Of Proverbs and Parenting

I grew up surrounded by proverbs because in everyday conversations the older people in my family, especially my maternal grandmother, used sayings to enrich their everyday speech. Over the years, I’ve picked up my own favourite proverbs, which can be applied to parenting. What follows are translations from my indigenous African language.

A child that never cries soon dies in the crib.
This saying is rarely used literally; rather it’s used to convey the idea that if you are too embarrassed or proud to ask for help, the challenges you face will overwhelm you. The lesson? Superwoman doesn’t exist, it’s okay for a mother to cry for help, everyone needs a break now and then.

Taking this proverb literally, if you had a remote control over your baby would you press ‘mute’ so that you would never hear her crying? Of course not! Why? If babies never cried they wouldn’t communicate to us that they are wet, cold or hungry. Thank goodness for this (at times irritating) inborn alarm, even a day-old child can communicate. What a sobering thought for those of us who get annoyed by a baby’s piercing shriek.
A kid eats whatever mother goat eats.
Sounds too obvious, doesn’t it? Have you noticed your child adopting unhealthy eating habits? Let us point fingers. Look around in the fridge. Check the pantry. What kind of food is stocked there? There you are, now you know who the culprit is, the person who buys all that junk food.
A couple I know never stock junk food in their home. Rather they have taught their children to eat fruits, vegetables and other wholesome foods. With what results? All their children have healthy snow-white teeth, excellent skin and they are not addicted to sugar. If parents feed on healthy foods, their children will adopt the same eating habits.

Those without children think they are better disciplinarians.
Do you remember the time when you had no kids? How did you view other people’s children? There’s a chance you once commented, “What a spoilt brat! When I have my own children I’ll never allow them to behave like that.” Fast forward to a few years later and your kid’s misbehaviour is far worse than that “spoilt brat” of years ago. What’s your excuse?  “Hey, kids will be kids. People should understand that. Wait till you have your own.” Yeah right.

It is best to spend your wealth on close family members because everyone else tends to have a very short memory.
Wealth, in this case represents your time, energy, affection and other resources that you own. The point is to spend your wealth on those who’ll appreciate it for the longest time. Let us list some of those people with a short memory, hmmm... your boss, the guys at the bar, Mr and Mrs Television. The time we spend with our partner and children is time well spent. The fond memories that we make with them are indelible in their minds. These are the people with long memories.

If you warm yourself on a thief’s fire, you also become a thief.

If your child’s friends are delinquents, that’s where your child is also heading, if not there already. Encourage your children to bring their friends home, observe them with a critical eye, from a distance of course. Listen in. It’s easy to notice the flipside of your child character when he is at ease with his friends. Cunningly help him to choose up-building friends and to prune the rotten ones.
The leader of a group of primates should fold his tail (a sign of humility) so that the little ones can respect him.
Easier said than done. There are times when we have to apologise to our children for the mistakes we make. This will teach them that authority has to be respected even if that authority is imperfect and humble.

What never ends is sacred.

Most things end. However, parenthood is forever (your genes will be passed on for generations to come) and therefore sacred. Savour every moment of it.

Are there any proverbs you grew up with?

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