Alex Tabisher writes that much of what children do and where they end up could be laid at the feet of parents. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)
Alex Tabisher writes that much of what children do and where they end up could be laid at the feet of parents. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)

Our children are suffering from poor parenting

By Alex Tabisher Time of article published Jun 3, 2021

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My topic is children. Many projects world-wide try to empower children to deal with the disastrously damaged world they have inherited from us.

Although these programmes deserve recognition, and all the support they can get, they do not come near a feasible solution.

Much of what children do and where they end up could be laid at the feet of parents (willing and accidental, present and absent, real or surrogate).

I can almost hear the gasp of “How dare he”, but bear with me. This is not a flagellation of parents, but a realistic look at where we sometimes fall short of the requirements of parenthood.

It’s an accepted truth that no child asks to come into the world. Those who are planned are lucky, while those who are not planned start life with a mountain to climb. Parents need not see this as an indictment that is insensitive towards reality.

Far be it from for me to remind parents of the faith-based injunctions that help guide us in our roles of mentors. The Qur’an and Holy Bible remind us of our duties towards children.

One of the child’s greatest assets that he inherits at birth is the uncontested adult intervention that is necessary for his development.

When we start there, we can itemise a catalogue of realities that militate against this. Parents have to work to provide hearth and home. Many parents carry the sad appellation “single”.

In marriage, the abiding experience for the child is more often violence than expressions of love and cohesion. Marriages end in divorce and psychic laceration for the victims. When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

Parents who do not “achieve” the required success are victims of uncaring governments. Legislation for the welfare of children, for example the return to school in full cohorts, is designed to make ill-informed Ministers of Education look good.

Going outside institutional care, which includes the home, church, school, social club and so forth, we encounter the proliferation of gangs. Like the despicable colonialist strategy of using the soft underbelly of religion to undermine family and national life, gangs cunningly home in on conditions where parents fail without meaning to.

Gangs offer irresistible “rewards” which parents cannot match. And the Constitution about which we boast with such muscularity enshrines the rights of children, which, sadly, exclude discipline from adults. What kind of madness lies in that?

Many projects are launched where children are pushed to the forefront to combat gangsterism and the concomitant defiance of parental or faith-based intervention. This underlines the toothlessness of the police, the lack of a national moral template, and dubious machinations of a Department of Education that still has us hanging on to OBE (Outcomes-Based Education).

I don’t have the space for all the arenas where parents are falling short. Consider the age-old injunction to “condomise”, and yet the scourge of unwanted pregnancies is still as widespread as ever. The same with wearing of masks. And television finds it necessary to build a “parental-control” facility to protect the child’s morals without even considering not screening the filth (violence, blatant sex, homophobia, wars, drought, famine).

Young children are required to mentor siblings when HIV, Aids or coronavirus decimate a family.

The child has adult responsibilities without the necessary life experience of first just being a child. Perhaps that is what (poet William) Wordsworth meant (unintentionally perhaps) by “the Child is father to the Man” in his sonnet My heart Leaps Up.

Perhaps we should revisit legislation, facilities and role-assignment when it comes to our children. We should not play the blame game, but try to block the leaks in our moral armour.

When we fail our children, we destroy our future.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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