Personal Responsibility

This sign is pretty funny. It made the rounds on Facebook, and while I probably wouldn’t post it at New Covenant, I sympathize with its message. First, let’s admit it: kids forget stuff. In Grammar School parents pack their children’s backpacks and lunches carefully so if something is left out, it’s usually mom’s fault. By the time a student gets to Middle School, however, things change dramatically.

At that age children don’t really want mom hovering around doing everything for them; at the same time many don’t quite have the foresight to consistently get everything they need into the minivan in the morning. After all, they’ve not only got their books and homework, they might have a PE uniform, a sports bag, other clothing items for an after-school activity, a lunch, and other school supplies. They are going to forget something at some point.

I’m not against a parent bringing a forgotten item to school occasionally. What I want to challenge is the chronic forgetfulness that some students exhibit, and that some parents enable. Those are the ones who should read the sign in the photo more carefully. Bailing out your child occasionally is okay, but parents should not be on the leash to a child who requests his daily phone call at the front desk an hour after arriving to school.

In a school our size a steady stream of parents who ask the volunteer/staff person at the lobby desk to “get this item to my child in “x” grade” shifts a burden of responsibility away from the student and unnecessarily to another adult. Let the chronically forgetful child miss a meal, sit out a practice, or get the natural consequence of his forgetfulness. That may happen once or twice. Most kids will fix the root problem quickly, if, when you are called to bring the violin, you just say “No.” Start now to teach personal responsibility in ways that are neither devastating nor harmful. That’s what childhood is for.

On a similar note, our staff will better serve everyone if parents avoid certain other demands. For example, if you’re sitting in the pick-up line at 2:50 pm, that’s not a good time to call the front desk to a) ask that your child be ushered out early; b) remind your child to bring home an item; or c) send a message to him. By the same token, older students should be reminded by their parents that it’s the students’ job to get themselves out to pick-up. It is not staff’s job to page each child who has somehow failed to get outside by the time you arrive. You have a right to insist that your student pack himself up and get to your car in a timely fashion. Teachers let their classes out on time, so if your student doesn’t arrive outside, it’s likely due to the fact that he’s looking for something in gym, the locker room or the hallway, or just visiting with friends.

School requires routines, and those routines start at home. Make sure your student has packed himself before going to bed. Have a checklist on the fridge so that he can double-check each morning. Develop habits with routines that are maintained with predictability. Everyone will be happier.