He was seated at the dining table having lunch with his family when his cell phone rang. He reached out for it. “Yeah, I am here at the garage. I was working on the car engine before I could go downtown to check out the parts. Trust me it’s your vehicle I’m working on now,” he said.
His eight-year-old son and 12- year-old daughter seated with him at the dining table looked on silently. His wife was bothered. She was not happy about her husband’s blunt lie before their children. She too knew he had faulted. Only the other day, she remembered, had promised to visit her daughter at school but she never turned up and did not explain to her why. ‘What are our children going to make of us?’ She wondered.
Every parent wants their children to be well-behaved. But how do you raise such children? Is it by giving them instructions? And whose responsibility is it? The parents’ or aunts’ and uncles’? Does the solution lie in taking children to good schools or buying for them character-building books?
Edith Naluyima, a mother of two, says the responsibility to train a child lies primarily with the parents or the caretakers of the children, and at home.
“If aunts and uncles or the school contribute to your children’s good morals, consider that a bonus otherwise you, the parent bears the primary responsibility,” she argues.
The best way of training children, lies not in parents giving instructions to children but in parents practising what they want their children to adopt.
“Children learn more by observing what those around them do rather than by receiving instructions,” she says. “As a parent,” she adds, “You teach your child by living an exemplary life. If you want your children to develop discipline, practice it. Otherwise, how do you tell your children to be obedient or respectful when they see you disobedient and disrespectful to others?”
What to avoid
Brian Ssuuna, a father, says training a child is like communication, it should be two-way. It is incomplete when one-sided. For instance, as parents require their children to be accountable to them, the parents should do the same to their children.
“Do not wonder why you need to explain yourself to the child,” he says. “Parents need to understand that children just like adults, need explanation and answers to events and situations. For example, if you were unable to visit your child at school, explain to him or her why you did not.”
According to Naluyima, parents should avoid situations where they require discipline of their children but they (the parents), do the opposite. She observes that what the parents consider insignificant may be meaningful to the child. This includes promising to help with homework and you don’t.
Actions have consequences
“You reap what you sow,”she cautions. “Children emulate adults around them. Unfortunately, if you make them believe that telling lies is acceptable or is something wrong you casually do, the children take it up and you will have in your children serial liars.”
Askdrsears.com, a parenting website, notes that when a child spends the early years with a “sensitive caregiver”, this infant develops an inner sense of rightness, and a sense of well-being.
Mind the virtues
“The child makes these virtues part of himself. Between seven and 10 years, when the child enters the age of moral reasoning, if sensitivity, caring, politeness and empathy have been standard operating procedures in the child’s home, those are his norms, and he operates according to them.
On the other hand, the child who grows up with insensitivity becomes insensitive for he has no frame of reference on how to act. Without an inner guidance system, his values are subject to change according to his whims.”
No matter what your children ask you, try to answer their questions truthfully and keep answers simple.
“Don’t overburden children with lots of unnecessary information. Follow their lead.