Sunday, April 25, 2010

Parenting on values and traditions

I went for a teachers-parents meeting today. I just went for one reason. My daughters feel proud to show off their school to me and may be they also feel proud to “show off” their father to their teachers and their friends. Whatever, I don’t want to let my daughters down. That’s the only reason I attend the parents-teacher meeting.

My wife and I leave the teachers to do their job in providing them the formal education while we focus on passing on some soft skills that may come handy in life – good values. In other words, teachers and parents have distinct responsibilities. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying who is more, or less, important - teachers or parents? I am saying, to cite a cliché, teachers and parents are like the two wings on which our children can fly. And if either party play the part well, our children can fly very high.

Of course, I do meet the teachers. I say hello to madam principal. I sit down with respective class teachers to ask few questions. "Is there anything I could do or I should know?" "Are my daughters causing any problems in the school?" "Hope they are not behind with their assignments." After receiving no to all my questions, I sign the participation form and walk away with pride. Other than that I only make sure that my children are enjoying their school and they are moving ahead with their studies.

My job does not allow much time with my family and so I am careful about doing at least the bare minimum. Attending the parents-teachers meeting, collecting them from the bus top when I am in Thimphu, trekking to a temple on a Sunday afternoon, going for a movie together (they take me because we get free access. I know most of the film producers).

But what is more, my wife and I try to focus on imparting good values. This is where parents should take their role seriously and don’t leave it to the teachers. I teach them the difference between right and wrong, respects for elders, regards for colleagues, reverence for the King, love for the country, compassion to those less fortunate and fear for God. My wife, being a Japanese, hammers them on cleanliness, discipline, good manners, honesty and hard work. When I come back from tours, I also talk about how we sleep in tents and huts and bare floors because that’s the reality in some places in Bhutan. And not to take their good life for granted because “out there” there are people who have nothing. My younger daughter, who is seven, sometimes gets too inspired that she sleeps on the floor in my sleeping bag and calls it “sleeping like in Mongar”.

There is the on-going debate on the “degrading” quality of education and “substandard” graduates or educated lot. I am just wondering where exactly we are going wrong. In imparting the hard knowledge or in giving the softer skills – or in providing both? I am not saying that my way is the right way. In fact my regular absence from home makes me anything but a perfect father. My consolation is that, in any case, there is no formula for successful parenting and only time will tell if I have been a successful parent. But if we are little more serious in passing on our values and traditions, I am certain that we will have lesser to complain on the quality of education and the teachers.

Just try……

Lastly, my definition of education. "When you have forgotten what you have learnt in school and still be successful in life, you were well educated"


  1. Basically, I tend to agree with you, la, on 'soft skills' being the focus of the role of parents in a child's learning. The trick however is in the 'skills' part of it, I think. Skills, as we all know, are best taught through demonstrations. This means parents need to demonstrate those skills consistently on a day to day basis. Role modelling, in other words. I like your sharing of real life stories of your visits to villages. These stories are also demonstrative of soft skills and the effect is evident in your child wanting to 'imitate' what you experienced. But, what if teachers and parents exhibit contradicting values? I don't mean they do, but what if they did?

    Why do I ask this? Well, I attended a parent-teacher meeting too, recently. One of the concerns expressed by parents was that "some teachers indulged in unacceptable behaviour in front of the students and that was a bad example to the students." A teacher responded that "parents weren't all that goody goody in front of their children. We know of parents drinking excessively in front of their children. We know of them sending their children to buy them the drink." There was no debate, no raising of voices, as if each side had accepted they weren't perfect after all. But, the message had been conveyed and now it was upto the parent or the teacher to pay attention to it.

    Don’t you think these are the type of values that also matter in the journey of a child's learning? Aren't we already scaringly stared in the face by increasing problems of alcoholism and drug abuse among children and youth? As far as my understanding goes, this has nothing much to do with disrespect for elders but rather low self esteem. Whose responsibility is it to build that in the child? Teachers? Parents? Both?

  2. Change the school. And that may be easier said than done especially if your child is in a government school. And this is the reason why I find the private schools better. I mean the management has better control of the teachers.

    Immoral and unacceptable behaviors cannot be condoned neither from the teachers nor from the parents. We cannot adopt the "others are also doing" attitude.

    While they say it is a shared responsibility, parents have a bigger role in imparting values and in providing the right role model. On the other hand, teachers and parents cannot indulge in a blame game. Each must play their part and must be careful.

    As you rightly mentioned, one's actions and words must match. Children are very observant and sensitive. Let alone sending them to buy drinks, parents should not even quarrel in front of their children. Or come home drunk or make the house a gambling den or engage in other immoral activities.

    I think we can go on and on. But as I said there is no right way, or one way, to go about with bringing up children. But we can only be careful what "not to do"

  3. First of all, I am from Germany, so I only want to share my knowledge, not impose some opinion ;)
    Thinking of what my history teacher said about her life in the GDR (DDR, German Democratic Republic) I guess that it is correct that parents have a stronger impact than school. She mentioned one day that those students who lived in a governmental home had a hard time, because they had nowhere where they were not surrounded by propaganda. It would not be different in current Germany, because we also share some opinion against the government in our private live.

    Yet, what I actually wanted to say is that I am astonished you have that saying over there that parents and teachers are like two wings. I never heard of it before here in Germany and I always have the feeling that the public opinion (probably not the private one) here is that children should be raised all by the state or other institutions. They say that women should give their children to crèche, then children go to kindergarten, there are always coming more and more full-time schools. I do not know, but somehow we seem to lose the value of shared education…

  4. Dear Mr. Dorji Wangchuk,
    sorry for trying to contact you this way. I am a journalist from Germany, writing a book about global parenting, different childhood philosophies worldwide. One chapter is dedicated to "measuring childhood wellbeing and happiness", as well as to the concept of "Gross Wellbeing Product" in Bhutan and its impact on educating children. I would love to talk to you by email about your parenting philosophy and values.
    If you like, just contact me by email:
    with kind regards, Michaela.