Caregivers: failures who bring up our kids

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Juvenile delinquency, truancy, out of control children, and child abuses are on the rise in our society.

It is an open secret that we are slowly failing to control our kids. Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant among our teens and so is prostitution.

We are living in an era where early pregnancies and sexual abuse of children as young as five years old are common. Where exactly are we getting it wrong?

In my opinion, parental guidance and control are falling away from our grip.

The socio-economic situation that we now have, where both men and women have taken the right to be employed including self employment, has pushed fathers and mothers far away from their children especially at prime times that they are supposed to keep a close eye on the development of their children.

Parents are spending long hours, sometimes days, months, even years (Diaspora) in search of the US dollar.

This has created a guidance gap in the family as no father nor mother is available when needed most, especially during prime time to teach and develop morals, principles and positive personalities in our children. Fathers and mothers have become just figureheads.

Our children are left in the hands of caregivers such as house maids, gardeners and relatives. These people have very little stake, if any, in the positive upbringing of our kids.

When picking these caregivers, we usually tend to take those with very little ambition especially those who have failed in marriage, academics and/or professionally.

We are entrusting the future of our children in these people. Unfortunately, what happens to be the most destructive part of it is that our children are aware of the limitations, shortcomings, quality and positions of these people in society and in their lives.

They despise them in our absence and sometimes refuse to take instructions from them, telling them point blank what they are (caregivers).

In the end, our children will not know where to draw the line in terms of behaviour, morality and discipline. Sadly, they take this with them beyond the boundaries of the family home and well into adulthood.

When parents finally come home after long hours away from home, they come with a sense of guilt for being away from the children for a long time.

Priority and attention is focused on showing the kids how much they love and care for them, treating them as young adults and pampering them with gifts and pizzas.

They play down any reports of mischievousness or misconduct by the children. In the end, no corrective action is given.

The caregivers “resign” saying: “what do I lose anyway”. We are therefore left with spoiled and highly undisciplined children.

Coming to abuses of children by caregivers, I mentioned earlier on that children tend to develop very little respect for them on one end but, however, tend to feel more comfortable in their company as they (caregivers), usually protect and show them more affection.

It has become very common to see children playing in the gardeners’ or maids’ rooms. In some desperate situations the caregivers share the same room with the children.

Since children take the caregivers as their peers and there is no father or mother’s instruction on dos and don’ts, they can easily abuse the children for months or years without the abuse coming to light.

Some of the abuses, especially on the boy child, may never be noticed.

They use persuasion as opposed to threats when they abuse the children since they rarely (children) suspect anything amiss because of the relationship between the two, with infants not even aware that they are being abused.

When we grew up we were taught not to accept food from anyone outside our home.

Today, very few parents are teaching their children this and they end up being abused by those who lure them with sweets and other goodies.

In the end, we wonder why and how our children become short tempered, aggressive and abusive when they become adults.

In order to correct this we need to weigh the benefits of materials acquired while working away from the children against the positive upbringing of our children morally with acceptable principles, manners and personalities.

The father and mother should revisit their set-up in order to come up with something that does not compromise their role as directors and developers of their own children.

I know the capable wife in Proverbs 31 is an inspiration to a lot of women. Although she was a “hard worker, strong and industrious”, she never surrendered her responsibilities in upbringing and nurturing a family that was an envy to the society around her, her husband and children.

Let’s create an environment that allows mothers to do the same.

On discipline, let’s not spare the rod as we will spoil our children. The 12th wise saying in Proverbs 23 vs 13 says: “Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them. As a matter of fact, it may save their lives”.

This is supported by our statutes as section 7 (6) of the Children’s Act says: “Nothing in this section shall be constructed as derogating from the right of any parent or guardian of any child or young person to administer reasonable punishment to such child or young person.”

We make what our children are and what they will be in future. Before we rush to grab the dollar, let’s give a thought about the person they will grow into.

Fred I Misi is the chairman of Varume Svinurai/Vhukani Madoda Men’s Forum Trust. This article is written in his personal capacity.