School holidays: A time for parents to reinforce discipline among children

Students will soon be breaking off for second term holidays. Teachers have observed that learners normally go for holidays with acceptable behaviour, however the story is different when they return to school.

So why is discipline important for school children on holiday?

Ronald Wandira, head of the humanities department at Riviera high school and year leader—advanced level—at REB says parents today manage to pay school fees every term but barely have time to follow up on their children’s academic performance after school.

Some are even too busy to even know the class their children are enrolled at school, he says.

Children want freedom during holidays, as a parent you need to set the boundaries. File.

“This is worrying as we see the youth in schools getting involved in drugs, declining academic performance, and total moral decay,” Wandira adds.

Faustin Mutabazi, the chief executive officer at Educational Consultancy Bureau, an organisation that supports education and curriculum activities agrees that the way a parent disciplines greatly affects their children’s behaviour.

When learners go home; parents think their children have not been given freedom to do what they want. Therefore, most parents end up pampering them with almost everything. Others become worried about how they are going to spend time with them, he says.

Mutabazi explains that because some parents are into careers, they rarely get time to be together with their kids and that’s why most of them resort to hiring coaches to train their children in different aspects of academics.

“Alternatively, some even send their kids to their relatives because of the limited time they have. These are some of the reasons why a big number of students lose morals and manners because they don’t have someone to direct them,” he observes.

How parents can go about it

Jane Nakaayi, a teacher at Riviera High School, says parenting starts at a tender age when the child is very young.

“The thing is, when learners come home, they want freedom, as a parent you need to set the boundaries. If the children are old enough, it’s important to tell them the dos and don’ts,” she advises.

But then, she notes that there is also another tactic which involves sitting children down and telling them everything they need or should know, depending on their age.

She says it’s not advisable to fear talking to children especially if they are teens, on sensitive topics like sex.

If this happens, she says a child might get to find out about this sensitive topic from wrong sources.

Nakaayi says parents should be familiar with their children’s ambitions, aspirations and future dreams.

“Knowing what they want to be in the future is important, and also helps them recognise what is really required from them,” she says.

However, she notes that the challenge comes in when parents want to choose, encourage or at times force their kids to pursue what they (parents) want them to.

“This can lead to disobediences and it can also demotivate some students. And as a result, some may end up giving up on everything,” she explains.

Wandira says when a parent elects to use physical punishment, such as spanking, it does not teach the child how to change his behaviour but can instead make them react aggressively to physical punishment.

When parents choose alternate forms of punishment, such as time-outs, Wandira says they are helping modify the child’s bad behaviour in a calm manner.

“If arguing among parents is done fairly and with maturity, a child can actually benefit from seeing how conflicts are resolved. Verbal and physical fights are extremely hard on the kid,” he warns.

He further says children may blame themselves for their parents’ arguments and this maybe traumatising for years to come. Children may develop low self-esteem and may even behave violently towards other children.

Conquering Wandira’s sentiments is Emmanuella Mahoro, a Kigali based psychologist saying that this is because abused children try to cope and to understand why they are being abused.

Such parents, she says may cause their children to be aggressive and violent, experience learning problems and even become involved in committing bad vices.

“These parents as well provide the opposite of what a child needs to grow up healthy. Instead, they destroy the inside and outside world of a child,” she says.

Meanwhile, the psychologist goes on to add that a parent’s reaction to stress also affects the way a child reacts to stress.

For instance, she points out that if a parent reacts negatively, a child will learn to react negatively as well, negative reactions to stress, such as yelling and lashing out can scare a child.

“Children can learn to shut themselves down and may even think that they are the cause of the stress. If stress is handled positively, it helps children see that their parents’ love for them never changes, even when they are stressed out, adds Wandira.

What to watch out for

John Nzayisenga, director of Kigali Harvest School, Kigali believes that it’s vital for a parent to keep an eye on the kinds of friends their children hung out with, especially during holidays.

Parents should as well learn how to pay attention to what and when something is supposed to be done at a particular moment, and this involves allocating appropriate time for watching over their kids, he says.

Instilling religion and education in children is another vital aspect parents should strive for.

For instance, Nakaayi says a religious child will have good morals; they will always strive at doing the right thing at the right moment.

Wandira says parents greatly affect their children’s behaviour, in fact, he says  children are like sponges, they model everything a parent does and incorporate what they see into their own lives.

For this reason, he says it is important that parents set the right examples for their children.

Negative examples can be detrimental to a child’s development and can lead to bad behaviour, according to him.

“Parents serve as role models not only through direct interactions with their children but also through their actions. They do this with their attitude and behaviour within the family and in the outside world,” he observes.

By addressing their concerns, sharing their lives, and maintaining a constructive perspective, Wandira is optimistic that parents can contribute to their children’s personal growth and development.

Besides, he says, by displaying moral and ethical behaviour, parents can also impart values which can counter the negative influences children may receive from their peers or media.

“The responsibility of being a role model can also encourage parents to better themselves,” he adds.

As children develop, Wandira says they need guidance on an increasingly complex array of issues. Parents can share more of the choices and decision-making inherent in their own lives to offer as examples.

“By addressing problems and conflicts in their own lives such as trying to lose weight or handle a demanding supervisor at work and sharing the process in an age-appropriate manner, parents can encourage their children to address their own concerns,” says Wandira.

Parents should also display non-aggressive responses to stress and anger management. Children who display aggressive behaviour often learn to do so from a role model at home, according to him.