Wanted : Freedom with discipline

Wanted : Freedom with discipline

Phyllis FariasMy son is in the 8th standard. He is intelligent, smart and loving. However, he is a little stubborn and unwilling to accept failure in anything, including games. If reprimanded, he shows his unhappiness through anger, back answering etc. He does not have any inclination to systematic studies and is not keen to work seriously on anything. He almost always depends on what he has heard in the first instance in class, his intelligence and general information to deal with his subjects.
He prefers to glance through his books. He likes music, books, general knowledge, sports and technology. I am not comfortable about pushing him in anything, including studies but I do not want him to be irresponsible. We sent him to an alternative school but it did not work out. Is there anything that he can take up according to his inclination — something in art, drama, music — and come back to formal studies as and when he feels like it?
If he finds a career that supports him for a reasonable living, we will be more than happy.

In the absence of a crucial piece of data, I am answering your concern based on the assumption that your son’s academic performance is average or below average.
Your description of your son is as follows:

On the positive side, he is intelligent, smart and loving. He is inclined towards technology, music, writing, and he reads a lot. He also wants to do well.
On the negative side, he is stubborn, unable to accept failure in anything, shows unhealthy anger, does not study systematically and is irresponsible, preferring to take the easy way out.

Now, I would like to share my understanding of you as a parent.

On the positive side, you are broadminded enough to look at alternative schooling. You have even considered informal education and you are not overly ambitious for him but you are concerned.

On the negative side — and I may be wrong — I see a parent with some preconceived notions of ‘responsible’ behaviour, which could actually lead to high expectations of behaviour from your son that he may not be able to live up to without help.

Here are a few tips:

Freedom minus discipline is equal to license to do whatever one wants. Your son needs to have freedom with discipline.

- Get him involved in the decision making for study time, play time, practice time, and get him to put it down on paper for a week at a time.

- Targets for each subject and other activities have to be made so that he has a goal to achieve. The process towards achieving the goal has to be realistic, starting with small steps.

-Kindly read and also get him to read Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences on the internet. He could use the intelligences he has, which seem to be musical and linguistic skills, as learning techniques to make learning more interesting and joyful.

I do not believe that giving up on formal education should be an option at this stage. After his 10th or 12th standard, he can take up subjects to suit his intelligences.

In the meantime, he could be coached in his areas of interest separately.
Of all your concerns, the one that I would take very seriously is his inability to accept failure. Life is made up of successes and failures. There is also a dichotomy in your son, namely that hard work does not go side by side to avoid failure. The avoidance of hard work could be because he does not know how to go about systematic work. Give him the methodology to do this. Avoid reprimanding him when he fails; instead be supportive of him as a person.

Above all, while it is important to be realistic, it is all the more important to be optimistic for your son. Try and communicate this optimism to him.

Helen Keller said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”

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