Archive for June, 2010

Children in Crisis; Taking on the Challenges of Parenting

It seems these days that all things begin simple and go to complex as the discussion moves up the chain of command. For example, what is complicated about parenting? It takes common sense, serious thought, dedicated action, and daily commitment. Instead of focusing on the simplicity of what should come naturally to parents in raising children, we build elaborate explanations for poor parenting. Instead of tackling the parenting issue in a straightforward manner as Bill Cosby does, we build an array of complex solutions that require funding, governmental intervention that support places to dump our children, and academic treatise that define a multitude of esoteric explanations devoted to “parenting problems”.

Having said this, I was ruffling about in the stacks of papers on my desk looking for my latest thoughts on parenting when I came across an article I read and printed on March 7, 2010. It was printed in “The Daily Monitor; Truth Everyday; Uganda News…” It came from the Sunday Life section of the paper. I have no recollection of the article and I was intrigued as to what it was that made me print this article by Dennis D. Muhumuza. He credited Fagil Mandy, an educational consultant in Uganda, who developed a series of trainings. Mandy says, “The rising cases of child sacrifice, street children, starvation of children and violence in homes has resulted in a parenting crisis.” The article is amazing in its simplicity of solutions. Follow below the thinking of Fagil Mandy as he is interviewed by Dennis Muhumuza on Uganda’s “parenting crisis”.

Why have you started the Good Parenting training?

Because there is a parenting crisis and we cannot afford to have our future generations going without proper tuning and direction. Parents or potential parents, young people and university students, policy implementers or leaders both in government and private sector or even those interested in learning more about good parenting need to know about addressing the challenges of parenting today; we are going to look at the world of work and education; how to train a child to be a worker, thinker, leader. The world is changing so fast that the demands on a child or the growing up generations are so intense and diversified and the parent must be brought along to understand the diversity in the world today.

You talked of a parenting crisis. What really is the problem?

I’ve run workshops for parents and young people and have made some discoveries: I’ve found out, particularly children from middle class parents have no capacities to deliver, to work, to produce or generate ideas. And, today, because most parents are working, the child is largely neglected so there is an increasing mystery or this huge gap between the parents and the children. Also, I’ve met a lot of parents who think parenting is simply producing a child; most of them think that a child of four or five years doesn’t need any particular guidance and counseling, or driving in a certain direction, so there’s a heavy dose of ignorance. Even more, our education system is not equipping our children with the right attitude, mindset and physical skills to succeed in this tough world.

What are the major concerns of young people in regard to the way they are brought up?

The last time I carried out a leadership training programme, I asked the children what they would have wished their parents to teach them. Many of them regretted that their parents had not talked to them enough about issues of love, relationships, sexuality and even politics and leadership. Also, most of them complained their fathers hardly featured in their lives and that they feel not protected or guided by their parents.

Did you also register any complaints by parents about their children?

Of course! Most parents cried out about the cartoons on TV; their children are becoming cartoons themselves; TV has become a preoccupation for young people. And most TV stations show pornographic material – it is killing their children.

But how can children keep themselves occupied meaningfully in a situation where parents are at work and cannot keep a close eye on them?

But you see, I don’t agree that every parent must work away from home. One of my sons works but his wife is a stay-at-home mother. But most mothers don’t want to first stay home and raise their children because of greed, it’s all primitive accumulations; we think that the wife must produce so much money and the husband so much money but I think someone intelligent enough must sacrifice; why can’t wife and husband organize their activities in such a way that, say, the husband works out and the wife stays at home or looks after a small family business that involves the children too? Parents must involve children in the family business.

In this age of emancipation, women cannot surely be expected to stay at home to look after children.

Why not? I think, again, it is greed; a lot of women are running around in this so called economic independence because they want to run wild programmes. I disagree with that sort of thing because every child needs a stay-at-home mother because there is no way you are going to compensate for the emotional dislocation of a child who has not had proper parentage.

What is the true measure of a parent?

First, one must be knowledgeable enough – one is not going to be a parent worth their soul when they are ignorant; a parent must know a bit of everything because they are the encyclopedia for their child. Secondly, parents must know how to do several things because a child must follow their example; you must be a good reader, be able to clean your own compound, fix a bulb and have a multi-skilled capacity for your child to emulate. Also, you must be healthy; no child likes to grow up with a dying parent; remember, a parent must help the child lead a healthy life and how can you do that if you are not healthy yourself? Then of course, a parent must be able to generate enough income to look after the family and be available to provide the time required for the child. If you are unavailable, don’t produce the child.

Simple, straight forward, uncomplicated – Mr. Fagil Mandy is on to something in Uganda!

Are animals better parents than humans?

Some Random Observations – Danny & The Raccoons

June 11, 2010 1 comment

I know I have been bending your ear lately about the benefits of exposing small children and large children to nature, parks, and the woods. I have been saying how important it is to allow them to roam freely in nature so they may discover the exhilaration of discovery and the freedom of self expression. Thank you for your patience as I have expounded upon these important issues.

Now I want to share with you a story about Danny and the Raccoons. I am an interior designer in the day. This is my real job as writing does not allow me to earn a living. I was hired to renovate a home in the Smoky Mountains and I sent my Maryland crew down to do the demolition and construction. I met them down there one week into the job. We stayed in the home as it was large enough for all of us to have our privacy. There is a balcony on the second floor level off the pool room and their bedrooms. There is a large Mulberry tree growing next to the balcony and it is in full bloom and filled with berries, which drop to the ground and on to the deck. The berries are great food for the birds and other wildlife.

Danny is about 50ish, can’t tell for sure. He was born and raised in Baltimore. He has lived a hard life and has sad eyes. I like him because he has a soft heart. His life has been anchored to the concrete on the streets of Baltimore. He has not known nature with its glorious spaces, peace, serenity, and adventures. He is a city boy, who never fished, hunted, or hiked through the woods.

The second night I was there he was smoking on the balcony and he heard noise in the Mulberry tree. He looked up, and looking down at him were four raccoons. They were in the tall branches munching on the berries. He froze and watched for their entire meal. They kept their eyes on him while they ate. The next morning he told me how he couldn’t believe the raccoons were so close and so unafraid of him.

The next night he took his Oreo cookies up on the deck. Sure enough, the raccoons showed up again. Danny put a cookie on the hand rail, stepped back, and waited. The largest raccoon came down out of the tree and onto the handrail to investigate the smell he caught of the cookie. He looked at Danny, who was a safe distance, picked up the cookie with his 2 paws and ate it quietly in front of him. All was at peace on the deck that night.

Danny from Baltimore was beside himself with joy the next morning. This was his first experience with a wild animal. He could talk of nothing else as we worked the next day. The next night and every night after that, until we left one week later, he would disappear up to the deck and feed his Oreo cookies to the raccoons. They came closer, but not too close, and he communed with them. He would talk about it the next day telling us all the details. This was an experience he would take back to the streets of Baltimore. He was genuinely excited and touched.

Before we left he took the remaining Oreo cookies up to the handrail on the deck and spread them out so the raccoons would have something to eat that night as he drove home to Baltimore.

50ish Danny would never be the same. He had experienced the phenomenon of the natural world. His hard leather face softened a bit. We said goodbye as I left for the airport. I thanked him for the good job he did and he asked me when he could come back to Tennessee again to work on another job with me.

Nature softens and preserves human hearts, no matter the age.

Looking at Me

Where's my Oreo?

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