On raising the youth as successful, compassionate citizens
The path for parenting is well-worn, and it is well to recall a mother’s advice to a son in a poem by the American writer from the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967). Titled “Mother to Son”, the poem ran like this:
Mother to son
“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up …
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.”
Charity begins at home
Though the need for worthy nurturing of the youth is as old as Adam, raising the youth properly today is as critical as ever. In a welcome address to the 13th graduation ceremony at Crown Prince Academy, the headmaster Mr. Appiah Addo said, “certificate without values, without charity, without discipline, and without a fellow-feeling attribute, is of no consequence in the eyes of society, family and followers … Charity, it’s said, begins at home. How much can the teachers and the school do, if the home does not complement our effort?”
Headmaster Appiah Addo’s concerns connected me to the following message titled “Wake Up Parents!” making the rounds in cyber space. It went somewhat like this:
When illiterate parents produced professionals
“Years back poor illiterate parents produced Doctors, Engineers, Scientists, Accountants, Professors, whom I will refer to as Group ‘A’. These Group ‘A’ children struggled on their own after Primary 6 or Grade 12, to become notable personalities. Most of them trekked to school barefooted and went to farm or did some work including trading after school to survive.
“Now Group ‘A’, who have now become Parents themselves are producing Group ‘B’ Children who are pampered and helped in their homework or home assignments from nursery school through secondary schools to higher institutions.
“Group ‘B’ children are chauffeur driven to very expensive schools or are sent abroad to study. They can watch movies from morning till dawn or even after school. They are treated like baby kings and queens, they didn’t do any household chores. Food is put on the table for them, their plates are removed and washed by parents or house maids. They are given expensive cars and cloths, not forgetting big pocket monies to be wasted! Their parents help them in doing their assignments. In spite of all these, only few can speak or write correctly.
“Group ‘A’ Parents cared for their own parents and children; Group ‘B’, their children, are still struggling to find their feet at age 30+. They find it difficult to do things on their own because they are used to being helped to think and doing things by Group ‘A’. So they can’t help themselves, their parents or the society. They abandon their parents in their bid to acquire the world..
Stop the pampering
“Where do you belong? Reduce the pampering and the unnecessary help you offer your children. Let your children grow in wisdom, intelligence and strength. Let them face the truth and the realities of life. Teach them to grow to become independent adults. Teach them to fear God, respect others and develop confidence in themselves. Parents, discipline your children to become disciplined adults, useful and not useless.”
The dangers of “affluenza”
In line with the above message, the case of the two brothers – from Beverly Hills, California, in 1989 – who shot their parents dead in the bedroom comes to mind. These were rich kids from rich parents that pampered them to death with their own tennis court, private swimming pool, fancy cars, swankie Armani type clothes, ritzy vacations, and the various trappings of the easy life. They never had to work a proper day in their lives nor encouraged to do so.
Afflicted by a rich disease which a news magazine called “Affluenza”, the boys wanted more: they wanted the parents dead so they could inherit the $14 million Beverly Hills estate. The results were the “grisliest death photographs” from the murder trial that ensued.
Tips for quality parenting
It’s all in how we raise children: so let me end with the following tips from my years in the U.S. and Ghana teaching both poor and rich students:
- Assertive teaching boosts the self-esteem of the youth. If they believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish and earn on their own.
- Enlightened teaching embodies the elements of spirituality – not the religious or the dogmatic kind – but in the area where we experience honesty, beauty, compassion, clarity of thought, a sense of purpose, and lifelong learning. Such qualities are available to everyone no matter the religion.
- Good teaching is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so enlightening that everyone wants to meet the challenges head on.
- If the highest aim of teaching were to preserve the youth from their curiosities and mistakes, then they’d be kept at home forever.
- Teaching is at its best when the pupils say that they worked at their successes by themselves.
- Delayed gratification shows the habits of mind that shape character and personal leadership which in turn shape destiny.