Should a child learn manners in school or at home?

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It’s an age-old question which is often wielded around whenever there’s a case of kids gone amok, but who really is responsible for teaching kids to behave? Who is to blame when kids fight, swear, ignore or bully each other? Is it their parents (or primary care-givers) or their teachers? Or is it the children themselves?

The question is wrong

I was watching a lunchtime television programme wherein the presenters were arguing about this question. Some of them commenting that children should learn to behave ‘properly’ at home, as they spend their earliest years in it, whilst others argued that teachers should be the ones responsible since school-aged children spend most of their waking hours at school. Whilst hearing these people’s arguments, I can’t help but think that the question is phrased incorrectly. For me, the task of teaching, monitoring and changing children’s behaviour should not be assigned solely to one institution or the other. If you think about it, would you not stop your child from swearing because it’s his teachers’ job to do so? You may blame the school for not putting the effort to control such behaviours, especially if your child has learned such foul words in school, but if you do not intervene, you aggrevate the situation. Conversely, if you are a teacher and one of your students punches another child, one would expect you to stop him and give him the appropriate sanction(s).

Therefore the responsibility of teaching a child how to behave appropriately should be shared not only by the home and the school, but also by the community as a whole. In other words, the questions should be: What roles do parents (or primary caregivers) and teachers play in nurturing  children’s behaviour? 

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If this model of thinking is accepted, you can take a step back and look at which of these interconnected systems is not functioning well. This way of thinking may help parents and professionals to reflect and evaluate what they are doing, and adjust their practices accordingly. In addition, it also helps stop an individual being labelled as ‘bad’.

A Healthy dose of Effective Communication

I have always believed that children’s development is influenced by the interactions between themselves, their peers, parents, schools and society. In extension, the people around the child should do their utmost to teach and model the appropriate behaviour at all times. However, there will be times when the beliefs of the home is incongruent with those of the school. Not all families agree to how a school (or society) define unacceptable behaviour. For instance, a child who is placed in detention for swearing repeatedly in the classroom may continue to do so if his parents swear in front of him.  This is when effective communication comes in handy. If schools, home and society communicate frequently and effectively, concerns may be resolved and advise can be put forward. It may take longer to resolve such a concern, but it can be done.

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