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President's Message: Authority Granted for Nurturing—From a Child's Perspective

更新日:1月5日

We all hope our children to fully develop their potential in order to be able to support

themselves and develop fruitful relationships. For this purpose, we focus on putting them into the "right" school and helping them study properlythinking that life will take care of itself if we can get them to stay off of their smartphones and games, in the right school, and achieving good grades and test scores. Such is a common mistake in parenting. We often times seek visible outcomes, such as GPA and diplomas; however, our greatest concern has to be on how we are exercising our parental authority over our children.


As children are physically, financially, and legally dependent on us parents, how we

deal with them in their state of weakness formulates their world view. It is not what we teach them, what schools we send them to, what curriculum we choose, what brilliant ideas we share with them, or how carefully we monitor and comment on their behavior; these things make very little impact compared to how we exert our authority. We like to place responsibility for children's behavior on the children and think up various ways to get them to do what we want them to do. However, the key in child rearing is not in their behavior but in our behavior.


What the Bible Teaches About Nurturing Children

When it comes to raising children, loving our child is at the top of everyone's list. Without love, everything else in the parent-child relationship falls apart. Yet, the Bible says that the second most important rule is this:


"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." (Colossians 3:21)
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

These are the only teachings on parenting in the last half of the Bible. The key to the

proper use of authority is the appeal to use authority in line with the concepts of fairness, reason, and justice as seen and understood from a child's perspective.


When lacking a right reason for exerting their authority, parents and teachers, myself

included, are very quick to arbitrarily pull rank on children. In other times, we make many rules to make children look good for ourselves or attempt to get them to achieve our dreams. As parents, we like to be in control. This may be, in certain situations, justifiable; however, if we fail to see things from the child's perspective, it may result in anger and frustration.


As a father of four sons and a teacher with a career of thirty-five years, I have had my

share of successes and failures. A half year ago, I ran into a problem with my homeroom class. They were being inappropriate, and I was being stubborn. At the time, I felt I could justify everything I was doing. However, the verse, "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged," brought me to a realization that I had just violated one of the most important teachings on child rearing in the Bible. I got my students exasperated and frustrated. I was wrong in how I exercised my authority, and I owed my students an apology.


Parent-Child Relationship Based on Trust

When we were still children, my older brother liked a girl. My dad vehemently opposed my brother having any romance with her, and my brother was very angry and rebellious about it. One day, he went out for a bicycle ride together with her, and that was pretty much the end of the relationship between my dad and brother to this day. Now that I have become a parent myself and learned more about what was going on at the time, I can understand why my dad had to go against my brother dating the girl. Nonetheless, his words and actions would have looked one-sided to my brother in his sensitive teenage years. My brother was frustrated and disappointed by my dad. Relationships are disintegrating in too many schools and homes due to such wrongful use of authority.


Your child must know that your position of power will be used to protect them, that

you will be reasonable in your setting of rules, boundaries, and punishments. They need to be able to tell from your behavior, not just your words, that you consistently and genuinely have their best interests at heart. They will not like discipline, but we can help them understand and accept why we need it.


Discipline is not something to negotiate. It is also not something to exercise based on

parents' feelings, guilt, or favoritism. The parental position of authority is not for the parents' benefit but for the child’s benefit. If a child trusts his parent to have his best interests at heart, the child no longer has to be suspicious, guarded, and distrustful of the parent. It is this kind of use of authority that circumvents hostile environments at home and builds a bridge of trust.


In School Education

When children respect their parents and are confident of their parents' use of authority, the success at home translates into success outside. That confidence at home forms a solid basis for the children getting along with their teachers. When I interview applicants, I can easily sense the ones that have a good relationship with their parents. In general, they are teachable and perform beyond their perceived ability. Contrarily, the ones with obvious problems with authority often take a while before they can perform at their intellectual capability, as they are spending their energies defending themselves and at times resisting teachers’ authority.


If a child cannot trust his authority figures, he is at a great disadvantage socially. His

suspicion of those in power is extended to friends and classmates. He seeks to protect himself rather than making a positive contribution to the group. In self-defense, he either seeks to control the group or retreat with a negative outlook on everything.


Especially through and after middle school, a substantial factor in the development of

students is how authority is exercised on them. Running a school for twenty years, I have seen that teachers who have their students’ best interests at heart are able to get students to study for hours and really excel. Students love and trust these teachers and willingly put in their best effort. On the other hand, I have seen other teachers who are teaching the exact same subject to the same group of kids but were not seen as having the students' interest as heart. As a result, some teachers end up receiving negative feedback and criticism while struggling to pull out minimal performance from their students.


Becoming a Humble Authority

When we fall short as parents or teachers, all we can do is to admit our shortcomings and apologize. Once I heard a teacher yelling angrily at a student. Concerned about the sound of it, I later found the student and asked him what that was all about. His response was, "It's okay. I did something stupid. The teacher got really upset, but later he apologized to me!" I could have gone up and hugged the teacher. The teacher got emotional and let out his anger on the student. Usually this only builds fear and rebellion. But because he went on to apologize, the incident instead immensely deepened their relationship. Like this, an apology is just another form of communication.


One of our students who almost got thrown out of school was always acting up in one

of his classes, getting detentions and other punishments. Yet, the student always behaved in my class. I told the teacher of the class to talk one-on-one with the student and really listen to the them. Later on, I sat down with the teacher and the student; after listening to each other, the problem between the two went away. No more detentions or the raising of voices that disturbed the class. The student felt confident that the teacher was using their authority to protect and help.


Having Meaningful Communication

Communicating from a position of authority while not exasperating and frustrating the

children is difficult. We often think that our job is to get them to behave, discipline them, and tell them what to do and not to do when they cause inconvenience and waste much time and energy. Explaining a parent's perspective is important; however, if we find ourselves repeating the same thing, then the method of communication is a problem. Repetition of the same content is not communication; children may well have understood what we said the first time around.


Too often, young people do not feel like their parents understand them. When the

parents lecture the child, the child listens politely and nods, but they may be thinking

something totally different, waiting for the parent to finally stop. This is not effective

communication. While parents are talking, they are not learning anything about the child's perspective. It is listening that is necessary.


Even if children do not understand it, we should not be repeating the same

explanation. Most lectures to children can be finished in three minutes. If we find ourselves talking for more than five minutes without our child adding content to the conversation, it is not a conversation. It is a lecture, and it is probably time for us to start listening. Also, if we are angry at our children and are yelling at them, that is a failed use of authority.


A Wrong Use of Authority

More and more research is showing the damage abuse and absence of authority have on children. Studies by the U.S. government have shown that there is a direct connection between inappropriate use of authority and drug and alcohol abuse. Inappropriate use of authority can subvert emotional health and is associated with hikikomori cases.


Children seem to have an uncanny ability to know what is right and what is wrong. It

is not uncommon for children to hear their parents lying, justifying their wrongs, or trying to manipulate a child's thinking. Other times, a parent manipulates the child in order to make it appear as if their wrongdoing was for the child's benefit.


Such manipulative behavior by authority destroys trust and can cause childhood

trauma. Abusive parents may try to manipulate children with their authority; it is this parental behavior that causes internal conflicts with children's ethical standards. Consequently, either they hold anger inside themselves or try to justify the parent's actions, becoming at risk for depression and other emotional problems. When one's authorities are not trustworthy and place self interest over honesty, the children will bear emotional scars.


It is easy to get a child to behave. Any authoritarian parent, through their use of fear,

threats, and beatings, can get even the most rebellious children to behave. Your children being docile, polite, and well-mannered does not mean that you have exercised authority properly. Abused children may act docile and well-mannered, but, in reality, they are in deep need for psychiatric care. So often in the reporting of heinous crimes on television, acquaintances talk about the perpetrator as being such a nice, quiet person—docile and mild-mannered, perhaps. But where were their hearts and minds?


If children are thinking right, eventually the actions will follow. However, the abuse

of power only leads to superficial obedience at best.


On a Final Note

One time, I was talking to a parent who had obviously done a very good job with her four children. When I complimented her, she said through tears that she and her husband had made their share of mistakes.


Parenting is hard. We all make mistakes. Every child is different, and every situation is different. What works for some children often does not work for others. Consequently, our children bear the scars of our shortcomings, as we bear the scars from our parents.


I think that God gives us children to help us grow and get over our own selfishness. Although we call ourselves adults, parents and teachers are still learning and maturing. For this reason, God has made our children, in a sense, resilient. I have failed many times, and I will fail again. It is by God's grace that we can get back up and start walking again.


Who was going to be my youngest son's authority was very important to me. I have had job offers at other schools in the past, but I had to turn them down because I wouldn't know who my child's authority figures would be. It was my desire to give him an environment where he could spend his efforts working with his teachers and classmates instead of protecting himself from them. At KIU Academy, I personally know and trust my son's teachers. I know they have their students' best interests at heart. They have their students' backs, and I want my children to have the best chance of growing up with this confidence in authority.


Parenting always comes with frustration, disappointment, and difficulties. However, if we can communicate with children on a heart to heart level through taking the time to listen to them and seeing things from their perspective, the rewards are great. Too many things are beyond our control in this world, but we can choose to use our position of authority to help our children as they grow up.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

 

Author Profile

Peter Blocksom

Founder and President of Kyoto International University and

Academy. He was raised in Kyoto and studied at Kyoto University Graduate School after graduating at a U.S. college. Having lived in Japan for over 40 years while raising four sons with his Japanese wife, he founded the school in 1996 after succeeding the business from Phillips University Japan. His educational mission is to help students develop their own global mindset and solid cultural identity.

 

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