It is that time of year again where children and young people return to the classroom with the weight of parental and other family members’ expectations on their shoulders. For some it will be the year of tests and examinations, thereby increasing the burden.
This burden will also be dumped on teachers’ shoulders as parents expect the school staff to assist in delivering the parental dreams for their offspring. Many parents will breathe a sigh of relief as this time signals surviving another summer holiday of total parental responsibility, as the school gate looms large again.
I find it interesting and slightly worrying that large numbers of parents send their children to school with the expectation that they will complete some fourteen years of education to allow them to go somewhere else for a further three or four years of education.
Even worse, these same parents are doing this in the fond expectation that their children will achieve the same sorts of jobs in the same sort of world as existed when they were this age.
Recently I saw a video that projected forward to a world eighteen years hence. This is the world that children born today will find themselves in before they even get to university age. It was supposedly visionary, but to me it was blindingly obvious.
Without going into all of it, the vision included large numbers of high-flying jobs being done by AR and AI. It envisaged a world where China was dominant. It envisioned a world where fossil fuels were not needed and where places such as the Middle East had become irrelevant. It envisaged the growth of Africa as people learnt to put solar energy where the sun shines!
This vision also creates a world where creative talents are likely to be more important than the number of A*s in conventional subjects. Perhaps a child wanting to be an actor, or a painter doesn’t seem so silly as bankers and fund managers are replaced by IT.
Before parents start putting unnecessary pressures on their children, or try and live their lives through their children, they should get an education themselves. They would not dream of setting off on a journey without knowing where they are going, and yet this is exactly what they are doing to their children when it comes to education.
That is not to say that parents do not have a role. The end of the school holidays is not a time to abdicate responsibility but to intensify it. Learn to support the teaching staff rather than constantly holding them to account for failing to achieve the impossible.
Allow your children to experience as many opportunities as possible outside of formal education. If they think they want to play for Manchester United let them join a local football team. If they end up achieving, then they will earn far more than the redundant banker and if not, they will have had fun and an experience along the way. It will certainly be preferable to texting all day long even if you are a snob and wished they had chosen rugby!
You can also spend time helping them to develop their social skills. Let them have sleepovers and have their friends to play. This is much more valuable than sitting in solitary doing texting. Explain to them that ‘likes’ on social media is not a popularity measure but the action of someone with limited communication and social skills.
Make sure the family eat together and those mobile phones are banned. Not simply turned over but banned from the room. That includes you and your work phone! The same is true for charging phones. Make sure charging is not done by the bedside and set an example by talking to your spouse when you wake up before you check WhatsApp in the morning!
In other words, now the holidays are over your job has just intensified. You have far less time in the day with your offspring, but you now have so much more that you must do in that time. You are responsible for helping them to develop socially and you need to help them explore the avenues that interest them.
Your role is not one of directing your children’s life. Your role is the more difficult one of supporting them while they direct their own lives.