A product of their upbringing

2008-01-29 00:00

The law that allows children (as young as 12 years of age) to decide whether to use contraceptives or abort without their parents' consent, and the one against battering of children, are highly debated issues and have caused many people to blame democracy as the major cause of Òuncontrollable childrenÓ.

A child is not born bad or defiant, lazy, rude or disrespectful but becomes so as a result of circumstances which come his or her way. Where there is no parental guidance within the family structure, children could easily find themselves plunging into a world of confusion or in the company of human beings who behave in an atavistic fashion.

We all know that charity begins at home, but many parents are not strong enough to deal with their children's odd behaviour and, in many cases, are in fact the cause of their children's undesirable conduct. They do not prepare them in early childhood to be well-mannered, responsible adults in the future. It is in this light that one can understand that upbringing plays a major role in the way people behave.

Children act otherwise as a result of the following circumstances.

* Abuse. This comes in different forms - emotional, verbal and physical abuse - and is the most common element that has a negative effect on children. Take, for instance, a husband who frequently beats his wife in front of his son, who, in his simple mind, thinks his father is on the right track. He is likely to ill-treat his own wife when he is a married man one day. So abuse becomes a cycle from one generation to the next as a consequence of the situation in which the abusive husband grew up. On the other hand, the mother who harshly disciplines her teenager by whipping him or her with an iron cord, for example (over petty things such as spilt milk on the couch), to the extent that the child cries in utter misery: ÒI hate youÓ, is definitely being abusive and suggests that the mother herself might have had an abusive upbringing. And as a matter of fact, children who are exposed to abuse become extremely cheeky or rude as there is less communication in the home but more physical punishment.

* Permissive discipline. In this case children are allowed to do as they please. The child is spoilt and does not achieve independence. I remember one of those horrifying cases, which took place in the predemocratic South Africa. A childhood friend of mine grew up in a household where everything was readily available.

His parents owned a fleet of cars and so he learnt to drive at a very young age (probably at 14). Among the cars were a Mercedes Benz, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Mazda 323 and a Nissan 4x4. Whenever my friend wanted a ride, his father would freely give him the red Nissan 4x4 and we would cruise around the Mdantsane township, which is in the Eastern Cape a few kilometres outside East London. But one day it was not business as usual. He wanted to borrow the Merc this time around to impress his girlfriend, but his father refused. He became so furious at his father that he took his father's revolver and shot himself in the face and died there and then. This matter of negligence is still relevant today.

What most parents don't realise is that it is not the relationship between the parent and child that is important, but how the parent and child perceive it, and that a child's exemplary character measures the value of a real parent.

To my understanding, parents are leaders and the child is the disciple who learns from them, so I totally disagree with those parents who blame democracy for children who are not conforming to socially accepted standards. The problem lies in the fact that children are misguided by their parents' actions.

Parents have to take a good look at themselves first before crushing democracy.

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