Children must be mature students to be prepared for life

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dear Dr. Dobson: You've said schools need to have enough structure and discipline to require certain behavior from children whether or not they have a natural interest in the subject being taught. Then you must favor a structured, teacher-led program, where student behavior is rather tightly controlled. Why?

Dear Reader: One of the purposes of education is to prepare a young person for later life. To survive as an adult in this society, one needs to know how to work, how to get there on time, how to get along with others, how to stay with a task until completed, and, yes, how to submit to authority. In short, it takes a good measure of self-discipline and control to cope with the demands of modern living.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts a loving teacher can contribute to an immature child, therefore, is to help her learn to sit when she feels like running, to raise her hand when she feels like talking, to be polite to her neighbor and to do English when she feels like doing soccer. I would also like to see our schools readopt reasonable dress codes, eliminating suggestive clothing, T-shirts with profanity or those promoting heavy metal bands, etc. Guidelines concerning good grooming and cleanliness should also be enforced.

I know! I know! These notions are so alien to us now that we can hardly imagine such a thing. But the benefits would be apparent immediately. Admittedly, hairstyles and matters of momentary fashion are of no particular significance, but adherence to a standard is an important element of discipline. Military forces have understood that for 5,000 years!

If one examines the secret behind a championship football team, a magnificent orchestra, or a successful business, the principal ingredient is invariably discipline. Preparation for this disciplined lifestyle should begin in childhood.

That's why I think it's a mistake to require nothing of children -- to place no demands on their behavior -- to allow them to giggle, fight, talk and play in the classroom. We all need to adhere to reasonable rules, and school is a good place to get acquainted with how that is done.

Dear Dr. Dobson: My former girlfriend and I were absolutely certain we were in love because we were crazy about each other from the moment we met. We were together every day and all our friends thought we would get married. But the relationship cooled off quickly and now we can hardly stand each other. I don't even like to be around her. What do you think happened to us?

Dear Reader: Not knowing either of you, it is difficult to say for sure. But I can tell you that the way your relationship began had something to do with the way it ended. A love affair is usually doomed when it begins with great intensity. It almost always burns itself out in time. You may recall an old song that described a love affair that was "too hot not to cool down." That's the way it often works.

In a manner of speaking, you and your girlfriend ran your race together as though it were a hundred-yard dash. It should have been approached like a marathon. That's why you exhausted yourselves before your journey together ever got started. If a love relationship is to go the distance, there needs to be a comfortable pacing that keeps the two parties from consuming each other. That will give the bond a chance to form -- and allow "the glue to dry."

Send your questions to Dr. James Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family.

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