By PAT WATSON
Is there any way to get across to those moms who are pushing three- and four-year-olds around in strollers that they are doing their children more harm than good? Having tried to learn what the thinking is behind the behaviour, the best answer that has come back is that the mothers are trying to prolong the baby years because they don’t want to let go of that time in the lives of their children.
This behaviour is not doing the children any good. The other day one such child, “trapped” as it were, in one of those contraptions had such a pained look on his face, as if he knew there was something wrong with this picture but was seemingly powerless to do anything about it.
On the opposite end of that scale are the parents who have the children running alongside them at what for a child would be a fast trot trying to keep up with an adult pace.
We in the Black community are often attacked for not parenting our children to make them fit better into mainstream society. That criticism has often been unfair and very much tinged with racial hatred.
At the same time, there is a distinct need to impart parenting skills, especially to young parents. It has been painful to witness the rough skills that some reach for in interacting with the little ones who, let’s not forget, will be the same ones we turn to in our old age.
One handy parenting skill that seems to still be operating out there is based in the Old Testament idea that the parent should not “spare the rod and spoil the child”. The problem is that there is a good deal of emphasis on the part about not sparing the rod. These days, it is important to grasp that not sparing the rod can actually spoil the child. The child that is beaten as a form of discipline or punishment will be the child who becomes a bully. A child who learns that the way authority figures handle emotional situations is by physical force will resort to copying that lesson. A child who is a bully at school may just be a child who is bullied by family at home.
There is a principle that must become active the moment a person becomes a parent, which is that the best thing a mother and father can do for a child is to become a better person. That has to be front and centre because what the child learns most comes from copying the parent. “Do as I say not as I do” is a waste of breath. If you smoke, don’t be surprised if your child follows that route. If you hit, then don’t be surprised if your child learns to hit. If you don’t read, then don’t be surprised if your child shows no interest in reading.
It is stating the obvious, but bears repeating, that parenting is not just a matter of providing clothing and shelter. It is the process of laying the foundation for a lifetime. It is hard enough when a Black child goes out into the bigger world to have to realize and deal with the fact that there will be different expectations for him. If he is living in an environment that feels unsafe to him indoors as well, he is doubly burdened.
It is important therefore to remember that a child is not so much the extension of the parent, as his is a life for which we are granted extremely important responsibility, at least for a while and with lasting impression.
There is one more thing to grasp about being a parent which is that if we truly take the privilege seriously, we discover that children can make us better people
A note on making the system work for you…
Regarding that class action lawsuit that the Black Action Defence Committee is bringing to court on behalf of all those Black men that have been carded by Toronto police, lawyer Selwyn Peters notes the advocacy group would strengthen its case by having a good representative number of individuals documenting their personal encounters in these incidents. Perhaps, given the nature of these encounters, people are just too traumatized to even consider adding their name to this $65 million lawsuit.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.