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Today’s parents must learn to say, No

mathabelazitha/the anvil :BY ZIFISO MASIYE

They whipped our backsides as if it was mandatory pass-time for them, as if it was some fancy parenting sport. Outside Gukurahundi itself, I don’t quite remember anyone bashing me so hard and with such glee and reckless abandon as did my own parents! Not even that fat-bellied Mr Chimombe, the Geography teacher, who seemed to derive some weird political pleasure from wanton child-bashing. Always, a mean aunty would be stationed behind your circumference of nine siblings/cousins superintending over meal times… Yes, all nine of you would surround and share isitshwala sochago under careful aunty surveillance. Monitoring that you eat ever so sparingly, that when you dipped your handball of isitshwala, in that milk bowl, she ensured that a naughty thumb didn’t stealthily carve that little milk-hole with which to profit those tiny extra millilitres of the precious isitshebo that made that starch ball a wee bit palatable. Mean witches! You may have to skip two whole rounds of milk-dipping as punishment, once caught. Now if you do your math, that yellow card would mean that you only resume eating 16 milk-dips later! We drove and fought over wire cars and bricks for toys and it wasn’t uncommon that three brothers shared one pair of khaki shorts as uniform, taking daily turns. So often you could swear that some midwife may have swapped babies when these fellows “bought” you esibhedlela, and probably saddled you with somebody else’s mother!

Yet hey, look just how well we all turned out!

“Let the children come to me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And so we reflected last week on the important parenting principle of finding requisite spiritual anchor and securing that best-foot-forward start to your child’s race of life, presenting your new-born baby to your church, rather than izangoma to undergo that formative ritual of divine consecration, handing your offspring over to God, and as such praying good health, success, great fortune and a fulfilling journey into you’re your child’s life.

My literary passion is Christ-like. For though you lot hardly respond, my unrequited love of the pen keeps flowing. Yet I did receive a couple of responses from some parents, most of whom seem concerned at their observation of the fact that, although parents duly deposited their children to the bank of the church and prayed less for themselves as they did for their children, although they offered their children unparalleled kindness and great guidance, although parents today gave their children unlimited, unconditional love, pouring all their material savings on their offspring, yet invariably, today’s generation of children were a thankless lot that seemed overly unsatisfied, routinely demotivated, perpetually demanding and insatiable and generally devoid of that sense of pride-in- self application, that old-time go-getter inspired spirit of industry and self-actualisation. My respondents moan of what one of them termed a “copy-and-paste” generation that has completely robbed itself of the pleasure of sincere effort and hard work and the sweetness of their sweat!

It is psychology therapist John Rosemond who rather poignantly points out how, it is not in their bloodstream nor among the children of today that we are likely to find the enduring roots of the social disaster that is looming, but in the increasing deficiency of sound parenting. I agree. Phela umntwana kazizali! In our midst, is a dysfunctional and cancerous, yet very large and growing crop of parents who, driven by some misplaced social pressure and warped competition to make their children “happy”, set out to provide pretty much every thing that their children ask for. Modern housing plans provide for entire Toy-Rooms! Today’s average child has enough toys to supply a class, wardrobes of clothes they wear once and throw away, besides gadgets and phones. Parents of today have so enslaved themselves to the relentless demands of their children that although it is common cause that a child’s tastes are endless, whimsical and consumerist, an average parent will easily sink into depression if he/she fails to fulfil the most frugal of their spoilt brat’s demands. Whilst sustainability of future society rests on the capacity of today’s parents to deny their children up to 75% of the things they want, studies suggest that parents are not only unable and unwilling to control their children’s demands, but they are in active competition to fulfil them. This “Vitamin NO” deficiency in parenting or the inordinate over-indulgence of young people is a social pandemic. It has been cited as potentially the single most destructive feature of future family infrastructure and its related impact on education, social relations, industry and larger society.

The mental fortitude of this overindulged, “Cut-and-Paste” generation is significantly lower than that of past counterparts who had close to nothing of what they wanted. Instead of being happy, the children of today are comparatively moody, routinely petulant, they fail to get along with their peers and hardly feel a need to show gratitude to their parents for whatever they receive, let alone from anyone outside family. They can’t relate and are driven by a strong sense of expectation to receive. When children get accustomed to making headway, not by exerting any demonstrable effort, or by excelling ahead of others, but by whining, manipulating and demanding, this has the effect of inflating their material expectation more and more in later life and underlines in their mindsets the destructive mental attitude that things can be had for nothing.

How often do you see such an emotionally stunted culture in Africa and African governance? Like little children who, getting on a platter too much of what they want, they never take care of whatever they acquire without exerting effort. Whether it is industry, land, mines or businesses, where incumbents have been robbed of the possibility of applying their own brains and energy and effort, they will always require and demand more and more freebies.

Children, and society too require tough love, effective support of what they need and very little of what they want, instilling in them instead the value of a hard day’s work and reaping only where one has invested effort.

l Zii Masiye (ziimasiye@gmail.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks

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