Hang in there with difficult teens

October 02, 1997

QUESTION: Are there times when good, loving parents don't like their own kids very much?

DR. 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 leadership from the teacher. The children will then want to learn rather than being forced to learn. Do you see it that way?


DR. DOBSON: I certainly agree that 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 that we should capitalize on students' natural interests 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.

Max Rafferty, a former superintendent of public instruction in the state of 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 television. Even as you and I.''

This educator is 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 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.

James Dobson is the president of Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. Write to him in care of The Herald-Mail Co., P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md. 21741.

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