Parents' Responsibilities

“As we see it, parents should be developing themselves, understanding deeper values, finding out what they want for their child or what they want to achieve for their child, instead of saying the child should grow in their own image, or trying to patronise, bamboozle or threaten the child. A child will grow if the impediments to growth are removed. Parents need to identify these and help the child to come to terms with them.”

I once visited a retired school teacher, someone I deeply respected (I had not seen him since I had left school, some 15 years earlier). He taught Literature in Year 12 and he was Senior English Master. He was also the Senior Boarding Master, as well as one-time Chairman of the Masters’ Common Room. His classes were the highlight of my school life. He had been a prisoner of war in Sandakan (Borneo) and this experience changed his life and subsequently the lives of all his students. We had a wonderful talk that day as we sat in his venerable book-lined study. I gave him a copy of Vijay’s book on Total Education (adding to his collection of books, gifted to him from former students); he asked me questions about the School’s approach and he then said that if he had ever had been Principal (a position he never sought), he would have built a barbed wire fence around the school - to keep the parents out! It was an unbelievable statement given the prestige of this private school. Parents, including my own, had made great sacrifices to send their boys there. The school community was an august one, made up of a veritable Who’s Who of Australia.

His point was that the parental ego could be such a powerful and destructive force that it had to be recognised for what it was. He knew that some parents, ‘old boys’ of the school, had sent their sons to the school to become Rhodes Scholars, Chief Justices, Neurosurgeons, Governor Generals, Premiers etc. (and many did). But if it just wasn’t in the make-up of the boy to be what his father projected for him, this was a problem. What if the boy had it in him to be a ballet dancer, a farmer or just himself? So often parents were living their unfulfilled ambitions through their sons. Education is about bringing out the innate potential of each boy (what Vijay called ‘unwrapping each student’s gift’) and parents needed to understand this (regardless of how much money they paid for their education).

I told Vijay this story and he smiled, recognising immediately the truth in this. He said he took a different approach to a ‘barbed wire fence’. He said he had built a ‘fence’ (metaphorically) around the School to keep parents in. He was referring to the Parents Program, where his intent was to educate the parents, to ensure that the ‘parental ego’ did not destroy the child’s own ‘innateness’. In this way, Vijay saw the PP as central to the whole School’s philosophy; in educating children, you needed to start with yourself.

“As parents, we have a responsibility to address the children’s needs at a personal level. They won’t then need psychologists and psychiatrists. You yourselves need to find the time and wisdom to guide them. It’s important that we find time to help one another, to allow ourselves to become better people. In relation to the parent meetings, it is our job as parents to make the meetings interesting and creative, so that they become an integral part of the School. If we do this, we will get a surprising amount of good back”.
(Vijayadev Yogendra: Total Education - The Urgent Need)