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Somewhere, sometime, someday, somehow, you'll find them

- Danielle Steel, Bittersweet.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Policy and Ideas: The Danger of Raising Delinquent Children

I am 35 years old. I have no children. But I have 3 nieces and 4 nephews.

Today, three students from Stephjoy Boys Secondary School in Limuru will be facing murder charges  at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi.
Very unfortunate whichever way you look at it.

The issue of High School students smoking weed and fornicating recklessly is not new. Consider the following video from 2013.

I was therefore not surprised by the following news report of what happened on the Karatina-Nairobi highway. This one involved students from several schools, all in one bus. Even the free-love hippies in the 60s wouldn't have nothing on these kids!

And neither am I surprised by this video of a spoilt brat.

None of this is new. It was happening when I was in High School in the late 90s. And many years before. The only difference is that we have a more vocal population thanks to social media.

But my lack of surprise does not in any way mean that I condone such wanton indiscipline.
Sad as it is, we need to look again at ourselves as a society and once we point out what the problem really is, actually seek a viable and lasting solution.

I have started this post by declaring that I am not a parent. And I won't be one anytime soon. The reason is that many a reader will be quick to remind me that I can only relate with the intricacies of parenting by being a parent. I beg to differ.
I do have my own ideas how kids should be brought up. Not perfect or exhaustive and I do stand to be corrected, but I believe my input does count. Just as yours does. Now let's get right to it.

Irresponsible Parenting

The main culprits in this mess are the parents. In this day and age, we have many parents who never have time for their offspring, given that they are too busy building careers and making money. For these same kids.

The assumption that money can be used to evade responsibility and parental roles is a flawed one. At home, the house-help is left in charge. At school,the teacher is assumed to be in charge.
This excuse that a parent has no time because he or she is out there making money so as to give the child a good life is in fact self defeating. Why make so much money, only to use it raising an irresponsible sex maniac, drug addict and spoilt brat who will most likely become a criminal in early adulthood?

If you ask me, I would rather teach my child to be responsible from an early age, than leave him or her millions which they will have no idea or agenda for, and end up wasting it all. The pursuit of money and other material possessions should never be a higher priority than parenting.

A good number are not good role models. They expect their kids to hear and see evil, but not do evil. They fail to realize that monkey-see, monkey-do is especially true when it comes to kids. Which brings us to the next point...

Children are Impressionable

Adults, and especially parents have a very big influence on our children.
At their age, children cannot, and are not expected to make mature and informed decisions about a good number of things.

That is  why young girls are under the false impression that Rihanna, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and other musicians are always dressed in skimpy bikinis. They lack the presence of mind to realize that these are merely costumes which are worn only when shooting music videos.

It is for this reason that there are laws that put the interests of children first, even when they go wrong. As a minor, one cannot be fully and legally held responsible for some actions. In the same vein, a minor should not be accorded unfettered freedom to do as he or she wishes.

Children should be molded and trained in socially acceptable ways. And duly reprimanded when they go wrong, given they are at a formative age. On their own, they cannot make responsible decisions on some matters such as sexuality and use of mood altering substances. And teenage years are the most risky, given the instability in judgment that is occasioned by hormones and undue peer influence.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."
- Proverbs 22:6

Sometimes, I look at how some young "modern" parents dress in the presence of their kids, and cannot help but feel aggrieved on behalf of their unfortunate kids. We grew up with mothers, aunties and ladies who were, and still are always decently dressed.

But then again, there is #MyDressMyChoice. Just look at how "elegant" Maria Elena Boschi's blue outfit and heels were at her swearing in...
Oops, this is the more politically-correct photo, thanks to PhotoShop.

Sensibilities and Too much Freedom

Today, guys are always waiting to pounce on anybody who says or does something that goes against the grain or contrary to popular sentiment. Apparently, almost every social ill can be excused on the basis of "don't judge", "you don't know their story", "you cannot understand their struggle", "it's none of your business" ...and other shenanigans.

Our indifference to the social ills flourishing all around us will be our undoing, and much sooner than later.

Woe unto you if you try to discipline a kid that you have not given birth to. Communal disciplining that we grew up with is no longer entertained, thanks to a society that has offered children unlimited liberties.

People are not wiling to listen, take suggestions or be advised. Should you do this, you are accused of judging or offering unsolicited advice. In this day and age, one should just watch and keep their mouth shut.
And wait for that same teenage to later break into your house with an AK-47 or carjack you as you drive home from work.

I submit that even inalienable rights should have limits. This is for the simple reason that a child's age and limited experience does not adequately equip them to handle unlimited freedom. If anything, they only abuse it. You cannot let your children roam around with no restrictions and not expect trouble.

Give children all the freedom they want at your peril. Believe you me, they cannot responsibly handle endless freedom without messing up.

Modern Truth in Old Wisdom

We claim to be modern in all our ways. At times, we even frown upon the wisdom of our aged parents.

What we have witnessed so far in our schools is not a new phenomenon. As outlined above, it seems like a big deal only because the incidents are more visible both in the mainstream media and on social networks. More reporting, more sharing and enhanced dialogue.

But there is a key advantage in this increased publicity.
We can make the most of it by having a useful, topical conversation. First, individual reflection for those among us who are adults and have a role to play in raising the next generation. My nieces and nephews surely pick up some character traits from me. The kids in the neighborhood too.

Next, and especially for the parents among us, we owe it to our children not millions in the bank, a good education or tracts of land. No need leaving lots of material things or an education to irresponsible brats.
Good upbringing will be more beneficial than all the material things you spend all your time pursuing, such that you have no time to spend with your kids. Leave them a legacy and they will make all that money and more on their own, be responsible members of society and responsibly treat other persons and things.

Ever wondered why Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have publicly said they won't leave all their billions to their sons and daughters?
They are instead leaving them a legacy.

Children too, need to do their part

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
- Ephesians 6:1-4

Finally, parents can only do so much. The children too, have a role to play.

* * *

There is this song that I always play for fathers, including my own on Fathers Day. Mostly, I listen to the beautiful rendition by Leigh Nash.
Here is the original father and son by Cat Stevens, for you:

And before you accuse me of being sexist, here is John Mayer's Daughters.
Let us bring up responsible young adults, that would be an enduring legacy to future generations.