Valuable parenting lessons from a school potluck lunch

Proper parenting is essential for the development of happy, healthy and well-adjusted children. PHOTO | COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Globalization has brought about significant changes in the way we live, work and raise our children. The event allowed parents to discuss the impact of globalisation and how they can prepare their children for rapidly changing world.

Parenting is one of the most challenging tasks in life, and it has become even harder in this digital age.

It is for this reason that Makini Primary School’s administration recently organised a potluck lunch for parents to discuss various challenges related to parenting.

“Parenting can be a daunting task, and parents often face numerous challenges while raising their children. The potluck lunch provided an opportunity for parents to share their experiences and learn from one another,” says Mr Moses Manyiga, the principal of Makini school.

Mr Manyiga says that because globalisation has brought about significant changes in the way we live, work, and raise our children, parents need to be aware of these changes and adapt their parenting styles accordingly. “The potluck lunch allowed parents to discuss the impact of globalisation on parenting and how they can best prepare their children for a rapidly changing world,” Mr Manyiga says.

Responsible parenting was the topic of discussion because it is crucial to a child’s development and overall well-being. The school aimed to provide parents with valuable information and resources to enhance their parenting skills and create a nurturing environment for their children.

“The school recognises that parents play a vital role in shaping their children’s character, values, and behaviour. By emphasising responsible parenting, the school administration aims to reinforce the importance of instilling positive values, setting boundaries, and promoting healthy habits in children’s lives,” Mr Manyiga tells Life&Style.

He advises parents to be positive role models because children learn by observing their parents’ behaviour and attitudes. Parents should demonstrate honesty, integrity, empathy, resilience, and perseverance. They should show enthusiasm for learning and encourage their children to embrace challenges and overcome obstacles.

One scholar agrees with the Makini school principal, saying that parents’ behaviours are a powerful influence on children. The scholar says children are mirrors and imitators and that they reflect back to you how you behave and what you feel by imitating it.

Dar es Salaam-based psychologist and counsellor, Dr Chris Mauki, who was a guest speaker at the potluck lunch, says that 70 per cent of the time, children learn by observing and 30 per cent by listening, which is why parents should learn to be good role models.

“Parents talk more, allowing children to take only 30 per cent of what they say and nothing from the other 70 per cent. And what do children learn by observing their parents? Fights! Research shows that 75 per cent of people in unhappy marriages raise children who eventually enter similar unions,” observes the psychologist, adding, “We produce the same, which proves that an apple doesn’t usually fall far from the tree. Even if there were issues in your parents' marriage, do your best to prevent them in yours. Make sure your children are exposed to only good stuff,” Dr Mauki suggests.

He says he is saddened by the fact that many parents are irresponsible. “As a psychologist and counsellor, it hurts and annoys me when parents pretend to love their children while they don’t get involved in their affairs. If you really love your children, you should be responsible; you should be there for them; attend their graduation.”

He commended the men who showed up for the potluck lunch because men usually don’t attend such events. He says many children in their 20s are addicts because their parents are always busy chasing money and don’t have time for them. Dr Mauki says most parents get rich and successful at the expense of their children’s happiness. Sometimes children get more attached to the maids as a result.

“Parenting is a responsibility; if you can’t be responsible, take your children to a childcare centre to be cared for by others. Today, there’s a lot of digital addiction. Children get molested, and when you ask them why they did not tell Daddy or Mummy, they tell you that parents don’t listen.

Parents are usually busy on the phone or the computer. Some children are addicted to pornography as a result of watching videos on their father’s computers.

Dr Mauki says it’s unfortunate that having meals together as a family is not common in many families today. The psychologist says meal times are the best times to know children’s behaviour and advises parents to use the opportunity to know what is going on in their children’s lives.

Why are parents irresponsible?

Dr Mauki says it's because many raise their children in the same way they were brought up. They copy their parents’ parenting styles regardless of the fact that times and children have changed. Children’s IQs, emotional stability, and interests have changed. This is not an era where you can tell a child that babies are bought in shops because they already know where babies come from.

Parents don’t talk with their children about sex, thinking they are too young and innocent to engage in sex, while the truth is that some already have more than one girlfriend.

“Many parents don’t know their children despite living with them. We think some of them are angels, but the truth is, they know a lot more than we think they do.”

Modeling is another reason parents are irresponsible, according to Dr Mauki. Parents find pleasure in copying others. They take children as young as two and a half years old to boarding school because that is what some parents are doing.

Sometimes, these children get so attached to their matrons and patrons that they enjoy being at school more than they do at home. “Imagine that! Why? Because it is at school where their attachment is,” notes Dr Mauki.

He says some parents are irresponsible because they lack parenting skills, something Dr Bupe Mwambega, another guest speaker at the Makini school potluck lunch, says doesn’t happen by choice.

Dr Mwambega, a psychologist, counsellor and author of parenting books, blames this on the absence of parenting education. She says while people spend up to 19 years learning to be professionals in various fields, we don’t learn how to raise children. She says raising children is a progressive process that starts at birth and takes time, skills, commitment, and dedication.

How to be responsible?

Be there for your children, says Dr Mauki. He says parents today care more about presents and forget that their presence is more important. “Our children need us more than the presents we give them. Be there on their birthday... Sometimes I see fathers glued to their mobile phones at their children’s birthday parties.”

Irene Kimboy, 21, says the psychologist is right. Her father takes her and her siblings to beach hotels but he’s always busy on his phone, either talking to his friends or chatting.

“He never has time to talk to us. What we do is keep ourselves busy with activities at the hotel until it's time to go back home,” shares the firstborn in a family of four.

The expert says if your child asks to talk to you, you should put your phone down and listen to them. He says parents don’t give their children the chance to talk to them, but the same parents wonder why children don’t inform them when things go wrong.

Such moments, according to experts, are opportunities to bond and impart important life lessons to children. Many children learn many things at school that they should learn at home. They learn about puberty, abuse, and physical change at school. Parents don’t talk about these with their children, which makes children think it’s not okay to talk about them.

Daughters for example should feel free to ask their fathers to buy them pads. According to science, girls should be closer to their fathers, and studies have shown that girls who lack a father-daughter relationship tend to lack confidence and are emotionally unstable.

According to Dr Mauki, this is why some girls engage in sexual activity at a young age, resulting in teen pregnancy.

Sarah Joseph, a mother of three who has been struggling with confidence issues, agrees.

“I used to envy colleagues at school when they spoke fondly about their fathers. Mine wasn’t in our lives at the time, and when he later needed us in his old age, I did not feel obliged to care for him, although I did. He died three years ago, but I honestly don’t miss him,” she shares.

Dr Mauki advises mothers to push their daughters toward their dads; they should let their husbands take their daughters to dinner, because girls need and love that. “When girls go out with their fathers, they proudly share this with friends.”

However, sometimes fathers don’t have time for their daughters because they prioritise their friends. Yet these fathers yearn for their daughters to be engineers while they are never there to show them the way.

Dr Mauki advises that parents should make constant follow-ups with their children. They should follow up on their performance in school and find out if they are facing any challenges.

Some children seem to be okay at home but are bullied at school. Don’t just be concerned about their grades. Know who their friends are because friends influence them either positively or negatively. Find out about their emotional and social development.

Dr Mwambega says some challenges parents face in raising children can be traced back to infancy.

According to her, parenting involves balancing a child’s physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social development.

Failure to balance these is what causes problems for some of our children. Dr Mwambega says many have succeeded in caring for the physical, which simply needs to be fed and clothed.However, some parents feed their children junk food, unaware that they are putting the lives of the husbands and wives of tomorrow at stake.

“No wonder we hear of erectile dysfunction problems in young men today. This doesn’t happen in a day; it is a process. Whatever you feed your child from the day they are born affects them in adulthood,” says Dr Mwambega.

Proper children’s upbringing includes nurturing their thinking and reasoning, and as the first teacher, parents should teach children to think and reason from a young age. This enables them to do the right thing at the right time and place.

“Unfortunately, out of ignorance, parents don’t nurture the children’s cognitive or intellectual development. When we do everything for children, we deny them the chance to learn to be independent and to make their own decisions.

Dr Mwambega says parents are responsible for raising confident children with self-respect, self-acceptance, and self-value, which enables them to relate better with others. Some adults have low self-esteem, low confidence, and an inferiority complex due to how they were brought up.

Children’s emotional development also depends on their upbringing. Mood swings, stress, over-reacting, and under-reacting- all these should be taken care of at home. “I usually tell couples to forgive their partners who have problems in this area because it’s not their fault but their upbringing.

The spiritual development of a child is also important. Children should be made to understand that they are in this world for a purpose. When a child goes to school, they should know they are there to accomplish a purpose.

Many people, according to the expert, don’t balance these. They either nurture the physical and ignore the cognitive part, or they nurture the cognitive and ignore the relationship or spiritual parts. No wonder we have people in their 30s who behave like seven-year-olds.

“Many people wonder why adolescents have behavioural issues. This could be because something went wrong when they were between ages 0 and 10 because raising children happens in stages, and each stage has its own needs. When a child enters adolescence, they shift their trust to their peers.

If parents don’t impart enough knowledge to children from ages 0-10, it might be too late because, at this stage, they tend to listen to their friends more. “If you do the right thing at the right time, your child will be a positive influence on his peers.”

Dr Mwambega says that to shape your child, you need to show them love, but warns that this love should go hand in hand with discipline. Children should know the dos and don’ts.