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Principal's Blog

2011 TERM 3

“You’ll be right!”

My job as a school principal can be described positively or negatively – helping families raise positive, empowered children or dealing with over-anxious, over-protective parents.

A mother approached me earlier this year to ask my advice on drop-offs – her child was happy at school, but giving mother a difficult time when parting. My advice finished with, “Don’t get emotionally caught.” To which she replied, “That is the trick, isn’t it!”

The following day I had a chat to a father about his girl going off to camp. At pick up time, the mother of another child also asked my advice on camp, or more particularly her boy going off to camp. I noted that Candlebark takes preps on camp in their first term of school for three nights, with no parents. Her reply was, “I know that he will be ok, it’s his mother and father who are worrying!”

The earlier brief conversation with the father of the girl was much the same – my message to him was just let your daughter know that she will be fine. His reply, really, was lovely and again entirely honest… “We are trying!”

The beautiful aspect of all of these conversations was both the honesty, and awareness of where the emotional dangers of getting caught lay. I believe that this will see these families raise strong children.

“You’ll be right!”

This perennial Australianism is becoming my parenting mantra.

“You’ll be right.”

The wonderful aspect of my job, and the part that also gives FCS such a strong, positive, warm community is the fact that all of the parents I work with are trying to be good parents. This makes my job both easier and harder.

Easier, as we are all actively aiming in the same direction. Harder, as, if there is a fault with some of the parents I work with, it is over-involvement. Too much time talking over small issues – working and re-working small anxieties into larger ones.

There are two usually unconsidered aspects to these parent-child discussions. One is the child exercising their own power. In this case, power over their parents, getting their attention; making them jump. These conversations, ‘normal’ conversations between adults where an issue is worked through, when they are of the parent-child variety can often include a power play by their child, something generally not factored in by the parent.

Children naturally want to try out their ability to influence the world, and their mums and dads are subjects one and two. The 'issue' is a furphy, the subtext is the exercise of power. This is not to say that there is never a real issue. Occasionally there is.

More often though adult involvement in these types of conversations, conversations involving a small anxiety or piece of ill-news is what creates the issue for the child. The furphy becomes an issue. The good intention of the adult who cares, listens and becomes involved in the child's small issue can and does create real distress for the child. Adult attention to the issue showing the child that it is a big issue, worthy of adult involvement.

This other frequently unconsidered aspect in the child initiating this type of conversations is simply that the child is looking to the adult to see what should be considered a big deal and worthy of worry and discussion, and what is just one of life's bumps to be overcome and forgotten, trusting in the adults greater experience of the world to guide them.

The right response in both situations is “You'll be right!“

In either the power play or the search for knowledge, when an adult becomes involved or concerned a non-issue can and often does become an issue and real point of concern and worry; and the good intentions of the parent end up contributing to undermining the confidence of their child.

Put simply:

A child falls, and a parent rushes to him or her and asks a series of anxious questions as to their level of injury and distress. The child 'learns' that falling is a big deal.

A child falls, and the parent either ignores him or her, or give a laid back, “You'll be right!“ The child 'learns' that falling is not a big deal.

I see this 'falling' as symbolic of all of life's challenges, missteps, upsets and challenges.

“You'll be right!”


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