QUESTION: Are there times when good, loving parents don't like their own kids very much?
JAMES DOBSON: Yes, just as there are times in a good marriage when husbands and wives don't like each other for a while. What you should do in both situations is hang tough. Look for ways to make the relationship better, but never give up your commitment to one another. That is especially true during the teen years, when the person we see will be very different in a few years. Wait patiently for him or her to grow up. You'll be glad you did.
QUESTION: I majored in education at a state university and was taught that children will provide their own motivation to learn if we give them an opportunity to do so. My professors favored a "student-led" classroom instead of one that depends on strong leadership from the teacher. The children will then want to learn rather than being forced to learn. Do you see it that way?
DOBSON: I agree we should try to motivate kids to work and study and learn. They'll enjoy the process more and retain the information longer if their motivation comes from within. So I think your professors are right in saying we should capitalize on students' natural interest whenever we can.
But it is naive to believe that any educational program can generate that kind of interest in every subject and sustain it for a majority of students day in and day out. That is not going to happen. Kids need to learn some things that may be boring to them, such as math or grammar, whether they choose to or not.
A former superintendent of public instruction in California reacted to the notion that children have a natural interest in everything adults think they should know. He said, "To say that children have an innate love of learning is as muddle-headed as to say that children have an innate love of baseball. Some do. Some don't. Left to themselves, a large percentage of the small fry will go fishing, pick a fight, tease the girls, or watch 'Superman' on the boob tube."
This educator was right. Many students will not invest one more ounce of effort in their studies than is required, and that fact has frustrated teachers for hundreds of years. Our schools, therefore, must have enough structure and discipline to require certain behavior from children whether or not they have a natural interest in the subject being taught.
QUESTION: In one of your early books you talked about something you gave to your daughter that symbolized the importance of moral purity. Please describe it again.
DOBSON: Yes, many years ago Shirley and I gave our daughter a small gold key. It was attached to a chain worn around her neck and represented the key to her heart. She made a vow to give that key to one man only -- the one who would share her love through the remainder of her life. You might consider a similar gift for your daughter or a special ring for your son. These go with them throughout adolescence and provide a tangible reminder of the lasting, precious gift of abstinence until marriage and then fidelity to the mate for life. I still recommend this approach enthusiastically.
QUESTION: Our teen-age daughter has become extremely modest in recent months, demanding that even her sisters leave her room when she's dressing. I think this is silly, don't you?
DOBSON: No. I would suggest that you honor her requests for privacy. Her sensitivity is probably caused by an awareness that her body is changing, and she is embarrassed by recent developments (or the lack of them). This is likely to be a temporary phase, and you should not oppose her in it.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.