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Responding to extremism close to our shores

March 19, 2019

Extremism close to our shores

We have all looked on with horror at the brutality recently experienced in Christchurch. We feel deeply for our New Zealand friends, and especially those within our school community. St Andrew’s Cathedral School and Gawura reject extremism and fundamentalism of all kinds. We stand for the respect of all peoples. We are united together in our common humanity.

Parenting in the 21st Century

As an experienced (old?) Head of School, I have observed through my career multiple parenting styles and changes in parenting modes. Often, styles of parenting can be placed within a quadrant of possibilities:

  1. Authoritarian – where parents are commanding and demanding, setting very high accountabilities but provide little or no emotional warmth. Children know what is expected but feel little love and as they grow older, are likely to push back. Authoritarian parenting was in vogue during part of the 20th Century and remains the preferred mode of some.
  2. Laissez-faire – where parents ‘go with the flow’ and children are largely left to their own devices, with very little direction and instruction, very little warmth and not much attention. In this situation, children tend to be rootless, without any anchor, direction, guidance or moral framework. They can feel unwanted and unloved. My experience is such children as adults often end up on the wrong side of the law.  I have seen this style of parenting in the past in very disadvantaged communities, where parents were completely consumed by their own personal issues. It also exists in more advantaged communities, where people are distracted by the pressures and busyness of life and have no time for their children.
  3. Indulgent parenting – where very few accountabilities, boundaries or demands are placed, but where the children are loved. This tends to promote egotistic children, with a sense of entitlement. This style of parenting often is the companion of the desire of parents to be their child’s friend. For this reason, such parents are disinclined to punish or constrain their child in case their child doesn’t like them.

In fact, children don’t need their parents as friends, they need them as leaders.  Children have their own age appropriate friends. Experience suggests, as they grow older, children whose parents abrogate leadership and try to be their child’s friend are increasingly held in contempt by these children.

Sadly, a dimension of this is sometimes a struggle for the child’s affection by two warring ex-partners.  In this battle, everyone loses.

  1. Authoritative parenting (not to be confused with authoritarian parenting) – authoritative parenting is where parents act to set firm boundaries and accountabilities for a child, but are also high in their emotional warmth and the child feels loved and secure. My observation is this is by far the most successful mode of parenting. It is recommended by child psychologists and it is visibly the form of parenting followed by most SACS parents.  There is Biblical warrant for it as in the words of Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This is not rocket science. It is so obvious, one sometimes wonders why not everyone ‘gets it’. Perhaps this is because of the contrary pressures on parents in this society. Some seem to believe that as parents they actually have no rights. This is far from the case.

The current age is probably the most difficult time in history to raise a child.  Parents contend with a media and powerful commercial interests which market an independent and even nihilistic lifestyle to teenagers and younger children. They have to deal with social media and with contending ideologies. The beginning of education is the home and the best outcome invariably comes through strong alignment of values and purpose between home and school.

Dr McGonigle

Parents new to the school may not be aware that on the educational side of our operations, we have not two, but three Deputy Heads. Mr Swibel (High School) and Mrs Robson (Junior School and Gawura) are very visible, but Dr Julie McGonigle is less visible. That is because she lives in England! Dr McGonigle was on site here at SACS for all of 2017. Since that time, she has continued part time working for us by distance mode, mostly in the realm of quality education, writing programs and policies, developing professional development units for staff and mentoring many of our senior education executive and middle management. Dr McGonigle, with her husband (also Dr McGonigle) and her three children, is here on site currently and for the rest of this term, operating in the quality education mode, and will return again later in the year. She will be involved also during late March and early April in a series of student gatherings and will be the guest speaker at our Parents & Friends meeting on April 9th.

Dr John Collier
Head of School

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”   – Proverbs 22:6