Wednesday, April 24, 2024

JEFF BROOMES: Live what you preach


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FROM MY ROOKIE DAYS as a teacher, I was introduced to the notion of “the demonstration effect”. As my then principal Mr Daryll Jordan simply put it, there is no statement made or action committed by an adult that does not have a captive audience of young impressionable minds.

Children have a penchant for internalising all that they see and hear. Sometimes they respond immediately with words, actions or expressed behaviours. Sometimes they give no indication that any of their senses were at work when the adult behaviours occurred. The impact, however, is invariably manifest at one stage or another during their developmental years.

Children present the prime evidence to support the claim that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It is not coincidental that Spanish children speak Spanish, French children speak French and English children speak English. We simply learn what we live and ultimately live what we learn. This is true both positively and negatively.

Inherent here should be an unequivocal message to all adults. This message must be accepted and respected. Our behaviours that we so often believe are simply our personal business, carry more impact on how our country is defined than we could ever fully understand. Daily we travel through our neighbourhoods and see men of all ages relieving themselves at the side of the road. The children and young toddlers may react with laughter or chuckles. Learning is taking place in their young minds. Their reaction may suggest humour, but the message is deeper. It is acceptable to do as was seen. That, in the longer term, helps to define this unseemly practised behaviour.

We criticise students throwing paper and other garbage out of the school bus. Do they not know it is wrong and unacceptable to litter? Two minutes later, we see the brown bag that once held the cheese-cutter coming from the driver’s side of the car in front of us. Then we have our answer. It is then not unacceptable to the students. They learn the practice from us adults. We made them so. Every day we set the examples that they later unthinkingly follow.

We light our cigarette or sprawl ourselves on the couch overwhelmed by the effects of alcohol. The starry-eyed under-tens stare at us with wonder. They are questioning what they are seeing and their knowledge base is also being influenced. Some may see the negativity and learn early to avoid it. Many will see the behaviours, develop curiosity and their lives are shaped accordingly. Thus “the demonstration effect” impacts the health of the nation.

Our needs and expectations are not satisfied as we would have expected or within a specific time frame. We react by name-calling, cursing and threatening. All of this is done in full view of our children or those for whom responsibility has been reposed. What is the demonstrated message? This is the way to react when things do not go your way or you do not get what you had expected. The example leads to a lack of true conflict resolution, promoting instead anger, abuse and violence as the tools for problem-solving.

Adulthood should be connected to maturity and intellectual development. We must think before we act and not believe egotistically that it is always and only about us. We have a duty to ensure the positive thrust of our country. Keep it clean, keep it principled and keep it open to any assessment. Show that to our children in the way we say and do whatever comes from us. Teach the children and teach them well by being positive examples.

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email:


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