More than two decades ago, John King sang a song How many more? This melodious piece questioned the senseless violence that, at the time, was flooding our streets with blood and inscribing fear on the hearts of the people. We still have no answer to that question. However, I had a very troubling experience a few days ago which might not be the answer to the question but is a clarion call for an expeditious solution.
On my way home late in the evening a few days ago I stopped at a little mini-mart to pick up an item I had forgotten earlier. As I waited my turn, there were a few other persons in the store. Those purchasing lottery tickets and those like myself getting small items chatted as though they were familiar with each other. The conversation was not specific, and it definitely was not the place I expected to have one of the worst experiences of my life.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement which caused me to look around to see four little boys of primary school age enter the mini-mart. As they walked behind, my maternal instinct kicked in and I knew they were up to no good. Were they going to try shoplifting or maybe deploy ‘stink bombs’ which seems to be the rage nowadays?
One of the four boys who incidentally was not the ringleader asked the gentleman ahead of me whether he had any money. ‘Wha you want money for?’ came the gentleman’s reply. The child responded that he wanted ice-cream, and he was granted permission to get one. The next words I heard sent a hair-raising chill through my body. The ringleader had a toy gun in his hands and as he was walking away from the counter audibly said, ‘It’s time to get robbed’.
Did I hear correctly? No, it could not have been true that those words escaped the lips of a little boy. It happened so quickly. No sooner had the words hit the floor, he was chided by one of the adults in the store and he rounded up his gang of followers with the words, ‘Come men, leh we leff’ and exited the store.
As I replayed the incident in my mind over the next few minutes, I heard the cashier sadly remark, ‘There goes the future of this community.’ My heart dropped because she was correct. He represented the future and although he was just one little boy, he was one little boy too many already deeply entrenched in activities which forecast a tumultuous existence.
Some might ask why I said nothing, because that is a big problem here in recent times. The truth is by the time what he said had registered he was already heading out the door. We live in a society where fear of being spoken to by an adult has been replaced by gross disrespect for any figure of authority. We have sought to understand our children, and to make life easier for them than it was for us. And we are reaping a generation of entitled, disrespectful and callous human beings.
I firmly believe that straying away from the principles of child-rearing as outlined in the Holy Bible has caused us as parents much grief and heartache. I am sure that there are children who were raised by God-fearing parents who turned out to be hell-raisers. However, the vast majority of my contemporaries say that it is those lessons they learned in church and the discipline they had at home that shaped them into the men and women they are today.
Years ago, I sat under a Pastor who remarked that the time was coming when there would be students to be taught but no teachers to teach them. At the time, his words went over many ahead. He prophesied correctly because teachers now have to spend their time managing classrooms, stopping fights, confiscating contraband, interrupting acts of coitus on school premises and the list of transgressions is long and worrisome.
Experts say that by the time your child is 15 months, he or she can understand simple commands such as ‘Stop!’ and ‘Come here’. By the time the child is three years old, he or she can understand two-step commands such as ‘Come inside and take off your shoes’. It is in these formative years that the foundations are laid, behaviour patterns are concretised and the man or woman that child will become has already been created to a large extent.
As challenging as parenting is, it is a worthwhile venture. Our children, sadly, do not come with a specific model manual, but it is through spending quality time with them that we can impart those values which we know will steer them in the right direction. Our children are far from perfect, and we as parents are even further from that elusive height. However, there is no excuse for not making the effort to raise an outstanding citizen.
Whilst our children might enjoy the presents we give to them, from my own experiences with our children, I have discovered they prefer our presence. They want to be ‘up under us’ not in the sense that they need to be coddled but they just want to cuddle up and be near. Many nights I have balanced on the edge of the bed because our children have snuck into our bed.
They have taught me some valuable life lessons about not having different standards for each family member. Thus, if the table must be cleared after eating, even though I am the mother, I must also remove my wares after eating. As simple as it seems, it sets a standard.
This is what our children need – clear rules and standards with consequences for not obeying and conversely, rewards for doing the right things at the right time. They need us to be good examples, not persons who abuse the power of authority. Most of all, they need to know and believe that they are truly loved for the special gifts they are.
(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:[email protected])