This past week I have been given a few experiences that, as usual, seemed to be unconnected but now that I sit back and reflect I can see how they are related.

First, I’ve heard a few statements lately, made by parents as well as professionals regarding young children, comments such as “preschoolers don’t belong in a grocery store”. The intent is to eliminate stress for the adults as well as the child. I’ve never agreed with this philosophy but I can understand why people would want to avoid taking their children on shopping trips – especially if the children do not find the experience enjoyable.

And then I had the opportunity to observe a Grade 8 class. The students, who were respectful and polite to me, were, well, let’s just say that the classroom was rather chaotic. I won’t get into the details but I am sure you can imagine a classroom full of young teenagers claiming their independence.

So let’s put the two together. Self-expression and walking to one’s own drum are great qualities to help our children develop. How do we balance that? With self-discipline. As social creatures we need to be able to control our actions especially in certain situations, such as being in a grocery store or in a classroom. There are social expectations and etiquette rules that should be followed.

How do we teach children self-discipline? We set the expectations and put them in situations where they can practice the skills. We take them to grocery stores when they are little and we reinforce the expectations when they are thirteen. And there is another key component to teaching them about self-discipline: we role-model it.

When children are surrounded by adults who are living a balanced life, they learn how to do so as well. We, as adults, as mentors and role-models, need to live our lives full of laughter and socializing, teasing and joking, walking to our own drummers, and living life to its fullest, while at the same time acting respectfully and appropriate to the situation given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We need to exhibit self-expression and self-control. There is a time and place for each.

And so I learn more about myself and my path as I reflect on the lessons taught by preschoolers and teenagers. Am I being the best role-model that I can be? Thank-you mentors for this insight and opportunity to reflect on my own actions!

~ Debbie, The Gathering Place

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