Roland Lacock talks parenting

Our new Headmaster, Mr Roland Lacock, had his first opportunity to formally address the Highbury parent body on Tuesday evening August 22nd at an evening event focused on a parenting talk from Colleen Wilson of Contemporary Parenting. Mr Lacock joined Highbury at the start of the Third Term, accompanied by his wife Lindy and their three daughters. The Lacock family were delighted to return to KwaZulu-Natal as both Roland and Lindy spent their formative years here and they still have family in the Pietermaritzburg and the Hillcrest area.

Here is an excerpt of Mr Lacock’s speech: 

“As I briefly address you this evening, I do so wearing two hats.  The first being that of Headmaster of Highbury, and the second is that of a husband and father of three daughters aged 13, 11 and 1.  This evening, I will share seven of my own observations from twenty years in education and thirteen of parenting and I hope you will find them useful.  Having taught in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Taiwan and in The United Arab Emirates, I would like to share a number of global norms that help create environments that aid children to succeed”.

1. Make time to be with your children.

While this may appear obvious and simplistic, I have found that the busy nature of work with responsibilities and deadlines means that we can easily work that extra half hour which can run into an hour and then the intended time to be at home to make puzzles or watch a cricket match has gone.  I also understand the responsibility, we feel as parents, to have flourishing careers that enable us to provide quality education for our children.  As parents, we face the struggle to balance work commitments with family and I urge you to make time to be with your boys.

2. Eat dinner at the dining room table.

How many of us sit down at the dining room table, eat dinner together and discuss the day?  If you do, well done and I encourage you to guard this valuable time together. If eating around the table is not possible every night, try to make a weekly commitment to do so.  At the table, ask your children about their day and discuss the highs and lows. This is a good opportunity to talk through problems or disappointments that may be happening and create the opportunity to offer thoughtful advice.

3. Dads – Play with your boys.

Spending time together creates the opportunity for you and your son to have those father-son moments together.  Throw downs in the nets, soccer on the lawn, building a puzzle, making spaceships out of lego, the Friday night braai are all important investments of time in your son’s life.  In his book entitled ‘Real Boys’, Doctor William Pollack states, “With the help of their dads, boys can learn to engage in a broad range of appropriate spirited behaviours.  In fact, when the fathers take the time to play zestfully with boys during their infancy and as youngsters, at adolescence these children often need less guidance from adults when handling difficult feelings.”

4. Moms – You are the harbour of safety for your boys.

Pollack discusses the importance of the son / mother relationship and comments, “The love of a mother makes boys stronger emotionally and psychologically.  Far from making boys dependent, the base of safety a loving mother can create – a connection that her son can rely on all his life – provides a boy with the courage to explore the outside world.  A loving mother plays an integral role in helping a boy develop his masculinity – the self-esteem and strength of character he needs to be confident in his own masculine self.”

5. Teach your boys the value of commitment.

Learning to commit to a project is a life skill that will prove valuable throughout our children’s lives.  It can be frustrating for us as parents when we purchase ‘the guitar’ and after a couple of practices our child decides that the dream of becoming a rock star is too difficult and the instrument is put aside.  I have found that what helps your son to think through his commitment is to have a discussion prior to the start of term and say that you support his interest, but that it needs to be a term commitment and then hold him to it. Sport is similar, the boys need to learn to commit to a sport for the term.  In certain situations, after trials and when the teams have been announced, boys who have not been selected for the team they had hoped to be in can feel disappointed and ask to stop playing the sport.  We all empathise with these boys. We have all at some time missed out on the opportunity we were hoping for, a team selection, a lead part in the play, the soloist in the choir, yet this lesson learned at school will be invaluable in the working environment.  How do we as adults cope with the missed promotion or the important tender that wasn’t won? It is in these difficult times that we learn the tenacity or grit to pick ourselves up off the floor and carry on. To develop grit, our children need to go through hardship and learn to persevere because they have made a commitment.

6. We need to let our children learn through mistakes.

Since moving to Hillcrest, the Lacock family have been doing the church rounds. Every Sunday we have been to visit one of the local churches and, being spoilt for choice in the area, we look forward to deciding on a church to settle in.  It is interesting how each of us has something that we really like about the different churches.  On one of these Sunday visits, my one year old daughter Zoey was in her element.  I was looking after her in the play area for toddlers and I could see by the delight on her face that she felt it was toddler heaven. It has been close to ten years since I was last in a play area with a toddler and I found myself in a difficult predicament.  Should I let my toddler climb all over the apparatus and possibly fall and hurt herself or should I step in and protect her?  The apparatus was all well-padded so she would have had little more than a fright, yet it was a difficult situation for me. There she was learning about height and proportion, and she was also braver than I expected so there I sat teetering on the edge of my chair ready to launch myself to the rescue, while at the same time trying to give her the space to make her own mistakes and learn from them.  Ladies and gentlemen, as I mentioned before, our boys need to learn from disappointments, rather than protecting them from all of life’s hardships, we need to help them develop the skills to cope with adversity.  Our boys aren’t going to be able to learn tenacity if they are sheltered from all life’s challenges. Our challenge as parents is to gauge the correct way to help our children.

7. Put the smartphone down.

This week’s Sunday Times had an interesting article on the influence of smartphones on families.  The article refers to the term ‘technoference’ and I quote: ‘Techoference, the habit of moms and dads scouring work e-mail, liking Instagram posts or updating their Facebook status during family time – is on the increase.’

The article questions the impact of ‘technoference’ on traditional family relationships and, while I am acutely aware of the need for technology in the 21st century, I am also becoming increasingly aware that we need to put boundaries in place to maintain the face to face quality time interaction in our families.  A suggestion from the article is that families have a charging zone in the house and that there are set times when everyone’s phones are put on the shelf or in the box and time is dedicated for face to face family time and old fashioned interaction.”

Roland and his family moved into the Headmaster’s Residence on the Highbury estate over the July holidays and have enjoyed settling into their new home. It is lovely to see Lindy pushing Zoey in her pram around our beautiful grounds while Sarah and Grace are settling well into St Mary’s.