By Jerry Roker
For Bahamas Press
Over the years, parents have put away their parenting tools all in an effort to allow children to blossom freely, independently and fearlessly. Any honest introspection from us will undoubtedly reveal that many of our children are responsible for themselves on this island.
They imagine bedtime stories while their parents are working the night shift, and they unanimously decide how to ration the last loaf of bed in the cupboard for breakfast while their parents sleep. After school, they may join their friends “on the block” for the occasional sip or puff or they may simply stay home to catch up on the latest happenings in bad family relations on the foreign sitcoms. This is the life that many children live on our island.
Many parents have failed in their roles as socialization agents. Bearing in mind that many of our children live in households manned by one parent, the transmission of basic decorum is almost extinct. Customary greeting of others is dismissed as a primitive gesture while “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” utterances are reserved for those who have regrettably attained the title of “sissy”.
While many among us will be quick to blame the “fathers who did not stick around” or those who have been labeled as nomadic semen dispensers, all parents must play their parts in helping to bring up this “blank slate”. Two organisms played a part in the conception so two persons should be adequately involved in the process of upbringing. It should not be assumed that our children would unconsciously attain good manners from the edited portrayals of families we encounter on television.
Regrettably, many parents (who are adolescents themselves) continue to fail as disciplinary agents. The use of obscenities by children is seen by many young mothers as excerpts from a comical performance – they would laugh aloud often dismissing the young child’s cursing rehearsal as “nothing”. To them, the young minds are completely ignorant of what is said in their presence and so, there’s no need to sanction. When finally, the child openly embarrasses the mother (usually) with obscene enunciations in the queue at the supermarket, a sudden impulse to discipline kicks in. Hands are prepared immediately to strike the nearest body part hard enough to appease the onlookers. Unfortunately, such occasions are rarely enlightening.
Our children are exposed to so much violence that they are unknowingly being trained for combat. The cartoons that they view present a plethora of methods to kill – from the archaic bow and arrow to nuclear weapons. These methods are often glamorized by revealing perpetrators who evade justice and victims who always resurrect. At home, many children live in homes where parents disrespect each other openly; they hurl curse words and insults at each other or simply attempt vilification of an absent parent. Sadly, many children witness fistfights between their parents, attempted murder, assault and actual murder. Others witness parents drowning in alcohol, wrapping up the “joints”, and prostituting themselves for the weekend breakfast.
Whether we want to admit it or not, these settings are perfect for creating monsters. Many homes are Monster Training Academies – they are void of manners-learning sessions, they present live violence shows, they do not acknowledge the existence of a higher power, they unconsciously teach the sophistication of profane language and they love so much that they fail to discipline. But let’s not be too quick to point fingers solely at the family although sociologists generally recognize it as a primary socializing agent. The community, the church and the school all have parts to play in the socialization process. Somehow, many of our institutions and even many of us continue to look the other way when we begin the see the negative metamorphosis. We are only moved to intervene when someone is left in a pool of blood or someone dies.