The Star (Nairobi)

5 January 2013

Kenya: Raising Today's Kids

Kids are the most adorable beings I have ever come across. Many have been quoted saying they got their first kid and that this changed their lives.

I am a guy and at the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, sometimes I just meet a cute little baby, say in church, and find myself in love, lost in the way they live, not knowing life even as they lead it but still making it look so simple.

And then there are those that make you want to blow your brains out, those that will scream at the top of their tiny and yet surprisingly capable lungs just when everyone is silent for the grace, and make you question why your hearing is so good at your age.

I was recently dragged out of my house on a Sunday afternoon by my visiting fiancé who felt that my house needed more supplies and that I should cook my own food more often.

But I must say that I'm quite happy eating junk food, waking up hungry in the middle of the night and scratching myself all the way to the kitchen, the only thought in my mind, an image of what's in the fridge, and what I wish was there. I think I can survive anywhere as long as I get to bring my fridge with me.

So at the supermarket checkout line, there is this little boy who apparently wants some candy but the mum declines to oblige, and moments later has everyone wanting to buy him the candy, just to bring back peace on earth.

He picks the mum's shopping off the cart and throws it to people and the mum is clearly overwhelmed. For someone who loves kids, my attention is drawn and I wish everyone would just look away for a moment, just a little while so I could spank the spirits out of this little boy!

The world has changed since our childhood days and different people feel differently about how kids should be raised, those that will not spare the rod and others that believe that kids should not be beaten.

Jackie, a mother of two and a practicing lawyer feels that the child today has been given too much room to misbehave and bite the hand that feeds him, not by the law, but the society and parents.

"If you as much as you spank your child in public, people give you funny glances like you are an unfit mother or like you do not love your child; that wouldn't stop me though, if my kid misbehaves in public, then he will be punished in public. He will get a beating right there and then so that in future he knows how to express his dissatisfaction like a human being," says Jackie.

Tony, a primary school teacher in Nairobi feels that a child's behaviour reflects on the parents and that they'll behave in a certain way because it is acceptable to the person raising them.

If a child has been taught that doing certain things is unacceptable and that doing it will cause them to be punished, they will not do it, at least not in the presence of the parents.

"I always wonder how your child can do certain things in your presence and you just watch. A child sees a stranger eating some ice cream and demands to have it, raising dust until the stranger is forced to oblige out of shame; that child is nothing short of spoilt and needs a thorough beating! Back in the day when we were children, if your neighbour offered you food in the presence of your mother, you had to steal a glance at her and read her facial expression, and only then would you know if to accept or not. I remember some instances when we were offered food and my mum would politely decline, saying that we had just eaten. I'd just swallow a hard lump of saliva and stay silent knowing very well that we had not eaten anything," explains Tony.

Angela, a finance officer at one of the local firms in town feels that beating up your kids is not the solution and that it only makes them fear instead of respecting you.

"It is important to teach your kids what is right or wrong but beating them up is not the solution. Punishing your kids by beating them up will only make them fear you and they will often suffer in silence with things they are supposed to talk to you about. There are other forms of punishment that you can impose on them without getting physical, like withdrawing something they love. Some of us were beaten and we ended up resenting our parents for that, I do not want the same with my kids," Angela explains.

According to Patrick, a medical practitioner, no one should tell a parent how to raise their kids or criticise them for raising the kids in a certain way.

"I do not beat up my kids, not because anyone says that it's bad or because I have to follow some trend, but because I believe that instilling pain is not the cultured way to teach your kids what is wrong and right. If we beat our children and allow their teachers to do the same, where do you draw the line between disciplining and hurting them? We have heard stories of teachers who have beaten children senseless in the name of disciplining them," Patrick explains.

"How do I tell the teachers not to beat my kid if I am doing it myself? If you beat them at home, then you must allow them to be beaten whenever and wherever they misbehave and by anybody."

We have heard the arguments; spare the rod and spoil the child, beating your kids is inhuman and primitive and is not the right way to instill discipline, etc.

Well, the truth is, the kid is yours, no one really cares how you do it but please ensure that outside your home they have some discipline and respect other people, their property and feelings. If your kid is causing everyone a headache and you are waiting to get home to give him a time out or ground him, I will volunteer any day to get a 2 by 4 inch PVC pipe and make him cling to the wall like a spider, and to make it even better, I won't charge you a cent, unlike the thousands of shillings you will spend taking them to see a therapist!

Most if not all of us were beaten up by our parents and we turned out fine. The beauty of it is; by the time your kids get to an age when you can no longer beat them, the world will easily take over and whack them every time they mess up, and if you did not beat them when you could, they will blame you for not having done it because life does not give anyone a time out, it smacks the lights out of you and just when you gather enough strength to stand up, it will gladly give you another blow, until you have fully paid for all those times you were not beaten as a child!

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