Everytime I talk about matters parenting, I always feel like I’m doing parents a major disservice; mainly because I haven’t walked down that road yet. Nevertheless, I feel I know reasonably much about parenting; I’ve watched my parents raising three daughters- me included- and even though I’ve only been watching from the sidelines, I formed my own opinion on the matter. If I may put in my two cents worth, parents should use a relatively soft approach on their kids. This however doesn’t mean they should be lenient; overlooking mistakes and all… Fundamentally, the idea is for parents to understand their children; to walk a mile in their shoes, so they can simply get the rationale of their complexities.
For this to be successful, parents would basically be required to lay the ground rules, which would be used to guide members of the family on what is/not allowed. Parents would also be required to put their feet down, just to ensure that the rules are adhered to.
The term ‘rules’, I realize, brings out the idea as a scheme by parents to tyrannize their children, but that is not it. The rules imply to simple things that are done in the home; for instance, sitting at the table together for meals, doing chores, running errands… etc. Setting of rules would help parents keep their children in check, and this would help them identify any snags that would arise in relation to that.
In case you’re wondering how I came to this, I mentioned in down memory lane: my childhood sweetheart that I went to boarding school. I was only eleven at the time and I detested it with every ounce of my being. My mom thought it was the best idea though; there were many distractions at home and she felt boarding would counter all that. True to her suppositions, it did just that. She only intended for me to get good grades, which I did…
Looking at the bigger picture though, I impute most of the barneys I had with her as a teenager to that simple fact that she shipped me off to boarding school. See, when I went there I was quite young; at such a pliable age. It was then that I learnt how to spread a bed impeccably, do my own laundry… most importantly, I also learnt how to verbalize my emotions. Before I enrolled there, I was just an introverted girl; I kept to myself a lot. I didn’t bother standing up to other students because I knew all I had to do was squeal on them and my mom would take up the matter with the concerned teachers; I wasn’t bratty though, just that I didn’t find it necessary to engage in squabbles when my mom could easily intervene. Every once in a while though, I’d find myself in messy fights with boys in my classroom and that would have my mom summoned in school. In the teachers’ presence she would vindicate me, so much so that I always got off the hook easily. I don’t remember being chastised by any of the teachers on any one of those accounts; but when I got back home, she would set things straight. She would scold me sternly or give me whatever punishment she thought suited the nature of my transgression. She’s always been zero-tolerant to impertinence.
Sometimes teachers would find themselves at the receiving end of my mom’s backlash. If you ask me, they deserved it all… they were brutal! Students who arrived to school late were caned mercilessly with peeled tree branches, which only made it twice as painful. At times they would cut hosepipes into pieces of considerable length and those too would be used to inflict pain on us. Some teachers even went ahead to fill the hollows in the pipes with stems, to intensify the lashes so that whoever they landed on would never be tempted to repeat whatever had brought them there in the first place. My mom hated seeing us (my sisters and I) bruised or with our knuckles swollen because a teacher had hit us with a ruler, so she took it upon herself to discipline us. She didn’t want us to turn out unscrupulous, but at the same time she didn’t want others to maim us alleging corrective measures; therefore she made sure we grew up straight to prevent us from getting in trouble with them. She chose to personally, nip our wrong doings in the bud.
When I went to boarding school I didn’t have my mom to defend me. I only had my big sister who had gone there a year before I did. She’s only a year and a half older than I am. The good thing about my new school was that caning was prohibited. The headmistress was a distant grandma; a strict disciplinarian, who pervaded fear in the other teachers as much as she did students. From the movies I watched as a kid, she was the angelic version of Miss Tranchbul in the movie, Matilda. She embodied perfection. Stained tunics with hanging hems or torn pockets weren’t tolerated; socks and blouses had to be dazzling white; those with discoloured ones were punished. Seeing as the school was catholic sponsored, she made it unmistakable that masses were not optional. That regardless, didn’t exorcize the little ‘demons’ in the school; some of the older girls were brutes. Consequently, I learnt how to defend myself. Slowly, the introvert I was developed into an outspoken lass… no one would mess with me again.
Out of those eight years that I was in boarding school, six of them I spent in school while the holidays only summed up to two years only. During those six years a lot happened; that’s when I learnt who I was…I became distinctly aware of my emotions, formed my own independent opinion of things. I’m not sure if it was just sheer ignorance, but my parents didn’t seem to realize I had changed. Many are the times I felt my actions were misconstrued and anything I said only ignited fights. Whenever I talked with my mom a certain phrase invariably popped up, “You don’t understand me!” Disappointingly, my parents never made any efforts to understand the ‘new’ me. I only learnt to adjust to my surrounding when I got tired of fighting.
That ‘phase’ I was in, as many parents would refer to it, is a crucial stage in children’s lives; that’s when parents who previously were awfully close with their children find themselves so detached, feeling like total strangers. Not all parents send their children to boarding school, but the same scenario plays itself out when parents are too busy working that they seldom spend time with them. Sometimes parents fail to realize that kids grow up fast. A month, or even a week could be enough for a child’s perceptions to be realigned; even a day’s occurrence-if incubated- could slowly change a person.
In light of this, I feel that parents would achieve much if they focused more on trying to understand why their children act the way they do as opposed to just jumping into conclusions- that they’re only going through a phase -and consequently grounding them or giving punishments…