As I ironed my outfit for today, my niece told me a story about her friend whom they left at school. She had to stay there while the rest of them went home for the two weeks school break because her father was punishing her for hanging out with boys at her former(mixed) school. I am also told that she is one really pretty girl. Clearly, the boys aren’t blind and let’s also keep in mind that she is a teenager. Both boys and girls are human, children of God and destined to start families of their own, they should be shown how to relate with each other, right? I find this punishment unrealistic and rather appalling.
I was not there, and therefore, cannot defend her. I do not even know her name. I probably never will. But honestly, what crime did she commit here? If anything, her father and family should be happy that she is a very desirable young lady and ought to start grooming her on how to respect herself and not fall for the little excitement that comes with being a teenager, especially when boys start hitting on her. They ought to seize the opportunity to teach her how to aim higher in life. It really shocks me why the world is against what God himself created. He did not create male and female for it to be a taboo. We are meant to relate, everyday, because we need each other’s strengths. Intimacy comes in only at a time when we have matured, something our seniors refuse to talk to us about but rather have created such unacceptable beliefs and stereotypes around it. This only builds a surge of curiosity and guess what excites teenagers? That’s right; curiosity. The same parents who lock you up so that you do not relate with friends, especially those of the opposite sex, are the same ones who will harass you if you do not find a spouse as soon as possible. Girls suffer this injustice more.
The boys are, mostly, not held back from relating with girls but they also experience stereotypes connected to this kind of relationship. They are not taught how honorable it is to be in the presence of a woman or how to respect and treat a lady right, and so they do whatever they please, cowardly, behind closed doors. And guess who gets punished? Yes, the girl. The girl is told about what a privilege it is to be desired by a male, and she is told all sorts of things that are exclusively meant to please the male. And the boy? All he knows most of the time, is that the woman is meant to serve him. Boys and girls should be allowed to relate, so that the limits are made clearer for them.
This is worse in schools. Secondary(high) schools especially. I love teachers, and passionately so. My parents are teachers by profession, and they provided for me that way. But visit any secondary school and see how the teachers treat the students. It appears to me sometimes that what they are taught is that the children in your care are the worst of their kind and don’t deserve a shred of inspiration or grooming for the next life. It is in secondary schools, that a headteacher, who ought to be a true leader, will stand in front of a class and call all the kids fools, abusing them till they feel worse than worthless, while at the same time expecting them to excel academically like they are most inspired lot. I remember my high school days vividly. I wasn’t particularly picked on for bad behavior, well, partly because I did my best to steer clear, but it was the most uninspiring phase of my life. I only looked forward to leaving school but with no proper goal to aim for. I was in a mixed school and, therefore, had male friends. After class hours, we would obviously mingle and talk about things teenagers like to talk about. And very naturally too, you will always warm up to a particular individual of the opposite sex. And as if they were never your age, or particularly because they were, the teachers would harass you for being human. They had all the sneaky tricks, praying they would find an unsuspecting couple and pounce on them with all the tiger they had sleeping inside them. They prey on your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, anything on you can be used against you. At least, that’s how the student sees it. And it matters how they see it by the way, because it influences so much about their choices.
What I will never forget, is how much hate you felt in every corner at school. It always felt like the teachers were there not to add value to your life but make it as miserable as it can get. I had friends who were beaten every single day. We had teachers dedicated to spying on your every move. And did you ever notice that they rarely have a good report for your parents or guardians? Even worse if they felt any slight distrust for you from your parent/guardian, they would fuel that fire like their job depended on it. And because of all this, plus I am older and wiser than back then, I do not agree with the whole idea of punishing kids for relating with each other. After all, they live in a shared space called EARTH! If anything, every adult should be dedicated to helping a teenager make it through that phase without major hiccups.
At this point, I want to share a few thoughts on leadership for a parent, teacher or anyone older than a teenager on how I believe we should relate with, work with and groom them in this day and age, where we think they are difficult and/or complicated. What am sharing is based on my own experiences and how I felt about them and especially what I think would have been a better way to relate with my teenage self. Plus all that I have learned from my interactions with parents, students and all the wisdom I have read about parenting. And most importantly, what my faith as a believer in Christ Jesus has inspired in me, as I have teenagers in my care at the moment. Bear in mind that there are extremes but we all think differently. Feel free to disagree with me. But this is what I believe.
“Children are like wet cement, whatever falls on them leaves a mark.” ~ Dr. Haim Ginott
You should be your child’s number one fan, because your their biggest influence. Do not wish they were any different or compare them to someone else’s child or any of their siblings. Do not even compare them to yourself. This does not only kill their self esteem but it cripples them forever in ways you will never foresee and the effects are most evident when they start their adult life. In the workplace, in their relationships and/or marriage. It is visible in the smallest things like a decision about what to wear. There are days one adorns the worst outfit not because they lack a sense of fashion but because they were never encouraged to look their best or were always scolded for trying to look different from others. The results are always disliked by you, as a parent, but truth is, you are only reaping what you sowed.
And the best you can do for your child especially when they become teenagers, is not to suppress them or try to control and oppose their every move and choice. But rather show them that they have your support. At this stage, they are in formation for the adult you will either like or dislike. Let them blossom and create for them an environment where they can express themselves freely, especially to you, so that you can see where to encourage or advise accordingly. But do not impose your beliefs on them. These beliefs may have worked for you but this child is a completely different person, who does not have to be like you but rather themselves. And it is your job to nurture that in them.
Help them realize and release their gifts and talents. Connect them to the people with whom and places where they can be positively inspired and motivated to make the right choices. But even more importantly, do all these for yourself first, for them to learn that there is more to life than just what they see now. It is this vision that will set the bar for them. You can only try to control someone, even a child, when you have nothing better for yourself to do. But if they see that you’re about more than them, especially for yourself, they too will start thinking bigger, beyond where they are now.
Parents have a tendency to pause certain aspects of development in their children’s lives, and unknowingly causing damage. I have experienced this personally and are grateful that I met the right people to set the record straight for me in time. I am talking about preventing your child from participating in extra curricular activities because you think it is disruptive for their academic life. It is not about academics, school is just a stepping stone to where that person will end up and where they end up is determined by the activities they partake in today, in their young life. Be it sports, music, fashion, anything that excites them and motivates them to invest their mind and skills. It is never too early to start. That goes for lessons about money too, let them start making money. Try building a business. This will benefit you more because they will see early enough how hard it is to make the money and will not waste yours. Most parents who complain that their children are ungrateful and do not know how hard it is to raise them, usually have not involved them in how they make a living. And if you don’t know where something comes from, you will abuse it. It is only natural.
Be their first inspiration, their first role model, because your their first mentor, example and life coach. Let it be your goal to show them that life is more than what your given, it is what you create and it is okay to reach beyond the ordinary. Teach them that to be different and more ambitious is more rewarding than settling for the usual. Show them that the best solutions are still unknown and that they should be as innovative as God has gifted them to be. Do not delegate this to anyone else. Your busy schedule is just a lame excuse, no matter how well you try to argue around it. Be there for your children.
Your the second parent, and should aim to be as inspiring as you can be for every single child. One thing a teacher gets wrong, is thinking all children are the same and treating them that way. See each child for who they are and help them accordingly. It may seem like a lot of work, but when they come back to thank you and/or do something unexpected for you, it is the greatest reward you could ever ask for.
You are not teaching them to pass today, you are preparing them to handle tomorrow. So much as you expect the academic results today, help them nurture a vision for tomorrow. And like the parent, invest in your own vision. Read beyond what you teach in class, develop your self as a person and pass it on to them. You have the power to build or destroy a nation, make use use of this golden chance God gave you positively. It doesn’t matter where a child comes from, because if you believe in them, you have changed the world. Who knows if they are the future world leader, huh?
Travel!!!! Please step out of that classroom and see the world. In Uganda, this is something teachers do not do. Your teaching children from wealthier and/or more exposed families. While you stick to the old syllabus, they are visiting the historical sights during holidays and taking note of the changes, and when they challenge you by sharing their experience, you will be angry and hurt the child either physically punishing or emotionally by saying what you could avoided. This only makes them withdraw because they are not sure if it is allowed to contribute. Later in life, it is a major issue because they cannot participate and actively be involved in discussions and decision making, for fear of being wrong.
Have the courage to question the relevance of what you teach. Does it still apply? Would it make a difference for you if you were the student? Lead the reforms in the system, what doesn’t apply should be updated. Why not let it start with with you? Who said you have to stick to the old and obsolete methods when you are smart enough to create new trends?
More will be shared on how you can be a teacher to remember, in one of my next articles.
Elders at large
In this category are the on-lookers who talk and gossip or even worse try to act like the parent they are not. You do not have the right to judge anyone and/or paint a bad picture of them. This is especially the children, the teenagers. Should you notice something wrong a child is doing, call them aside (if they know you too) and advise them accordingly but never get physical. If your first admonishing is ignored, approach the parent. There is a limit. If ignored, you have done your part. Let it go. Do not make it the talk of the town about so and so’s child.
Be one who prays and defends families. Advocate for positive influence in the lives of children. Contribute to a worthy environment to raise teenagers in. Engage parents where you see a gap and encourage them. Some are struggling quietly, which is seen in their children’s behavior. Pay attention and you will see where the problem is and offer a solution or find who can. Teenagers’ behavior is only a mirror of the environment they live in. If you do not like it, address the issue but do not just talk about it in the sidelines.
We all have to come together to build our nation and it begins with your family and the one next door. Work together, you too are inspiring to a certain child. Be the best version of yourself always.
We all want to see everything running smoothly. Systems that work, children who are obedient and leadership that delivers. But it all begins with us, how we respond to calls to duty, respecting the law and our fellow man, and how we live as a family.
How you choose to punish or rewa a child will either draw you closer or far apart as a family. I don’t believe this girl had to literally be disowned to make a point. All she needed was to be shown that there is a better and more respectful way to handle herself at school. And given reasons why, in order to inspire in her the best of discipline and character. I believe she feels hated and rejected and will fall for the first person to make her feel loved. God forbid if it is a selfish man, especially a teacher at that school. I will honestly hate to hear that she was taken advantage of because she wanted to feel loved and cared for.
Love your children unconditionally, not only when they display good behavior or a good report card.