessing and trying again, regardless of the time of day. No matter how good the class, or how well planned the lesson, sometimes things just didn’t go as expected. It was very easy for a lesson to be derailed by a piece of equipment that refused to co-operate, a student who refused to listen or an unexpected interruption. If this occurred in the morning, it was easy to allow it to negatively influence the entire day.
I learnt to take every opportunity to begin the day again and start afresh. When the students came back from the morning recess break, after lunch or even when returning from art class, I would treat it like a new day. I would explain what was going to happen from that moment on and how I expected the students to behave. It was a very rare occasion that this didn’t end positively.
Of course, there would be times when a child behaved in a way which was completely unacceptable and some form of consequence needed to be put into place. It’s important to make the distinction here between punishment and discipline. Discipline provides the child with the opportunity to think about their actions, make amends if necessary and move on with a clean slate while punishment is just about making them pay.
My philosophy is to decide on an appropriate, meaningful consequence, put it in place and then move on. I would never make a child pay endlessly for a past mistake, preferring instead to help them learn the appropriate behaviour for the future. Something in the past cannot be changed and no amount of punishment will do so.
When I had children of my own I tried to use some of the lessons I learned in my teaching career to make my life a little easier as a mother. Of course things don’t always go as planned there either but the things I tried to do were:
1) Forgive past mistakes and look positively towards the future
2) Make it clear that the consequence was for the behaviour, not the child themselves
It’s not only our children who deserve a fresh start. We also need to give ourselves that freedom. As a parent it’s inevitable that we will make mistakes, wish we had done something differently and feel guilty over something we did or didn’t do. We will be tired, worried, busy, stressed, upset, angry, disappointed and many more. We will say things we shouldn’t and do things we regret. We all do it and it’s not the end of the world but sometimes we act as if it is.
It is true that we are often harder on ourselves than others will ever be. The thing to remember is that our future actions can be changed. We should use the experience as a learning process, forgive and continue to move forwards.