It was a moment that saved our life. My then girlfriend and I were visiting a young couple with a rather hyperactive six-year old daughter who was prone to throwing tantrums at a moment’s notice. True to form, just as we were getting into our conversation, the little girl began to raise her voice demanding attention, and the atmosphere began to tense up. But this time, the outcome was completely different from what had come to expect. Her dad looked her in the eye and said a single word calmly and with authority, ‘No!’. To our amazement, with no more incentive beyond that, the little girl immediately calmed down and the rest of the evening was spent pleasantly catching up with her parents.
Welcome to the complex world of parenting today! Many in my generation grew up in traditional homes where children were meant to be seen, not heard. Parents ruled their home with an iron fist and punishment was regularly meted on offenders with belts, slippers and in some cases slaps and even more extreme measures. Open disobedience was unimaginable and parents were feared and obeyed unquestioningly. This model in a better form had actually worked well for generations. But in an urban setting without supportive extended family structures, it broke down and more likely isolated children from their parents. It often became abusive in the hands of parents who were ill-equipped to bring up children in the new setting of the city.
Much of today’s parenting practice is a reaction against the negative extremes of traditional parenting. Starting in the 60’s and 70’s, many parents in the West stopped depending on age-old techniques and wisdom to bring up their children but instead began relying on the teachings of modern psychology with its focus on self-esteem. As usual with time, these trends made their way here. But clearly, they too have their shortcomings. Who has not witnessed that child screaming as they demand something from their embarrassed parent in the supermarket aisle? Or had a panic attack when your friends mentioned they want to pass by your house with their not so well behaved children? The modern ideal of busy working parents who delegate almost all of the upbringing of their children to maids and drivers has only served to complicate the matter. The result of modern parenting techniques is pampered, insecure, demanding, out-of-control children with short attention spans and a sense of entitlement.
I must at this point confess that my inspiration to write this article came out of serious annoyance and sleep deprivation! I was on board a long flight in a Boeing A777 cabin where ninety adults were kept forcefully awake for several hours by two screaming toddlers whose mothers seemed unable to control them. Whereas in the past parents may have tyrannized their children, today, it is the kids who tyrannize adults!
The problem with children is that they don’t come with instructions. And yet how we bring up our children is extremely important not just for the future of the home but that of our nation.This sacred duty has huge, generational consequences and yet few people study or prepare for it. The good book in Proverbs 22:6 encourages us to ‘direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it‘. But how exactly should we do this?
An important part of that answer is understanding the end result. What is the goal of raising our children? If we’re raising them to depend on us, then we are ensuring they will never succeed in life. As one of my friends used to say, children come into the world disorganized and parents have the option of either entering into their disorganization or organizing them and preparing them for an adult world. All parenting must bear in mind that we are equipping our children to be independent, productive citizens who live purposeful, value-based lives that positively impact others.
Back to the moment that saved our lives! What we learnt that day at our friend’s house is that parent’s can learn how to train their children effectively. Our friends shared that they had taken a class that had changed their approach to parenting. The results were so apparent that we decided that when we had our own children, we too would take that class. Several years later, we did, and have never regretted it since. Neither have our kids!
This month at Mavuno Church, Pastors Oscar & Beatrice Muriu of Nairobi Chapel will be sharing secrets they’ve learnt about this critical topic. They will be speaking candidly from their successes and failures about how to prepare our children for modern day realities. Whether you are an actual parent or a potential one in the making, you owe it to yourself to make sure all your friends, colleagues and relatives are there with you. The fate of our homes and nation may well depend on it 🙂