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Edward Serfontein
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Family Values

23 December 2013, 09:49

Most crimes in South Africa, if you were to trace their origins, will ultimately lead to the absence of good family values or the absence of a family altogether. When I say “family values”, I’m not using it as a replacement for “Christian values” but I’m using it in a general sense: Each person is born of a father and mother and some have siblings. Within this family there will be interaction. Regardless of their race, creed, religion, traditions or circumstances certain values will be drawn from those interactions and experiences.

Allow me to just touch on some of the issues without adding any detail.

It appears to me that as each generation passes, the urgency and importance of a close knit family declines, but it’s only my opinion, not a fact. More children are raised without a father or mother or sometimes they grow up without either. Firstly, it’s easier these days for a married couple to get divorced for the sake of their own happiness, not considering the effect it will have on their children. I won’t say they don’t have valid reasons – they probably do – but whatever the reason, it WILL affect the children neither here nor there. There are values that a mother can teach best, and then there are values best taught by a father - then finally, there are values taught best by a mother and father as one unit. The absence of one of the two limits the child’s value system (if ever there was such a word).  Secondly, a young woman would get pregnant from her boyfriend who had no intentions of getting married (more often than not, she’s pregnant by “accident”). He is not prepared to be a father so, he flees. Note, they were just dating so; he’s not really bound to her. Even in the event that he will stick around to raise his son/daughter, chances are, he’d find a new girlfriend. With the new girlfriend in the picture, the relationship between the mother and father, the mother and girlfriend, and the father and girlfriend becomes more complex. There are now new dynamics to which the child is exposed to. Ultimately, this too can affect the child’s emotional growth.

I remember the first time I ever saw my parents argue. I was 13 years old. Of all the fond memories I have of my childhood, this one sticks out above all the others. If my memory had skin, the experience would be like a branding iron that left a mark that can never be forgotten. I remember the details of that day with unusual clarity. I assume, because we never saw our parents argue before, the experience was shocking to the extent that it was traumatic. Years later after becoming a husband and a father, one horrific night, my wife and I were in a heated argument. We were so caught up that we didn’t notice little Claire on the floor watching us shout at each other. Tears were running down her cheeks, her lower lip was trembling and she was crying so hard. I picked her up, and as I did, I could feel her body trembling. I held her tight and said sorry, but she hit me with her little hand in my face, because she was very angry with me. I was shouting at her mother and that struck fear in her. She thought her mother was in grave danger. She thought I was a threat.  Whenever I think of that night, I feel ashamed because I know how horrible it must have been for her. I then vowed that it will never happen again that I argue with my wife in Claire’s presence.

Now, look at the effect on a child when they witness an argument. Imagine what happens inside a child that sees its mother being beaten by her husband . . . on a daily basis. Is it possible that this child will be an abuser two? What about the child that is far too used to seeing its mother belittling her husband, emotionally abusing him . . . on a daily basis. Imagine the child that lives with an alcoholic mother , father or sibling. These are all factors that will scar the child for life. This is the place where the child is taught how to interact with society, the family.

There are many family values that are critical to any person’s growth or development. One of them is security (or the feeling of belonging). If you come from a supportive family, you’d go out into the world with your head held high because your family assured you that you can achieve anything you want in life. Even if you don’t, they’d be there to catch you when you fall. This sense of security is important for anyone. Being confident makes you more willing to try. When you’re more willing to try, you are apt to succeed. You’re not afraid because your family is in your corner. Your last resort would be your family, not crime or other bad practices

There are values like “being a team player”. The family members in a healthy family setup learn to live together. You learn to work with others to maintain a goal as a collective. Family members are helpful towards each other. If that’s how you grew up, then it’s probably the type of South African citizen you’ll be. You’ll be able to perceive your community as your family and act/react accordingly. You learn not to harm others or their possessions because they’re part of the team.

Still, there is a long list of values that you may want to add. I can’t go through all of them but I take it you get the point. Families are the building blocks of a nation. You can picture a family as a brick and the nation as a wall. If you build the wall with skew or deformed bricks, your wall won’t be as stable as you’d want it to be. As a parent, I should do no less then teach my daughters how to be constructive contributors to this country. I do it by raising them in a healthy home. Charity starts at home, they say.

Side-note: How ludicrous is that Nkandla report??

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