I’m often amused by the excuses some students offer for their behaviour when they find themselves sitting in my office. Now to be fair, before you get to my office you have probably been in and out of a couple of others along the way, so most are feeling the pressure by the time they reach my door. What they often forget is that I was a student once, and had more than a few trips of my own to the Principal’s Office. To be more precise, at Hurstville Boys High School back in the days of limited running water and street lamps lit by a man swinging a lantern and calling out, “It’s six o’clock, and all is well……”, it was old man Johnno that was the one to be scared of!

Mr Johnson was a tower of a man, with a scowl that made a feral dog look like Bambi, and sense of humour to match. He was the Deputy of a boys High School with more than a thousand students. Whilst every one of us boys weren’t too worried about the various Principals that cycled through the place with monotonous regularity, Johnno was someone to be respected. He had the ability to see what random mayhem you were planning when the thoughts were just seeds in the back of your brain. He then would ensure the price for turning them into action was sufficiently high enough that you would think seriously about enacting whatever cunning plan was afoot….!

And to be fair to Johnno, we did come up with ‘plans’ on a regular basis. Like the time we paid for an advertisement in the local newspaper for labourers to turn up to the Principal’s home at 6:00am one Saturday morning ready to work. We sat down the street and watched our Principal, still dressed in pyjamas and dressing gown having a stand-up argument with half a dozen Italian concreters as to why they were standing in his driveway with shovels…!

Or the day we thought it would be funny to enter the school in a surfing competition at Cronulla. One of the boy’s parents owned a print shop, and after school one day we printed a flyer for the event and had the Principal sign our entries. We had three days surfing before the Principal turned up to see how it was all going, only to find there was no surfing competition! Didn’t he look silly standing on the shore in a suit yelling at two surfers who were just minding their own business. He was accosted by two passer’s by for threatening kids. Johnno was waiting at the school gate the next day!

And so, when someone comes in to my office and says, “My dog ate my homework”, or “I know I was the only person in the room when those things were written up on the whiteboard, but I didn’t do it”, I just smile and remember when I was that naïve. I try to look shocked by their inventiveness, and in awe of their daring. But the consequences roll out none-the-less. Because it’s a part of their growing up.

‘There is nothing new under the sun’, says the Bible. There is no new way of doing the wrong thing that has just been invented, just new ways of doing the same old silly stuff. We may not have had wiz-bang computers that could surf the internet, but we could still make a calculator say ‘a particular word’ by typing in two nines and a couple of naughts! But we thought we were so brilliantly clever……

Can I offer some advice to parents? Of course I can, it’s my Blog!

If you think you have the only child on earth who has got something really wrong, you aren’t. Many of us have trod the path you are now on, and parenting isn’t easy. But just like there is no sin your child is going to discover that is actually all that ‘new’, there is no limit to God’s grace either. Chances are, your child will grow up to be a perfectly normal, healthy human being that cuts a path through life just like the rest of us managed to. If you are struggling with a child who is not getting it right all the time, keep struggling. The battle is only lost when you say it is. So, never use those words when it comes to your kids!

Choose your fights wisely, not just with your kids but in every case. I can assure you God’s grace is far bigger than any battle you or I ever come up against!

Have a great week. And remember, I turned out almost normal so there must be hope!

Geoff Brisby