When parents teach kids to be lawbreakers

At the beginning of this term, Pudd’ng’s school drew up a snacks’ timetable, which all pupils are supposed to follow. In fact, below the piece of paper that Pudd’ng came home with were the words, “Parents and pupils must strictly follow this timetable”.

Basically, there are three foodstuffs that pupils are supposed to carry for snacks, on a rotation basis, which is outlined in the timetable: bread, mandazi and fruits. Our daughter glued the timetable in the kitchen, on the wall near the table, because that is the place where she cannot miss to see it.

Testing the waters

The next day after the pupils in Pudd’ng’s school were given the snacks’ timetable, baby girl told me that some pupils had carried “outlawed” bites.

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“What did the teacher do about it?” I asked, curious to know how the administration had navigated this dilemma.

I mean, what’s the school supposed to do with foodstuffs that they confiscate? Trash them? Return the foodstuffs to the kids at the end of the day, and tell them that they can eat them anywhere but in the school? 

Pudd’ng merely shrugged and told me that the teacher did nothing. It was like she was resigned to the fact that some of them would follow the rules, while others would break them with reckless abandon … and have a scrumptious time while they were at it.

I think our daughter was testing how far she could go with us. And Pudd’ng was right to feel aggrieved. From baby girl’s point of view, it was like there were two sets of laws; and one could follow whichever law they decided.

Learned rebellion

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Children do not learn rebellion in a vacuum. It is taught, albeit not formally. Children look at how we are living our lives. They have a front row centre seats to the show that we are running; and this is where they pick their lessons.

I know some parents must have looked at the snacks’ timetable and thought that it is silly. They might have even remarked, right in front of their children, that the timetable is a dumbest idea they have ever seen. What’s worse; they are even going further and buying, and packing bites, which are outlawed.

Unbeknownst to these parents, they are planting seeds of rebellion in their children’s little hearts. They are creating monsters. They are breeding offspring who will, sooner or later, have no fear or respect for authority.

And when the chickens come home to roost – and they are called to a police station because their kid has torched a dormitory – they will be in denial, and pass the buck to, well, anyone but them.  

Doing the right thing

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Last Friday, Pudd’ng returned home and told me that all the pupils in her class were breaking the snacks’ timetable. She was visibly upset that she was the only one who was following the law that the school had laid down.

“Dah-dee?” Pudd’ng asked. “What should I do?”

“Do the right thing.”

“But … but all the other pupils are not following the timetable.”

“You’re not ‘all the other pupils’. You are my daughter. You are you.”

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I never tire of telling my daughter that she should think for herself. That she should not allow herself to be led and/or misled.

“But, the pupils are not being punished for disobeying the timetable,” Pudd’ng tried another angle.

I told baby girl to follow me to the kitchen. And then pointed at the piece of paper that she had glued on the wall.

“What does it say here?” I pointed at the words below the piece of paper.   

“Parents and pupils must strictly follow this timetable,” she grumbled.

“Case closed.”

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