Ryan ended last term (October-December 2011), with an informal Christmas gift exchange with the other children and his sensei. His sensei made cupcakes for the children.

Ryan was given a perfect term report, landing at the top for all areas. He always got a perfect score in all areas with his old sensei, and I was wondering how he would fare with this new sensei. I have a suspicion that all the children are routinely scored at the top because Shichida always tells us to look at the positive in our children and to accept them as a work in progress. Anyway, whatever it is, it's a positive thing.

For the personal comments, Ryan's sensei wrote,
"Ryan, you exhibit excellent attitude and possess good self-discipline. You are always happy to participate in all class activities and you bubble over with enthusiasm when you manage to complete an activity in a timely manner! =) You are learning to speak with confidence too! =) Ryan, you are a brilliant child and Teacher Hirin is happy to have you in my class! =)"

I was interested to note that the first thing that the sensei commented on was Ryan's attitude and self-discipline in class. Ryan's present class is pretty rowdy, and I'm referring to both parents and children. Even though all the children are not new to the programme, in every class there will be at least a few instances of children refusing to stay at the table, not focusing, being disruptive, refusing to handle the materials properly or to return the materials, and even throwing tantrums.

Ryan has never been one of those children. He understands that this time in the classroom is for a purpose and he gets it. He sits and stays at the table throughout the entire 75-minute class (sometimes he prefers to start the class sitting on my lap, which is fine too). He remains very focused throughout and pays attention to instructions and what's being demonstrated. Even on days when he is tired or sleepy, he's never disrespectful or disruptive. He always handles the materials with care and, when it's time for the next activity, he packs them up quickly and pushes them gently over to the sensei, every single time. When all the activities are over, and the sensei is recording her comments in the observation book, Ryan remains sitting and waits patiently even though all the other children are already out of their seats. It really is his self-discipline - he does it all on his own accord, I don't say a single word.

I know I sound like I'm boasting. I'm not, because I think that any child brought up on the Shichida Method can achieve this state of self-discipline and I have come across other Shichida children who exhibit the same self-discipline and attitude. It is one of the goals of the Shichida Method. In fact, the way the child behaves and how he treats others and his surroundings is the true main goal. I mentioned before on this blog that the Shichida Method believes that education is not about acquiring knowledge and skills but about creating a well-balanced child who will contribute his best to this world, whether socially, creatively or otherwise. In other words, the objective is to develop well-balanced, intellectually and emotionally well-developed children that have a good moral outlook, which includes a consideration for others and their surroundings.

Throughout the years that we have been at Shichida, many parents have complimented me on Ryan's attitude and self-discipline. Some of them will tell me that their child can't be like him because their child is too headstrong or hyperactive or cranky from lack of sleep. A common comment I've heard many times from different parents is that the child will do the activity but in-between activities the child will wander around the class, returning to the table for the next activity (this shows the child is not truly focused, the child's right brain is not fully active and he/she may be carrying out each activity with the left brain instead).

It really has little to do with personality and character. This is not about changing a child's personality in any way. Whatever your child's personality, he/she should always exhibit courtesy, consideration and respect for others and, whether using Shichida principles or not, every child can have a good attitude and self-discipline, as long as the parent guides and encourages positive behaviour. I always tell those parents whom I mentioned above that, every child, regardless of his/her personality, can get there but it takes time and effort on the parent's part.

Yes, I do believe it's in the parenting. Remember that you are the parent, not just the babysitter. You need to actively parent your child. As a parent, you need to be the guide, showing the way. The child still decides what to do, of course, but what many parents don't realise is that they are not leading by example. Instead, by their own behaviour, they are unconsciously condoning their child's bad behaviour or allowing it to continue, only stepping in when the bad behaviour gets out of hand.

So yes, it is important! It's about showing your child etiquette, manners, and how to behave in a social setting, with consideration and respect for others. It's about giving your child a sense of the occasion (in this case, a class is being taught and certain behaviour is inappropriate for such an occasion). And even if you're all about the academics, remember that it's also about helping your child to build his/her powers of concentration.

Here are some pointers for parents in class, which also serve as a reminder to myself. Ryan has not needed any prompting from me for a long time now, but we did have some bumps in the initial classes, when he was less than a year old. Both he and I were still learning how to behave in that situation.

1. Demonstrate the behaviour you want your child to exhibit.

Here I'm referring to how you behave in class. For example, you should pay attention to what is going on in class and what the sensei is saying, instead of chatting with the other parents. Lower your voice and don't speak loudly so as not to disturb or distract others. Handle the materials carefully so that your child will do the same. Don't fiddle with your handbag or your handphone.

2. Maintain as much physical contact with your child as possible.

While your child is at the table, try to stay close to him/her, with some physical contact if possible. This helps to relax them and keep them calm. Shichida also believes that this allows a flow of energy between the parent and the child. Ryan likes to take my hand and wrap my arm around his body while he is sitting in his chair.

3. Be loving, positive and encouraging.

I know it is easy to be loving, positive and encouraging if your child is behaving well. However, if your child is acting up and misbehaving, remember that it is even more important to be loving, positive and encouraging then. Don't acknowledge the misbehaviour, try to focus instead on the positive behaviour which you want your child to exhibit and encourage him/her to behave positively.

4. Stay at the table even when your child walks away.

If your child is not focused or easily distracted, and he/she is walking around the classroom or preferring to stand next to and look out the window, don't follow him/her around. Stay at the table so that you demonstrate to the child what he/she should be doing. By doing so, you are also showing that the more interesting stuff is happening at the table. The classroom is perfectly safe, there is no need to follow your child around. If you follow your child around, you are basically showing him/her that it is all right to do so. It is not. You're not helping him/her build his concentration powers, you are assisting your child in being distracted, you're not helping him/her relax and switch on his/her right brain, plus both you and your child are not being respectful to the class and are distracting the other children.

5. Be interested and enthusiastic about the activities.

Show your child that doing the activities is a fun and interesting endeavour. There is no need to emphasise to your child whether he/she can or cannot do it, or whether he/she is fast or slow. Above all, praise the effort and, no matter whether he/she was successful or not, be enthusiastic about the result. Don't harbour negative thoughts and think that your child can't possibly do a particular activity successfully - just focus on doing it happily.

That's all I can think of at the moment. You would note that I do not propose that you bark orders at your child like, "Sit down" or "Keep quiet" or "Do this now" or whatever. What I am suggesting is to lead by example, be positive and encouraging about good behaviour, and let your child then make the choice himself/herself as to which path to take. If he/she needs a little more guidance, you can make some suggestions to help him/her along. It's important to let your child make the choice on his/her own so that he/she learns to regulate his/her own behaviour. This cultivates discipline from within. Just remember, you have to show him/her the way.


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