On visiting day I traveled to camp to see my sons. While sitting and speaking with my children, I overheard a child telling his mother about one of the camp rules. His mother replied, in quite a loud voice, "What a stupid, insensible rule!"
Later that day without realizing I had an interest in this particular child, my son pointed the boy out and said, "His mother told him he can't go swimming because of an allergy to chlorine, but he goes swimming anyway. He said his parents have stupid rules."
I didn't hear which camp rule the child told his mother about, so I can't comment if that specific rule is smart or not, but I run summer camps and I know that most camp rules were created based on specific experiences, parent complaint or expectation, or for ?child safety'. Summer camps don't make nonsensical rules and regulations.
Regardless of the sensibility of the rule, what message was this mother giving her child about rules and authority? At the end of the day, what was she telling her son about her own rules and authority? She trusted the camp enough to send her son there for two months, yet by speaking negatively of camp rules she immediately put the authority of the adults involved in her son's care in question.
This incident got me thinking. The summer is soon coming to an end and school will be starting again. Children attend school for ten months of the year. Schools make rules; some rules are universal and some are exclusive to a specific school. Not all school rules make sense to every parent. Yet, when parents challenge a school's rules, what are they saying about adult authority?
Educating our children from books is the school's responsibility. Educating our children to be respectful mentschen - which is more important than book learning - is our responsibility. I have heard parents say that educational institutions today don't do their job and that children are not adequately prepared for the real world. Yet how many parents have given serious thought to their own responsibility to prepare their children for their schooling by opening their minds and hearts to the adults that will teach them? How many parents fail that course, thereby coloring their child's entire educational experience?
Parents chose their children's school carefully. Often the choice is made by viewing the end product - the students leaving the school. By questioning a school's or a teacher's authority parents hinder the schools from doing their job of molding and shaping their children.
In today's day when disrespect for authority is so rampant the best thing a parent can do for their children is to support those in authority. When a child walks into a classroom his attitude - which is important to the atmosphere of a classroom - is a reflection of his parent's attitude. From my own work in the classroom as well as from speaking to and advising teachers, I know that more often than not, teachers get to witness the old adage ?the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'. At PTA when teachers get to meet many parents for the first time, they understand their student's behavior - be it positive or negative.
Children who are educated by their parents to sit in a classroom with a proper attitude gain the most from their time in school. Parents will find that they gain from this attitude as well. Children will have no respect for authority when their parents disparage that authority - and surprisingly enough many times that disrespect of authority transfers to the parent's authority as well - especially in teenagers.