Psychological weaning

Experience tells us that as students get older, parents and teachers let go of them and expect them to fend for themselves. While this is necessary to prepare students for independent thinking and living when they reach early adulthood, I am inclined to think that this sort of psychological weaning has to be done with extreme caution.

Origin

Like many other child-rearing practices, this too is passed down. Our parents/teachers were expected to fend for themselves by the time they were 13 or so. They did this to us when we were growing up and now we do the same with our own children/students. However, we need to examine the appropriateness of doing so from a psychological point of view, with the aim to significantly improve the quality of life.

A typical child’s life starts with close support and involvement from parents. At kindergarten and lower primary level, parents are more than eager to visit the child at school – sometimes more than once in a single day. They willingly attend parent-teacher conferences, academic meetings, workshops and social gatherings. However, as their children move up to upper primary, middle and high school, parents tend to reduce their level of involvement.

Cause

There is a psychological explanation for why this happens. Younger children deal with easier subjects and academic tasks. Hence parents find it very easy to handle children’s academic tasks at kindergarten and lower primary level. In fact many parents take pride in doing (under the guise of helping) kindergarten and lower primary level homework and projects for their children. They have no problem in doing this because their level of efficacy to handle simple academic tasks is high.

As children grow older, the subjects they learn at school get tougher. Parents, not wanting to look bad (because of their inability to help their children with higher level math, science, language, etc.), expect them to take responsibility for their own learning. This coincides with the fact that children at this age are supposed to take care of themselves in other areas such as personal hygiene, play, and time management. Most parents, if not all, possess low efficacy level when it comes to helping their children with more demanding academic tasks at school.

Hence the process of psychological weaning does not necessarily happen because parents/teachers want their children/students to become independent, functional member of the school and society. Rather, it is a way for parents/teachers to save their image as someone who is supposed to know more than the child. As a result, children suffer the consequence of the lack of support and involvement from parents/teachers at a time when they are needed the most.

Setting a balance

From a psychological point of view, lessons on independence are not taught by letting someone go completely. Effective parenting and teaching is knowing how to set a balance between letting go and sincerely supporting the youngster at the same time. It is a huge misunderstanding that as children grow older, they do not need the involvement of parents and teachers in their growth and development, be it academic, or otherwise.

In fact, the same amount of attention, support and involvement are required throughout schooling – this may even extend to college or university. While the form of support and involvement may change over time, they are in great demand throughout an individual’s life.

What matters

What parents and teachers need to understand and accept is the fact that showing support and involvement are not merely reflected in helping their children/students with academic tasks.  Contrary to this belief, and from a child/student’s perspective, the most important thing is for parents/teachers to simply be there for them – physically and emotionally!

2 thoughts on “Psychological weaning”

  1. I do agree that even we get older and matured, we still need support from our parents or even teachers. I have been longing my parents’ support (their presence and involvement in school activities) since my primary years, especially during my college days when I was studying far away from home. I only got to see them twice a year. They never visited me for 4 years until my graduation. I felt sad seeing parents of my classmates came. But it was a challenge. I grew up independently at an early age and became emotionally independent from them (not a crying baby ;). Though support is necessary, if it’s not provided, it is up for the child to take positively the dealings of their parents as challenge for survival and not letting themselves to be down because some kids couldn’t handle the situation..

  2. Honestly, the idea is generally known, yet not many fully understood the sweet fruits this concept would bear. The implications from psychological weaning, I believe, are doable by many education lovers. Thank to Dr Roy for sharing this. I believe that this psychological education can be the tool for me as a teacher to raise awareness of all people who are concerned in the sphere of teaching and learning and sow the seeds of caring education to the present conditions of Cambodian parentalship and child education.

    I hope parents should loosen their schedule to prioritizes younger generation education more than other tasks. I hope I can do the same.

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