For working couples, spending time with their children has become difficult. This is more so in big cities such as Dar es Salaam where commuters have to spend hours on the road, eating in the little time that parents could have spent with their children.
As a result of today’s parents’ busy schedules, househelps have now taken the role of parenting.
This, experts say, has far reaching effects on the manner in which children grow up and their relationship with their parents. It also diminishes parents’ capacity to control and correct the negative bahaviour of their children, leading to wayward ways and, possibly, delinquency.
Theodata Mamich, the co-founder of Family Kwanza Consulting firm, says despite the fact that many parents have little time to spend with their children, a survey conducted by the firm has found out that parents do not put much effort to ensure they spend the little time they have with their children qualitatively.
“We observed that most parents do not put much of their effort and time to nurture their children. In this case, it is more likely that children will lack self-confidence and grow up feeling insecure,” said Theodata during a recently held Parent Talk in Dar es Salaam.
Theodata says that many parents take parenting for granted and equate it with provision of material things, rather than spending time bonding with the children.
“Parents should also be imparting life skills to their children as part of spending time together. But many tend to send their children to institutions for life skills education without knowing that good life skills come from parents. The bad thing is that parents don’t ask even for a feedback from their children on what they have learnt,” she adds.
Family Kwanza is such an institution that provides life skills to children.
“We may receive more than 50 children but only about 15 parents ask for feedback on what their children have learnt. They bring them in the morning and come to pick them in the evening without asking any questions,” she says.
Florentina Makene, a mother of four, concurs with Theodata, saying spending time with children is the most productive thing a parent can do as it helps shape the behaviour and character of the children. “You can sit down together as a family, eat dinner, chat and spend time before they go to bed, read together story books and discussing about their day at school,” she says.
Godwin Temba, a father of one, says children need to spend time with their parents. This will help them share issues and create some memories together. According to him, this is the time to pass on cultural and societal values along with their personal moral code to children.
“Time equals love. You cannot say you love someone yet you don’t make time for them,” he argues. It is important to create time and have a chance to discuss, enjoy incredible moments with your children. “We all know life has changed but make sure you have time for them because you will learn and discover many things which you don’t know about them,” he adds.
“You will correct the wrongs that they have learnt. Therefore spending time with them will help you identify their talents and seek ways to develop them,” he adds.
Godwin says it is unfortunate that parents have left parental responsibilities to housemaids. It is also sad that some of the housemaids end up becoming a bad influence on the children without the parents realizing it, Godwin notes.
Irene Mwanga, a teacher at Chamazi Primary School, says by having no time for their children, parents deny them the right to learn parenthood skills.
“We have stubborn children in schools because they lack parental guidance,” she adds, saying most children who lack self-confidence in schools are more likely to have missed spending time with their parents.
It is very difficult for teachers to help all children with problems associated with lack of quality time with parents, Irene says.
Lucas Haule, a social worker based in Dar es Salaam, says parents can quench children’s inquisitive nature only if they spend time with them. And in turn, this creates a bond among them.
“I think parents should be friendly and allocate time for their children, above all they should be open to them. Being harsh, pushing them away, failing to create time for them won’t help, instead they destroy their children without knowing,” says Haule.
For Zelda Kweyamba, Project Director at The Free Pentecostal Church in Morogoro, there are two major things parents should consider when raising children. Spending time with their children helps parents observe, learn and realise their needs.
“This in turn, makes children feel loved, bring them closer to their parents and make them more open to them,” she explains.
Caring means dealing with children’s needs, be it food, clothes, education, faith and the imparting of good manners. “As for my husband and I, our child comes first. Everything else comes second,” says Zelda, who is also a leader at the church’s Students Centre.
She adds; “No matter how busy we are, as parents we are obliged to allocate time for our children and we have to do the best we can to give them sweet memories. When they become adults and reflect back, they will recall the memories of the time they spent with parents,” she says, adding that parents should keep in mind that God has trusted them with the present and future of their children.
Daniel Marandu, a psychologist, says nothing is more stressful currently than parenting. Poor parents produce children who are not respectful to adults and authority at different levels.
“Primary values, which include respect, love, empathy, how to make good choices and decisions come from parents. Children learn how to be grateful from parents. Such primary values, which are essential in moulding personal character that defines our personality, can be instilled into children’s minds when they are between one to 8 years of age,” he explains.
But, according to Daniel, many parents leave the role of instilling primary values to schools, which in reality do not focus much on moral and character development of the children. “Most schools put more efforts on academic excellence,” he argues.
“Parents who do not invest much of their time on their children at an early age will definitely reap what they sow in future. They could find themselves spending more money to send their children to rehabilitation centres because they have become drug addicts. Some might spend more money seeking professional counselling for their children who have become socially maladaptive,” says Daniel.
Daniel says that various research findings show that children who are not close to their parents at an early age tend to show lack of interpersonal skills, tend to engage in violence and in anti-social behaviour, sexual risk behaviours as well as in illegal activities.
“All these may happen to children because they lacked parental guidance at some point in life,” he says.
Parents need a minimum of two good hours a day with children, helping them with their school homework and listening to their stories, advises Daniel.