Sunday, July 20, 2008

Caring, or not, and how much

When talking about children doing poorly in school, some people will say that their parents just don’t care about their educations. Rising to the defense of the parents, others will claim that indeed they do care, believing that it is horribly insensitive for anyone to claim that they don’t. Who is right?

Imagine you have polled American parents to ask them if they care about their children's educations. Certainly every single one will respond with great sincerity that they do. But if you happen to take an honest close look at how some of them act, you might wonder if this is really so.

Can “caring” be accurately assessed by a “yes” or “no” answer, or should caring be determined in degrees? Should we think about parent-caring as a continuum, with some parents caring more, or less, than others? If so, how would parents be sorted apart?

The problem about “caring” is that it is only a word for a feeling. It can’t be objectively evaluated in any way and can even be falsely proclaimed. When someone you love says, “I care deeply about you,” but then rarely calls you, what do you end up thinking? How does that make you feel?

It turns out that professing how much one “cares” is totally irrelevant. It is mostly the actions that count, and they are the only thing that can truly make a difference. Action IS the evidence of caring.

Many people will say they “care” about the environment, but do they translate their words into action? Do they separate their trash and recycle? How much do they try to conserve resources? Do they vote for green policies? Do they keep their neighborhood clean?

Many people will say they “care” about their health, but do they translate their words into action? Do they make good food choices more often than not? Do they walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator? Do they smoke? Do they lose weight when they know they should? Do they abuse drugs?

Many people will say they “care” about their children's educations, but do they translate their words into action? Do they attend important school meetings even though they don’t really want to go? Do they keep up-to-date with important news from the school, like keeping track of their children’s grades? If they want to watch an evening TV show, are they willing to skip it so that their children can concentrate on homework? Do they consistently place the educational needs of their children above their own immediate needs and desires?

To proclaim that one “cares” just isn’t enough when a child's future is at stake. An ongoing fixation on the well-being of one’s own children along with the willingness to sacrifice is needed. This ability is what separates parents from each other, across all income levels and cultures. Sadly, there is a widespread denial about how much work good parenting requires, and even a level of ignorance about what is involved.

An even bigger problem is that many parents simply feel hopeless about the future and have a hard time seeing the positive potential in their children. This keeps them from holding those ever-important high expectations that children happen to need so much, expectations that serve as a guiding light to which the children are constantly steered. By the way, teachers are highly criticized these days if they don't have high expectations of their students. Shouldn't every adult in the child's life be doing the same?

Unless the words are then matched with actions, saying that one “cares” is nothing but useless yakking. It is a flimsy clapper swinging inside a bell but never striking the metal -- a clapper incapable of producing a ring that is loud and clear.

No comments: