A Way to Raise Kids in a New Age
By Dr Mark Potterton – Childhood and parenting have radically changed in the past few decades and this means that children today struggle to manage their behaviour.
This is according to journalist and author Katherine Reynolds Lewis in her book The Good News About Bad Behaviour.
Lewis argues that “we face a crisis of self-regulation”, and that parents and teachers struggle daily with difficult behaviour.
She goes on to highlight that, in the American context, about half of the current generation of children will develop a mood or behavioural disorder or a substance addiction by age 18. Scary indeed!
Contemporary kids need to learn independence and responsibility, yet our old ideas of punishment and reward are preventing this from happening.
Lewis is a certified parent educator and mother of three who set out to investigate over five years why so many children have trouble managing their behaviour and emotions.
Article on School Discipline
The book grew out of her July 2015 article for Mother Jones magazine about school discipline. Within days of appearing on MotherJones.com, the article became the site’s most-read story ever, racking up more than 4 million views, 790000 Facebook shares, 6000 tweets and 980 comments.
Parents and teachers around the world wrote in to say how the piece had changed their approach with children. It made its way into conference sessions and university curricula, and attracted interest in Sweden and Germany.
Clearly, millions of people around the world were facing the same fears, confronting the same problems, and looking for solutions.
In her book Lewis articulates what she calls “The Apprenticeship Model”, a new theory of discipline that centres on learning the art of self-control.
Trusting Children to Face Consequences of Behaviour
Blending new scientific research and powerful individual stories of change, Lewis shows that, if we trust our children to face consequences, they will learn to adapt and moderate their own behaviour.
She argues that chaotic homes can become peaceful, that bewildered teachers can see progress, and she has seen her own family grow and evolve in light of these new ideas.
Lewis has identified three factors that have contributed mightily to this crisis.
First, where, how and how much kids are allowed to play has changed.
Second, their access to technology and social media has exploded.
Thirdly, children today are too “unemployed”. Lewis doesn’t simply mean the occasional job for a high school teen. She refers to household jobs that can help younger children build confidence and a sense of community.
“They’re not asked to do anything to contribute to a neighbourhood or family or community,” she told a reporter.
Katherine Reynolds Lewis has written an important book that will give hope and support to mothers, fathers and teachers who want both understanding and answers. With a parent’s compassion and a journalist’s rigour, she offers advice from the trenches while providing a realistic roadmap towards a better family life.
Blending solid science and highly readable storytelling, The Good News About Bad Behaviour is sure to become a parent “must-read”.
Dr Mark Potterton is the principal of the primary school at Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg.