Last Christmas while attending church at my upcountry parish, I was astonished by the amount of gadgets children as young as four had.
It made me realise that having rightly identified the affluent child as one of its biggest consumer, the technology industry will stop at nothing to anticipate and pander to their every whim and desire. Back to my urban-rural immigrant story; there was this particular family whose personal gadgets would make most Kampala Road dealers green with envy.
It appears as if every child and adult in the family had an iPod, iPad, iPhone, iPen, iBook whatever i you can think of and all of it on display. Instead of listening to the preacher’s riveting sermon about God’s unconditional love and the mandatory speech about church renovations, the teenage son and daughter were busy giggling from the pings on their phone.
It was all I could do to restrain myself from physically tackling the giggly teenage daughter when she produced the insufferable selfie stick and started taking pictures in the church aisle during offertory! What was more shocking though is how the parents just let this entire rudeness slide as if they were unaware of it.
It’s increasingly obvious that basic manners have fallen by the wayside in our fast-paced, competitive, and technology-driven culture, and it shows most in our children’s behaviour.
Teaching children manners is an integral part of parenting just like providing food, shelter and clothing. By imparting particular decorum to their offspring, parents are declaring, this is who we are and this is how we do things. And if there was any period that needed extra parental vigilance, it is this plugged-in, social media age.
Manners are much more than saying “please” and “thank you”, they are behaviours that take other people into consideration first, such as getting off your phone when talking to another person.
“If a child learns the rules at an early age, bad habits will not have to be corrected in later years,” says Diana Busumu a primary school teacher. “I go out of my way to teach my pupils some social skills such as how to properly shake someone’s hand, make eye contact, or even saying “thank you” when complimented,” she adds.
While Busumu agrees that some children fundamentally know they should be polite, she points out that they have no idea how to do that unless guided.
Yet teachers are busy with the curriculum and the parents have no time either. “When you are busy with work and have multiple children, you are lucky if you are able to see them every day before they go to sleep or actually be able to teach them table manners when you sit down to eat,” Dorcus Nalwanga, a mother of four, confesses.
This decrease in parent involvement has led to a lack of positive role models, and a lot of other people influencing and raising our children.
Parents are the most important role models for their children, yet lately most youngsters are likely to model their behaviour after more accessible idols they watch on TV.