Forget rigid rules, let’s just raise decent human beings

Author: Angella Nampewo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • You can see it from all the rules that not only apply to students but parents. Take the example of the parents’ dress code that has been institutionalised in many schools. Schools and parents back then had no need for such rules. Schools assumed parents knew what to do and parents did what they were generally expected to do and there was harmony all around.

At the end of this last school term, a letter circulating on social media and allegedly written by one of the popular schools started a discussion on discipline issues, which are being attributed to a hangover from the Covid-19 lockdown, among others.

We find ourselves in interesting times indeed. We have a generation that was largely parented with less technological advancements or distractions trying to oversee children who have known nothing but the digital age. Sometimes it feels like the schools are standing in the middle, trying to parent both the children and their parents. You can see it from all the rules that not only apply to students but parents. Take the example of the parents’ dress code that has been institutionalised in many schools. Schools and parents back then had no need for such rules. Schools assumed parents knew what to do and parents did what they were generally expected to do and there was harmony all around.

Now when the rules at the school gate net both parent and child, it makes you wonder if we know what we are doing or if once again the schools feel that they are the last bastion of sanity from a society filled with parents who can hardly regulate themselves, let alone their children. An item on the lineup of a school concert which I assume was composed by a teacher as the pupils performing were too young, encouraged parents to teach children about their culture while castigating parents for dressing poorly and spending too much time on their gadgets, among other things.

Now you have parents trying to figure out how to live in a crossover world between where they grew up and where their children are now. It may seem obvious but maybe the concept of discipline doesn’t mean the same thing to different parents and their children.

Not surprisingly, you have many parents questioning their parenting skills and styles in a way that our parents never did whether they were right or wrong. While looking at some references on parenting, something kept jumping at me from the pages. When we think discipline, we often associate it with toughness, even harshness sometimes. When children are misbehaving, we think we can grill them or drill it out of them but there is the counterintuitive approach of kindness. These children have been through a lot as we all acknowledge, after the Covid-19 lockdown.

As we try to get down to the root of this indiscipline which has been mentioned in more than one school circular, let’s be kind to the children. There is always a reason behind every behaviour, good or bad. Trying to address it might produce better results than trying to wipe out the undesirable behaviour from the surface.

Parenting with kindness does not mean losing the firm touch. It means getting to know our children as individuals and understanding what motivates their behaviour. While some of them may seem like rascals ready to be written off or sent to boot camp for manners, they say we are all born good. The corruption happens in our environment, especially in the first few years. While I respect the work that schools and teachers do, they cannot be substitute parents for our unique children.

As a result of the information overload and the criticism flying at parents from left, right and centre, we are suffering a crisis of confidence on what to do with our own children. The good news is that the children are ours, we know them better than anyone else and if we can imagine raising a person that others would be happy to live with in future, then half our work is done.

Ms Nampewo is a writer, editor and communications consultant    

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