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Our children, our heritage; don't give up on them

Mon, 30 May 2016 Source: Eyiah, Joseph Kingsley

I have been prompted to address the issue of parents who give up on their children by a motivational speech given recently by Francis Atta, a Ghanaian youth in Toronto at my school’s Appreciation Day for the parents and the community of Jane/Finch area in Toronto. Francis Atta grew up in the challenging neighborhood of Jane/Finch. He fell into trouble with the law but he was able to make a complete U-Turn in life with the support of his parents. Atta was able to combine his academic work with sports (basketball) which he is so good at to turn his embarrassing marks of 25% in High School to outstanding marks of 80% in College. He thanked his parents for supporting him with such a balance in his life. Francis Atta at College has already authored a book-The Flip-“This book will change the relationship with your child from negative to positive!”

During his speech, Francis Atta made a remarkable comment that resonated with all parents present at the function. He said, “my parents never gave up on me!” He had 14 brothers and sisters growing up with a single father, yet the parents sacrificed for them and pushed them with ‘tough love’ to success!

The Good book says children are a blessing to parents. Undoubtedly, children are our heritage. They are the future leaders of our families, communities and nations. For example, Nana Kwaku Duah who was once a child is now the Asantehene under the stool name of Nana Osei Tutu II. Who thought that “Paa” Kofi Annan who was once “roaming the streets of Ghana” as a child would become the “President of the World” ( the Secretary-General of the United Nations) that he became some years ago. It is imperative therefore that we identify, talk about and take action on any factors which put our children at risk.

I will like to share with readers some of my experiences as a parent, an educator and as a research fellow working with and for children both in Ghana and Canada. Since 1990 I have been investigating and writing on the plight of children in Ghana. This endeavor won me a national media award on children in 1993 from the Ghana National Commission on Children. I came to Canada in 1996 and I have had the opportunity to visit other cities in North America. They include London-Ontario, Montreal, New York, Detroit, Buffalo and Chicago. It is with this background and experience that I initiate a discourse here on the problem of parenting, especially in our Ghanaian communities abroad. Many Ghanaian parents in the Western world have been ‘forced’ to leave ‘parenting’ with their older kids due to the ‘pressure’ of working all day and all night to put food on the table for our families. Or is it child neglect-seeking wealth at the expense of parenting?

Could it be argued that parents and society at large put children at risk? Is parenting poor in our communities due the system of child disciple in the Western world where we now live? Are kids, infested with what I call “neo-culturalism,” drifting away from good parenting? In fact, there are more questions than answers. I will like to note here the efforts being made by some churches in our Ghanaian communities to guide and counsel their youth against waywardness. Their efforts should be commended.

Also, the Ghanaian Canadian Association of Ontario (GCAO) as an umbrella community organization in Toronto-Canada is organizing a Youth Summit this June for the children/youth in the Toronto Ghanaian community to assist our young ones to find their pathways to success! The GCAO has already put in place a Homework Club and Mentoring for our children every Sunday at 10 Belfield Road in Toronto. Many are benefitting from the program. I encourage Ghanaian parents to ensure that their children take advantage of such community initiatives.

As parent, what will be your answer to the question: Where did you get your degree to be a parent? To many this question may sound unreasonable or even crazy! However, wait a minute and carefully ponder over the question and you will agree with Lucio Padilla, an experienced speaker on preventive discipline in the California school district, that, “The most important task of a human being is raising our children, and yet we do not prepare ourselves for it. We get degrees as lawyers, doctors, accountants, managers but rarely to become parents.”

Parenting Styles:

It must be noted that each family has its own strategy or way of raising its children. That is called a parenting style where the family psychologically constructs, plans and excutes. Each style has its own positives and negatives.

Let us briefly examine the authoritative parenting style. This is usually characterized as having high expectations of obedience to rules, order, and directions. Directions can be a discussion between a child and a parent about the certain types of rules and behaviors allowed, giving it a more child centered approach. These types of guidelines and rules are usually clear and fair along with flexibility to the situation and the age of the child. They tend to be clear and consistent with the rules, and respecting the relationship parents have with their children as a two-way relationship. Authoritative parents try to encourage their children to be independent and to do things by themselves for themselves in an obedient way. Thus, the parents’ way! You hear such parents usually say, “it is either my way or no way at all”.

Another style is the permissive parenting. This style of parenting has been described as ‘a misnomer, since it is not really about parenting at all’. It is really about self-esteem: the child's self-esteem is supposedly boosted by allowing him/her freedom, and the parent's self-esteem is boosted by the fact that the child likes him or her. Permissive parenting, although usually done in love, is not good for the parents or the children. God gives us children to nurture, love, and raise, and setting boundaries and making rules is part of raising children who will be happy, healthy and well-adjusted adults. You hear parents of this style usually say, “allow the child, s/he will know and do better when s/he grows up”. In essence, there is nothing wrong with being permissive sometimes. You want your child to enjoy his/her childhood, and you also want him/her to know you trust that he/she will make good decisions. However, s/he must earn your trust before you exude lenience. I must point out here that being a permissive parent is just as bad as being a parent who is too strict. All may seem fine when your children are small, but they will suffer the repercussions when they grow older.

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It has been argued that, “there are a few advantages to permissive-style parenting over authoritative-style parenting, but overall, the best style is a balance between those two extremes.”

Balanced-style parenting combines the best of permissive and authoritative all into one moderate and level-headed parenting strategy. Children need boundaries, but it is equally important that they know how to think for themselves and weigh the pros and cons of situations independently. Parents are not supposed to be their child’s best friend, but they also are not supposed to be their child’s worst nightmare, and that is why finding the right balance between permissive and authoritative parenting styles is essential to raising a well-balanced and responsible child.

Research has shown that behavior problems are most noticeable in children during the middle school grades when students are going through a difficult developmental stage, “early adolescence”. This is a time of significant biological changes along with social transition characterized by daring behaviors. During this stage, many dangerous behavior patterns can develop in many adolescents. For many students, middle grades represent the last chance to develop a sense of academic purpose and personal commitment to educational goals. Those who fail at the middle grades often drop out of school and may lose the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.

My personal philosophy as a parent and an educator is based on the fact that the greatest arm of education is not knowledge but action. Though it is good to have knowledge, the knowledge fails to ‘serve’ humankind if it is not put into action.

As parents we need to put our knowledge in child upbringing into action to save our kids from waywardness. The home could be likened to a greenhouse where children grow to their fullest potential under the care of wise and patient gardener. We are like the gardener who nurturers each plant in the greenhouse to come to flower as the Creator has endowed it. “Train up a child in the way he should go....” Proverbs 22:6. DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR CHILDREN!

Columnist: Eyiah, Joseph Kingsley