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(community and personal)
problems addressed by TIA:
violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, other addictions, road rage, office
rage, bullying, homelessness, teenage rebellion, thrill-seeking and
depression, major crime, even illiteracy, high divorce rates and
personal problems that lead to neuroses, bankruptcy or emotional
Copyright 2003-2012 BillAllin.com
All Rights Reserved
These articles may be used freely in
ezines, magazines, newspapers or newsletters provided that the
following attribution is given at the beginning or the end of the
Bill Allin is author of Turning
It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,
a book and program to improve the lives of every person on Earth. His
web site is at
The following articles may be found on this page. Click on an article
title to be taken directly to that article.
Back to School Means Return to Fear for Some
Finding Education's Missing Links: They
Your Most Unrecognized Need: Touch
Is Bad Parenting Responsible for Kids that Go
What Schools Are Forbidden to Teach Hurts You
Children Imprisoned Through Ignorance
Education Policy Fails Our Children, Not
Genius, Insanity and Trouble-Bound Children
If You Knew Then What You Know Now
Back to School
Means Return to Fear for Some Kids
By Bill Allin
For most grade school children, back to school is a
happy time, a time for skipping and playing football, of renewing
friendships, engaging in schoolyard activities and get on with that
heady job of learning the stuff of life.
For some kids the end of summer vacation means the
resumption of the fears they had managed to set aside while school was
Over the past few decades schools have found ways
to identify children with learning problems, accommodated themselves to
kids with physical handicaps and taken pride in their ability to
provide an equal education for all children. Some children have what
are called hidden disabilities, which teachers are not equipped to deal
Even some streams of childhood development cannot
be addressed by schools because of a lack of time and support from
their school boards..
Education systems of modern times were created to
provide a basic education to every child and to assist with the
intellectual development of as many children as they can. Most address
the physical development of kids, introducing them to activities they
can continue outside of school so that their bodies can develop the
strength and agility they require.
Few schools address, by plan and with full support,
the social or emotional development of children. Any prison
psychologist can tell us that these institutions are filled with people
with underdeveloped or maldeveloped social skills. Any family doctor
will attest to the underdeveloped or maldeveloped
emotional/psychological skills of many of their patients. It's time to
look at the direction our schools take.
We have become accustomed to believing that
psychologists and therapists will put back on track adolescents and
adults who have not been able to manage the conditions of their lives.
Their patients lack the coping skills they require to manage their
current life situations. Therapy helps.
When these medical professionals fail, it's usually
because they don't have enough time or money to fulfill what their
patients need, which is always extensive. When trying to repair a
broken adult, money and the time it buys become the key issues.
More than anything else, schools prepare young
people for jobs they acquire on graduation and for the lives they will
live as single adults in those jobs. However, in today's
post-industrial society, any young adult may have as many as ten jobs
in ten quite different occupational fields during their working life.
A post-high school institution can train a young
person for only one or two of those many career jobs. Experience must
kick in eventually to allow the person to fend for themselves when the
formal education no longer satisfies the needs of potential new
In the primary grades of school, we have children
learning skills they will use as employees of the near future, but not
skills they can use when having to deal with problems in their social
lives, problems with their parents or emotional problems they
A child with a crisis involving another child, a
parent or the inability to make supportive friendships has the same
difficulty learning as a child with a newly acquired bad cold or
allergy. The child's ability to learn is severely hampered and
friendships are difficult to make.
In a child's mind, a social problem involving
friends or lack of them, or an emotional problem involving a parent or
any emotional problem they can't cope with always takes precedence over
learning new material in class. That child may do adequately or even
well on standardized tests, but learning in class is nearly impossible.
"Not meeting his potential" is a common report card comment.
Being unable to learn like other kids often results
from a fear situation. The child may be afraid of another child, a
parent, the teacher or the breakup of his parents, for examples. The
fear of not being able to keep up with work his peers are learning
easily creates a feeling of inadequacy, doubles the fear.
A child in fear may demonstrate this in ways that
adults don't understand. It may involve acting out in class, stealing
from other classmates, fighting in the schoolyard. It may also show as
withdrawal from activities others are involved with, which may be
interpreted as standoffishness or even arrogance. It may even result in
episodes of bullying or other antisocial behavior.
A fearful child is an unknown quantity to adults.
Adults with fears find ways to cope, usually by avoiding situations
where these will show. Children have no way of hiding from their fears
because their location and what they do at most times of the day are
regulated by adults. Kids reroute the expression of their fears to take
the forms of we call discipline problems.
Schools need to be granted the ability to teach
knowledge, skills and coping mechanisms to children, the same material
that patients of psychologists and therapists learn as adults to solve
Only when schools can address the social and
emotional development of children will teachers be able to advance the
intellectual development of their students with the equality of
opportunity promised by their political leaders.
About Bill Allin:
Sociologist and educator Bill Allin is the author of 'Turning It
Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems' (The
Writers' Collective, 2005).
He taught primary, junior and intermediate classes of all
socio-economic categories for nearly two decades, then adults for
another two decades. As a result of his close work with kids and his
unique personal background, he gained an unusual perspective on
childrens needs, social skills and coping mechanisms that other
professionals have overlooked.
A feral child who learned to read and write as an adult, Bill holds a
Master of Education degree in the Sociology of Education from the
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.
Learn more about the unique TIA approach to solving community problems
and avoiding personal ones at his book's web site:
Contact Bill Allin:
(506) 836 - 2956
3860 Route 108, Upper Derby
New Brunswick E9E 2K1 CANADA
Return to the top of the page
Education's Missing Links:
They Hamper Learning
the ones who have to look after the unaddressed social and emotional
needs of children before we can teach to their intellectual needs." The
high school vice principal knew what her students had missed in their
lives, knew how much that deficit affected their learning.
spends most of her time dealing with the consequences of underdeveloped
social and emotional learning, very little actually teaching to them.
Schools call these discipline problems, not learning opportunities.
teacher will attest, all students suffer when the learning stream
grinds to a halt to attend to "discipline problems." Children learn
slowly and some become disruptive when they have emotional or social
problems they can't deal with.
children, in all parts of the world, grow up in homes where many
parents don't know what their kids need beyond shelter, food, clothing
and love. Some "quality time" maybe. Toys, if they can be afforded.
parents try their best to provide for the needs of their children. They
buy expensive shoes, clothing, books, vehicles and give them money.
don't know what else their children need. They follow the examples of
their own parents and what they have learned from neighbors and family
friends. They learn the job of parenting as they live it.
no idea why their teenage children rebel, take drugs or alcohol, drive
much faster than is safe, refuse to talk to them, pierce or tattoo
themselves or dress like hookers or devil worshippers.
like any endeavor based on skill and knowledge, requires learning. It's
is the only critically important life project where young adults begin
with little more than their own life experience.
parents, the old adage holds that "If it was good enough for my
parents, it's good enough for me." They forget that were growing up
they wished their parents would do things differently.
nature's rule is: No one does anything differently unless they're
taught something different. History teaches us that the only way for
everyone to do something differently is for the new way to be taught to
develop in four fundamental streams: intellectual, physical, social and
emotional/psychological. Schools address intellectual development and
touch on physical development. Parents help by enrolling their kids in
sports or other athletic activities.
community-wide basis, no one addresses the social or emotional
development of children in an organized fashion. We have prisons filled
with social misfits. We have mental hospitals filled with people who
could not cope emotionally with the rigors of their lives and many more
at home taking Prozac or sleeping pills to get them through the day or
communities overflow with broken people who couldn't cope with the
conditions of their lives or its problems and turned to illegal or
harmful alternatives. Their lives never improve with these new turns,
but at least they feel they have tried something. Some give a quick
thrill or high.
systems are ideally set up to teach to the social and emotional
development of children. They are also equipped to teach new parents
what they need to know to assist with these developmental streams
before the children get to school and in their early school years.
However these are not on their curricula.
In Turning It
Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, sociologist Bill Allin
provides a framework around which education-based programs for parents
and teachers could be built. He provides appendices that amount to
course material for primary school teachers and new parents.
it wouldn't cost a fortune to implement such programs because most of
the necessary infrastructure exists already. The programs would not be
controversial because they would teach what everyone agrees needs to be
taught to children--how to make and keep friends, what to do if you
have a problem you don't know what to do with, what to expect in the
coming years of school and personal life, how to cope with problems
that arise from them.
more police, building more prisons and providing more help for those
with psychological or emotional problems has not solved our personal or
community problems. Problems in almost every community worsen each
of trying to fix broken people, we need to teach children how to
prevent themselves from breaking. They can grow strong, straight and
healthy if they have the necessary skills and knowledge.
Allin says the only way to accomplish that is by giving a new direction
to our education systems. "Solutions to many of our problems are
available. We need to teach ourselves how to find them and to implement
the top of the page
Your Most Unrecognized Need: Touch
By Bill Allin
You need touch. Not the way you need money or clean clothes. More like
the way you need food.
We tend to think of touching others as something that happens
incidentally, either as an accident or a necessary part of some other
Why don't we think of touch from other people as a basic need, a
requirement for our well-being? Our parents and others who influence us
as children warn us about other children and adults who try to touch us
inappropriately. Parents themselves may be hesitant about touching us
for fear of being accused by an ignorant busybody of child molestation.
In a culture of fear, the last thing a parent wants is to be accused of
mistreating a child.
As with other moral matters that transform themselves into laws and
public policy, touch becomes an ON or OFF thing. Some touch is bad, so
all touch is avoided, even forbidden in many situations.
We need to distinguish between good touch, appropriate touch, and that
which is invasive of our personal space or harmful to our emotional
In one Canadian city, a woman who calls herself The Hug Lady offers
hugs to strangers she meets on the street. Her husband died a few years
ago and she realized that she missed his touch. Now she offers to hug
Not only do at least 75 percent of them accept her offer, but most
express great gratitude after receiving their hug. Two people have
better days because of one hug.
One way of enhancing a potential friendship is to touch the prospective
friend casually in conversation. Sports teams gain team spirit by
frequent hugs/huddles and pats on the behind are acceptable
male-to-male touching on the football field. Service clubs often have
rituals that involve members touching each other in friendship.
An injured child runs to mother. Does the child really believe that
mommy can heal the hurt? No, the child knows that it needs the comfort
of a hug in times of unexpected trouble.
Unlike dogs and cats who actively seek the touch of humans--we call it
patting--human children lack the ability to ask for touch when they
need it. Instead they act out, misbehave or seek parental attention in
ways that often annoy the parent.
Kids who most need touch from their parents misbehave. We call it
attention-seeking. Yet adults teach each other that a child who seeks
attention should not receive it for fear that the child will be
spoiled. Instead we punish the child for the misbehavior. The irony is
We must learn to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate
touch, then teach this to everyone in our community. In short, an
appropriate touch or hug is one in which both parties agree to
participate. It's a means of giving to someone else, not of taking from
In the book Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's
Epidemic Social Problems, author Bill Allin stresses that
emotional and social development are both critical to the growth of
children. Touch is integral to both emotional and social development.
Children need touch from those who love them as a way of ensuring that
those people care. Instead of worrying about whether we give our
children and our spouses enough appropriate touch, we should concern
ourselves with how they may behave if they don't get enough.
People who lead troubled lives rarely get enough touch. Look around
you. Look in the mirror. You may know several people who need a hug
Return to the top of the page
Bad Parenting Responsible for Kids that Go Bad?
By Bill Allin
It's tragic. Most of us know at least one
couple we consider to be good parents, but they have a child that goes
bad. Are we mistaken? Could nice, loving people be bad parents?
The temptation compels us to consider the "bad seed" principle,
suggesting that something genetic must have gone wrong in the womb
before the child was born. Something we can't explain must have
happened when early stem cells were specializing into brain cells so
that a well-raised child turned anti-social.
What do we really know about raising children? Everyone agrees that
parents exert the greatest influence on young children through their
stages of major development. A 2002 study in Canada showed that teens
agree (89 percent) that their parents influenced them most and they
tend to listen to their parents more than others when considering
options for their lives.
With all of this influence and power that parents have over their
children, it would seem to follow that a child that gets into trouble
with the law, with drugs, with a gang or with some other form of
anti-social behavior somehow arrived on that path due to parental
Yet how could good and well-meaning parents raise a bad kid? Stranger
still, how could the same good parents raise one child that becomes a
model citizen and another that is a social pariah?
Despite the fact that humans have been parenting since our species
began, we have not pulled together enough research information to
produce a book or course that tells new parents what children need, how
they develop, how they react to situations as they get older and how
their needs change. This information exists, in pieces, mostly in
Children develop in four main areas: intellectually, physically,
socially and psychologically/emotionally. Schools and parents have the
ability to control the intellectual development of children, including
their artistic skills and talents. Enough promotion exists today to
help parents direct their children into activities that will develop
Social and emotional development are largely left to chance. Think of
social ability as what we do that others can see and evaluate and
emotional ability as how we cope with what goes on inside our heads.
Comprehensive programs to guide parents in how to assist with social
and emotional development of their children don't exist in a formal
sense, though some help may be part of other programs.
When virtually every inmate in our prisons and jails has a problem with
social ability and those with psychological problems can't cope with
the realities of their lives emotionally, we look seriously at
We have psychologists, therapists and counselors who help broken people
put their lives back together. They have both the knowledge and the
skills to do this. We need to put them to work using the same skills
and knowledge to help parents and teachers guide children in ways that
will avoid having them "break" as they get older.
Any social or emotional problem that can be fixed after the fact can be
prevented before it happens. This is the foundation that Canadian
sociologist and teacher Bill Allin uses in his book Turning
It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems.
Allin says "we have the knowledge, we just apply it in the wrong
place." He says that we spend fortunes in tax money each year
incarcerating or providing health services for broken people who could
have been saved from tragedy if they had been taught coping and social
skills as children.
Good parents have no more knowledge of social and emotional development
of children than people we consider bad parents. They make the same
mistakes, no matter if they have the best of reasons for them.
"Think of parenting the way you think of software development," says
Allin. "One bad moment in writing software could destroy the results of
the final program, just as one bad experience between parent and child
could destroy the final product when the child is older. We can teach
new parents," he says, "how to deal with bad experiences so that they
don't have a damaging result on the development of their children. We
can teach them skills and knowledge about how to get along with others,
rather than leaving this to chance."
Turning It Around provides material
for parents and teachers as starting points for their learning about
childhood development and needs.
Return to the top of the page
What Schools Are Forbidden
to Teach Hurts You
By Bill Allin
Some people in your community have big
problems that cost you. The problems cost you in taxes for police
services, in out-of-pocket expenses for replacement of stolen equipment
or in emotional drain from constant but suppressed fear of personal
We think of drugs, home invasions, addictions and car theft as
functions of modern communities. We believe that high divorce
rates, homelessness and break-ins form the basis for a new kind of
society that never existed in the past, a reality of the 21st century.
Personal problems of others, such as poverty, mental breakdown, spousal
abuse and school yard bullying we prefer to avoid thinking about.
They all derive from two causes: people who can't manage to cope with
the downturns or conditions of their lives and people who don't have a
clear moral foundation about such things as murder, hurting others and
Some turn to crime, addictive drugs or alcohol, life-threatening
thrills or violence when they can't cope with conditions they fear and
Since psychologists and therapists deal with these very problems every
day, we simply need to apply their knowledge to younger people before
they need it, before they "break" from social standards of normal
Schools teach concepts; it's what they do. They believe they're not
allowed to teach some concepts due to regulations forbidding the
teaching of religion. We need to separate religious teaching from the
basic principles that people of all religions agree upon and allow
schools to support the teaching of them by parents. No one wants to
become a drug addict, a divorcee or a felon, but most don't see other
Kids need consistency from their authority figures during their
formative years, both at home and at school. Both home and school need
to provide role models, teach standards of their communities and
encourage children to seek help when they have problems.
The methodology and means to rearrange school curriculum to address
social and emotional development of children provides the main focus of
a new book by Canadian sociologist and educator Bill Allin. Turning
It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems
gives easily and cheaply implemented solutions to the worst social
problems of any community.
Today's kids need more than traditional facts and skills to survive
extraordinary demands on their social and emotional development as
adolescents and adults. A child with a social or emotional problem
can't progress intellectually because the former preoccupy their minds,
their attention and their emotions.
Schools are in the best position to help support time-challenged
Return to the top of the page
Imprisoned Through Ignorance
By Bill Allin
For some kids, school combines the strict
discipline of a prison with the oppression of living in an iron lung.
No matter what they do, they have no chance of succeeding.
They are troubles waiting to happen. When one of them commits suicide,
robs a store, starts a fight or bad mouths a teacher, we label them
Most of us know what it's like to sit down to a classroom test we know
we won't do well on. Imagine that feeling of impending failure spread
over whole days, almost every school day and most non-school days.
Think for a moment about how you would act if you were trapped in this
In such situations, teachers aren't trained to reason that the child
has a reading problem, a social problem or a brain dysfunction. A child
can deceive a teacher into believing that he is lazy, forgetful or
deceptive while disguising the fact that he can't read. A 2002 ABC
Canada study found that 22 percent of Canadian adults experience
serious reading problems.
One of the least well-diagnosed problems that children have is slow
thinking. Some kids and adults think slower than others. No standard
exists by which we could measure thinking speed. If a teacher misses
the clues, the child may be diagnosed as "slow," meaning an
intellectually challenged learner.
The kid may just need more time to absorb what others kids get in the
normally allotted time. The child feels dumb, constantly fearing that
an ax will fall on his head.
Some quite intelligent kids find themselves in special education
classes with kids with much lower intelligence. Putting an intelligent
child into a class with children of much lower intelligence is torture
as the child will feel imprisoned with no opportunities to develop his
intelligence. He has no way out and he lacks the skill to express his
problem to decision makers.
Children with average or above intelligence who have severe allergies
that affect classroom performance and test results may also find
themselves in special education classes. As the child may be a behavior
problem in a regular class, the school takes the easiest direction, a
special ed. class.
Another under-recognized classroom problem is the child who reaches his
daily limit of intellectual intake before others in his class. Think of
the feeling you have when a bad cold first hits, when your brain seems
numbed because you're so stuffed up. That's what hitting the
intellectual wall is like.
What does a child do when he hits the intellectual wall, when he is so
stuffed with allergic histamines that he can't think, when he can't
express and develop his intellect or when he is socially underdeveloped
compared to others in his class?
Inevitably a problem will result, usually misbehavior, sometimes social
withdrawal. Occasionally suicide may be attempted. If the problem
doesn't appear in school, it may show as anti-social behavior in the
Many parents and teachers believe that some kids act out to get
attention. They seldom act on their own conclusions. The reason is that
they've been taught that children who act out to get attention should
The very children who need attention most receive punishment, usually
of the kind where attention is withdrawn from them.
More human touch may be just what most misbehaving children need. Touch
is a basic need, though no one dies from lack of it. Those who don't
get enough touching often cause trouble for others and suffer
Sociologist/educator Bill Allin, in his book Turning It
Around, shows how schools address intellectual development
of children well, physical development less so, but do little to
address the emotional development or extremely important social
A socially immature child, he says, will have a great deal of trouble
learning intellectual material because problems with his peers take
precedence in his mind. To a child, acceptance by parents and peers is
always more important than classroom lessons. A socially inept child
will inevitably learn slowly, no matter what his intelligence.
In schools, our ignorance of how the brains of children work and what
kids need have done immense and lasting harm to untold multitudes of
kids who may have needed little more than some gentle understanding and
Now that we know more it's incumbent upon us to make sure than kids
with hidden needs get the attention they need and deserve. Every
community will benefit from having more kids that are better adapted to
the lives they live.
Return to the top of the page
Policy Fails Our Children, Not Schools
By Bill Allin
Schools don't fail our children. In
fact, they succeed far better than we have any right to expect, given
the restrictions we place on them.
Return to the top of the page
North American school systems evolved their way of teaching in the
nineteenth century. In those still-early days of the
Industrial Revolution, employers wanted their workers to be able to
read, write and do basic arithmetic. With those and a strong
back, any man could get a job.
Today we have people crying that schools should return to teaching "the
basics" because they encounter young adults who have trouble with
spelling, can't write a coherent sentence and avoid simple arithmetic.
The ugly truth is that adults who have a reasonable command of "the
basics" may be functionally illiterate. That is, they may
have trouble doing some of the thinking, writing and calculating
required in today's complex society. They may have trouble
completing their own income tax forms, understanding warnings that
accompany medical prescriptions or interpreting their electricity bill.
Their lives may be at risk if they can't understand what they need to
be safe and function comfortably. They rarely talk about
their situation to others. They could be neighbors or family
Who comprises this small minority? ABC Canada found in a 2002
study that fifty percent of Canadian adults experience such
problems. A Southam Newspapers study revealed in 1987 that
eighty percent of Canadian seniors scored low on literacy
tests. These people grew up in the days when "the basics"
were core curriculum.
Consider how quickly newly built prisons fill to overflowing, requiring
that still more prisons be built. The United States has more
of its citizens in prison, per capita, than any other country in the
world. Stricter laws and super-efficient police don't account
for this. Something is wrong with the social system.
Too many people turn to crime as a way of coping with their
problems. When life gets tough, they can see no other way
than to break the law. Many believe they won't be
caught. Some may hope they will.
In generations past, people didn't have psychologists, psychiatrists,
therapists, counselors and support groups to turn to when they couldn't
cope with their problems. Yet fewer went to prison or were
confined to mental institutions. Most people felt safe
walking the street at night. Leaving doors unlocked was
common. In most communities, unstable people weren't on the
streets, mugging strangers and causing drive-by shootings.
Something really was different in the past.
The "good old days" were never that good. Today's complex
society requires much more skill than many of us have. But
Everyone realizes that today's adults require more skills and knowledge
than our grandparents. A young person today without a high
school diploma will have trouble finding any job. School
boards and departments of education heap more and more curriculum onto
teachers, forcing overload on teachers and students alike.
As the curriculum grows, the number of broken and confused individuals
increases even faster. If the system were working
effectively, at least the proportions of successful, well-adjusted
adults to broken ones should remain the same as it was a century
ago. It's not.
The original intention of schools in the nineteenth century was to have
those who had time (teachers) teach children what their parents
couldn't manage. In most cases, schools were directed to tend
to the intellectual development of children in their charge.
Parents looked after the teaching of morals, guided their children
through emotional experiences and gave them the basics of what they
needed to get along with others.
In time, accepted thinking said that schools addressed the intellectual
needs of children and that was all the children needed from
them. Schools taught physical education and touched on the
arts, but these were never fully committed to by their
communities. Today, schools often give little time to these
because they can't fit them around their crammed curricula and strained
When designing curriculum and methodologies, education leaders focused
on what their communities needed children to know and practice as
adults. The needs of the community, often represented by
employers, predominated. Adults, after all, need to earn a
Today's adults pay, through taxes and health care costs, for the
accommodation of more broken adults than most of us realize.
We pay without considering the possibility that most of these broken
people could have avoided their problems in the first place if they had
What these people need, we believe, is fixing or confinement.
What they really needed was bypassed years ago by community leaders who
didn't understand what children need. What children need is
what will help them through the rigors of adulthood.
If we want to prevent adults from breaking, resulting in
emotional/psychological problems or criminal activity, we must prepare
them as children.
When education of the child centers exclusively on the needs of the
community, there are bound to be "leftovers", those who cannot fit into
the school mold created for all children. Children are not
created equal; they only receive equal rights under the law.
The square peg will never fit into the round hole without chipping off
some of its edges. Chipped edges on children become breaking
points for adults.
Schools claim to have become more "child centered" over the past
generation. They have, but only in the sense that teachers
today know more about how to appeal to the different learning styles
children prefer. Course material, though advanced beyond what
it was, continues to center around the same topics as it did half a
Let's look at the needs of children, factors which often receive little
attention from those who teach pedagogy and design
curriculum. First, let's remember that, legally, teachers act
in loco parentae (in the place of--thus with the authority
of--parents). This legal term, which has guided the actions
of teachers for generations, should govern not just what teachers may
not do, but also what they should be given responsibility and authority
Everyone needs a substantial level of self-esteem. Therapists
and counselors speak and write about this every day.
Self-esteem gets its foundation mostly during the school years, though
it begins with social interaction in pre-school years at home and in
You don't have to go far to hear someone say that children should not
be praised for work that is inferior to the average. Praising
work of poor quality, they claim, lowers the standards of children and
gives them the impression that they deserve praise for even poor
work. We build self-esteem by boosting the self-awareness and
self-esteem of those who need it most.
While most agree about the value of self-esteem is, opinions vary
greatly as to how to achieve this. Some interpret a high
level of self-esteem as arrogance. The distinction comes from
differences in perspective.
Self-esteem means believing that you have value to the world, that you
are worth something. Not just to yourself, but in the eyes of
others. Our belief in our own worth depends to a great extent
on what others think of us and what others tell us about ourselves.
To a child, self-esteem that depends on input from others requires that
the "others" make clear and obvious to the child their belief that the
child is valuable to the world. This must be distinct from
the indicators given by parents that they love their child.
That the parent loves their child is shown by an outflowing of energies
in the direction of the child.
Parents show a child that he or she is worthy by an acknowledgment of
the flow of energies from the child to the parent. This means
that parents must provide opportunities for the child to express his
energies in productive or creative ways so that the parents will have
something to acknowledge as worthy.
If the parent does not provide opportunities for the child to develop
skills and talents, the parent will have little to praise or
acknowledge, thus the child will lack input from which to derive his
belief in his self worth. The responsibility, then, is with
the parents to provide opportunities for the child to develop skills
and talents, at least to get experience in a variety of ways.
Children do not come ready-made with fully developed skills and
talents. These must be introduced, encouraged and massaged by
parents so children will develop enough interest and commitment to
improve their skills and talents. Kids need to be good at
Teachers and parents need to be in regular contact with each other not
just so that they may all present a common approach to the child, but
also that they may influence each other in the direction of better
meeting the child's needs, as necessary. Teachers need to
know both how the parents want their child's self-esteem to be
encouraged and how the parents believe it should be
developed. That way, the teacher can provide some of the
stimulus to which parents can respond when the child produces
A child should believe that he or she can turn to either parent or the
teacher in times of trouble or confusion. Failing and
stumbling are part of the learning process. Children need to
know that making mistakes or failing to learn something is not a
personal failure, just part of learning.
They need to understand that if they have not learned something or if
they are confused, they should express this to their teacher or
parent. Failure by the child to express confusion or
misunderstanding about what has been taught is one of the greatest
impediments to learning and one of the great enhancers of low
Parents and teachers today universally respond that children are
welcome to bring their problems to them at any time. However,
the fact that this is not happening with enough children gives evidence
that something is wrong in the communication and the rapport between
parents and teachers and between both of them and the
children. It's not happening in all families, but then not
many families produce dysfunctional children who become community
Where the communication lines between parents and children are weak?the
kids are not willing to readily discuss their problems with their
parents?the foundation for later problems is in place.
How often do we hear someone say that a child is "just seeking
attention" when the child misbehaves in front of others? With
these words, the speaker intends to convey to the child that he has
chosen a bad time to interfere with what the adults want to do.
This happens at school as well as at home. Attention-seeking
students tend to attract more than their share of time and personal
attention from both teachers and other students. The
response, in most cases, is a reprimand or another form of punishment.
Let's get this straight: the child is recognized as needing attention
from an adult, but instead of giving the child an appropriate form of
attention in an appropriate way, the adult rebuffs the child,
criticizes the child or punishes the child. That works for
the adult. It doesn't work for the child.
The message the child takes from that experience is that the adult is
not prepared to satisfy his need at the time he has the need.
Or, the child accepts the negative attention and pursues it on more
occasions because it works, sort of.
Punishing or pushing away a child who needs attention, has openly
expressed his need for attention, qualify as the two worst reactions an
adult can make. Yet we see it every day, especially in
classrooms. If teachers and parents work together to guide
the development of these children, such occasions of openly expressed
need for attention would be greatly reduced.
The last basic need is the most controversial. It's the most
controversial because teachers are given specific direction to avoid
doing anything to satisfy this need in a child, sometimes on threat of
Humans, like all social animals, have a fundamental need for
touch. We need to be touched. We need to touch each
other. We prefer to be touched by those who love us, but
respond also to touch by more casual acquaintances, such as handshakes
or touches on the arm as they speak to us. Those who do not
get enough touching by others may turn to socially unacceptable means
to get it. Think about how many crimes involve some contact
between perpetrator and victim.
Touch is an integral part of the social component of our
lives. We greet each other, we comfort each other, we compete
with each other, we even laugh with each other with touch as a part of
it. We heal better when touch by caregivers is part of the
process. Elderly people have more desire to live when they
are touched by others regularly.
Children have a somewhat greater need for touch than adults simply
because adults have found other ways to engage their minds.
When children play, they usually play games that involve some touching.
Yet, when in school, children are expected to avoid touching each other
and teachers are virtually forbidden from touching their students in
many communities. A child who unconsciously suffers from the
need for touch will not learn well and may "act out" in ways that will
have them touch others.
Teachers know of the need to encourage self-esteem, so they consciously
make efforts to boost the morale of those who need it in their
classrooms. Teachers and parents need to respond to obvious
displays of need for attention by children by providing it immediately
or shortly thereafter in an appropriate manner.
Teachers find themselves in an awkward position when it comes to
touching students because their communities tend to suspect touching by
teachers as inherently evil. Despite a huge need by children
for touch, the community has been taught that simple touching by a
teacher will inevitably lead to child molestation. The
rationale is insupportable. It's like saying that no one
should go into a bank because eventually everyone will rob it.
Teachers can learn appropriate ways to touch students, ways that show
support and encouragement without risk. Teachers need to be
taught those ways and encouraged to practice them.
Children develop in four main ways that involve and interest their
schools. These are intellectual, physical, social and
Schools assist with the intellectual development of children, their
primary purpose, very well. However, intellectual development
lags if a child has weaknesses in other areas of development.
A child who is underdeveloped physically may suffer from
bullying. His self-esteem will suffer when he is chosen last
for team games. He is less likely than average to be invited
to join social groups among his peers.
Schools give lip service to physical development. While
physical education features strongly in some schools, in many more it
receives little attention, few resources and no training for
teachers. As the physical development of their children
receives little commitment from some parents, teachers may be reluctant
to encourage parents to get their children involved with activities
that develop physical strength and skills. Responsibility for
physical development falls most often to parents. Some wont
pick it up.
The emotional development of children is considered by most people to
happen as a result of circumstance. That is, children learn
about happiness when they do things they enjoy and they learn about
sadness and grief when unpleasant events happen.
Just because emotional development has been left to chance historically
does not mean that this is the best way to do business. The
proliferation of therapists, counselors, psychologists and
psychiatrists, not to say social service workers, speaks to an unmet
need to give children better guidance so that their emotional
development proceeds smoothly. We fix what we did not build
Children need to learn about emotions more than just by experiencing
them by chance. They need to be taught what emotions are, how
they express themselves, what they feel like and how to keep them from
hurting too much. Children need to know the limits of
emotional expression, limits imposed by society.
They also need to know that it's all right to cry. Big boys
and men really do cry, at least the emotionally healthy ones do when
circumstances dictate. They don't have to "suck it up" when
the need for grieving presents itself. Stifling grief builds
a jail cell around all emotions.
Children need to be taught all about emotions and be allowed to express
them. They can't grow if they don't know.
We generally accept that a grieving child whose father has died
recently will not learn as effectively and efficiently as one who has
not suffered an emotional downturn. What we may not
understand is how devastating social immaturity or underdevelopment can
be to a child.
A socially immature child is always a misfit. That child will
seldom have good friends, seldom belong to a social group of his peers
and seldom feel good about himself. More importantly to a
teacher, a socially immature child will inevitably fall behind with his
In short, a socially immature child will be a poor student and
something of a loner, no matter what gifts of intelligence he may
have. Such a child is more interested in the fact that he is
not deemed by his peers to be as good as them than in what the teacher
is teaching. Self-esteem and peer influence come together to
mitigate against learning in a child who is not socially equal among
his age peers.
Schools stand in an ideal position to encourage and guide the social
development of children. They must recognize their
responsibility to facilitate social development.
Schools must be encouraged by their communities to teach social
development while they execute other parts of their
curriculum. Telling schools to "butt out" of childhood
development is a prescription for failure.
Schools are a primary facilitator for childhood development.
Their role needs to be increased and supported by their communities.
Insanity and Trouble-Bound Children
saying that there's a fine line between genius and insanity is so
common in the western world that we assume everyone understands
why. In fact, few do.
ever wondered why two people who have much the same physical
dimensions, including head size, have different levels of
intelligence? Given that the head size is the same, why is
one more or less intelligent than the other? If the gray and
white matter that comprise the brain are of equal size, what makes the
answer is debatable, but we can make some reasonable guesses.
Nutrition would make a difference only if one were deprived and the
other not. If one mother smoked tobacco, drank alcohol or
took drugs during pregnancy, that could explain something.
seem that genetics plays a role, as highly intelligent parents tend to
have highly intelligent offspring, though this is not universally
true. Genetics is nature, but what about nurture?
intelligent adults may have interests that are significantly different
from those of low intelligence, or even of average
intelligence. By doing whatever they do, they unconsciously
(sometimes) are role models for children whose objective is frequently
to become like mommy or daddy. They read, they think, they
discuss and debate, they feed brains that are endlessly curious and
eager for new knowledge.
children may follow the examples of the parents. By trying to
emulate their parents, the kids work their brains in the same way as
their parents would need to have their brains function. In
other words, they create neuronal pathways through the brain that allow
them to do things that their parents can do. These are
pathways that children of average of low intelligence parents may not
have or need in their daily lives, so they don't give their children
opportunities to develop them.
intelligent people tend to specialize in the ways they use their
brains. Their areas of interest focus their brains in such
ways that they become not just knowledgeable about those subjects, but
they become geniuses in those subjects because they concentrate only on
those specific areas of thought, research or development.
brain can only go in a limited few directions at once. The
further it goes into one discipline, the less able it is to go in other
directions when these are needed. Thus we have the examples
of the absent-minded professors and the computer geeks who need Velcro
straps on their shoes because they can't tie laces.
specialized a brain becomes, the more that person is apt to be known as
a genius in that area of specialty. What does not become
public knowledge is how incompetent a genius may be in other areas of
life. The "genius" keeps that hidden or well disguised
like any person, will face crises, downturns and tragedies.
But the brain of the genius may not have a broad range of experiences
to prepare it to cope with some of them. Complete
preoccupation with one area of specialty may result in that person
being a fool in many other areas, including personal relationships
(such as with a spouse) or management of personal finances.
these areas would cause anxiety in the genius, as it would in
anyone. But, unequipped with coping mechanisms, the mind of
the genius may drift into mental illness as a way to escape his
inability to deal with unsavoury realities. Thus we have the
genius crossing the line into insanity, or at least straddling it for
some period of time.
concept is easy for most of us to understand. What may not be
so obvious is the fact that anyone may have intellectual difficulties
due to inadequate wiring of the brain, especially in some
areas. Balancing a personal budget would be one example.
even less obvious, but far more important, is that anyone facing a
crisis may not be equipped with the coping mechanisms to deal with that
crisis adequately. Anyone with an anxiety-producing problem
they cant cope with may cross the line from social acceptable behaviour
to socially unacceptable behaviour due to their inability to manage
anxiety that results from their inability to cope with their current
have road rage, anger in the workplace, "mental health" days off work,
theft, drug-taking, spousal abuse and criminal activity resulting from
inappropriate decisions made by a person who can't cope with their
psychiatrists, therapists and counsellors make their living helping to
fix broken people. Their numbers and the need for their
services is expanding rapidly. We have too many broken people
to fix because this takes lots of time, lots of skills and lots of
that can be fixed can be prevented from happening in the first
place. What these emotional health specialists do more than
anything is to help their clients learn coping mechanisms.
Someone who can cope with their environment doesn't need a therapist.
strategies can be taught to young people, even to children, before they
reach the point of overburdening anxiety. Children develop
new neural pathways easily, so can adapt to new learning about how to
cope with their problems fairly easily. If we teach them.
schools are not set up to teach such things as social skills, life
tragedies and coping strategies. Their purpose, as
established by law, is to teach to the intellectual development of
children. This could be changed.
how your community would change if everyone were capable of coping with
lifes problems as they arose, if they knew where to turn for help when
they need it, if they were encouraged to seek help from publicly funded
community wouldn't have as much need for jails and everyone involved
with filling them. It wouldn't have as much need for
therapists and mental hospitals. Not as many people would
turn to fundamentalist forms of religion to escape from the harsh
realities that are their lives.
to evaluate and change the primary purposes for our schools.
We can teach children what they need to be well-balanced adolescents
and adults before they run into problems they can't cope with.
change will only happen if it is strongly supported at the grass roots
level before it is presented to politicians and education
leaders. This can only happen if you spread the word about
what is possible.
good reason to hope for a better world and healthier
communities. The answer lies in supporting good teaching
strategies, not in building more prisons and hiring more police.
community can only be healthy when its residents are mentally healthy
and able to cope with what life throws their way. Schools
have the means to achieve a better world, but they need guidance and
support from the communities they serve.
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You Knew Then What You Know Now
By Bill Allin
For those of you who have been married and left that relationship,
would you marry the same person if you could do it all again?
Would you look for the same kind of person for your first
boyfriend/girlfriend as you did then? Would you date the same
kind(s) of people you once did?
Flourishing businesses have grown around self-help and counselled help,
such as through psychologists, psychiatrists and relationship
If we have the skills, the ability and the knowledge to fix what is
broken among our fellow citizens, we only need the will to prevent them
from breaking in the first place.
That means we need to teach people what they need to know, well before
they will need it. Since learning about relationships begins
in the early years of our lives, it follows that we must teach children
the basics of relationship skills when they are young. If we
wait until they reach their teen years, they have already developed
skewed concepts of how relationships work, who they should make friends
with, what they should expect of friends and what they should be
prepared to offer to potential friends to develop friendships.
Teaching relationship skills before children establish their own
concepts about relationships through their experiences is critical to
the idea of prevention of broken hearts and broken relationships.
Can a young child understand what they must do and what they should
know to find a worthy potential friend and develop a good
friendship? To adults, this seems unlikely. But to
a child this is no harder than learning how to use table utensils at
mealtimes. They see learning about relationships as one more
example of learning a new pathway of life.
To an adult, learning a new language is often very difficult,
especially if they do not have a critical need to know that language,
such as for communicating at work, and if they do not have
opportunities to practise using the language on a daily
basis. A child under age 11 learns a new language easily
because his brain is adapted to that kind of learning of new
concepts. To a child, learning the concepts and skills of
relationship building is as natural as learning how to get dressed in
the morning or learning table manners.
Put a very young child in a sandbox with one or more other children and
watch that child learn relationship building skills and concepts by
experience. Yet before that child is old enough to go to
school, he can be taught what to do in certain situations in order to
avoid having another child bully him, steal his toys, or how to let
another child know that he wants to make friends and is willing to
share. It takes some practice, but so does learning how to
use a fork and a knife to cut food on a plate.
Teaching relationship skills is a parental responsibility. It
becomes a school responsibility when a child moves into that new phase
of his or her life. Schools suffer when a child becomes
alienated from his fellow students. The child may develop
discipline problems or psychological problems. In time, that
feeling of alienation may cause the child to want to escape the place
that makes him feel so uncomfortable. He becomes a runner.
When teachers and school administrators confront a situation where a
child has run away from school, the natural tendency, based on
education protocol, is to find a way to prevent an other
escape. The child must be at fault or he would not have
escaped the environment into which his parents placed him, the
classroom. Schools, in general, give little consideration to
the reasons why the child wanted to escape because they do not have the
means to correct that situation.
What they can do is to punish and to restrict the child's movements
within the classroom and school environment. The runner is
confined. The school is secure once again. Peace
reigns. But the prisoner still lacks the skills to cope with
relationship skills within his class. His anxiety builds to
the point where it will vent itself in another form, in another place,
We then call him a bad child. We don't consider our failure
to teach that child what he needed to cope with his
environment. His teachers were too busy teaching arithmetic
and reading. His parents too busy looking at report card
marks and checking work brought home for spelling errors.
Parenting and teachering are about growing a whole person, not just
about preparing a child for a better quality college or a high paying
job. Children who have the skills to cope with their
environment like school and usually do well. Those who don't
have those skills go "bad."
We can't figure out why.
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