(Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
In one of the many social gatherings that my very close friend attends, the central topic for discussion happened to be how intolerable it was becoming to see unaccompanied young boys entering the mosques and imambadas, talking in loud tones and refusing to pay heed to anyone who asks them to hush up. An interesting story was told by an elderly gentleman who said that his son, now a thriving zillionaire, had a very strange and somewhat questionable lifestyle. He said that while the son is nocturnal – dining and driving around with friends every night (except special nights which were dedicated to the family), his wife always woke up close to noon, when breakfast ( not brunch because that is yet to be served) is had. School-going children are handling themselves with a little bit of help from the resident maid.
By the time the children are home, the mother is out shopping and meeting friends for coffee. When the father comes back home, he is in a hurry to prepare for his own programs. In between these fast-paced events, the children are only talked to when there is a need to be told off. The grandparent has little say because of the high handed nature of the son and the daughter in law, but he regularly listens to complains by the children (teenage and below) that some of their friends have parents who spend most of their time listening to them, talking to them and guiding them, as well as training them.
The Royal Canadian Mountain Police, in sharing valuable advice with parents in their website, states: “Parents are their children’s strongest role model and greatest influence. Your children will eventually adopt many of your values and types of behaviour, just as you have been influenced by your parents. Your children notice and respond to the way you deal with problems, express feelings and celebrate special occasions.
As a parent, it is impossible to not model. Your children will see your example—positive or negative—as a pattern for the way life is to be lived.”
At some point, one must ask himself at what stage will he stop to build a strong and moral family. In a fast paced world (ironically so where like in this example, a lot of time is spent sleeping), there are all kinds of conflicts and struggles – class struggle being the most prominent one. People competing people on who dresses better, ho drives more flambouyant cars, who lives in and owns more houses, who travels the most and how many times in a year, can you afford a Ziyaarat package. Then there are those classical points of competition – where you shop, restaurants you eat at, schools your children go to, mobiles you flash around, the gold that you adorn…phew. The list is still incomplete. When parents are embroiled in this ridiculous race where even inviting family and friends for a grand sekela party, is actually motivated by showing off your latest mansion, large flat screen or just the humungus size of your meadows in the backyard, it is not difficult to understand why Madrasahs and Mimbars are all failing. For what they learn there is deeply different from the lives they are supposed to lead normally.
When the elders complain about today’s children not listening to them, they have squarely missed the point, it would seem. For it is not just your words that you are imposing on them, actually your entire life mirrors in front of them and as they see you, they build the bricks of their own life, thoughts and values, and ideals. They see you have no manners, no etiquettes, no humility, no care, they integrate that in their own persona leading to the same sordid treatment you give others, now being metted out to you. So why is that surprising to the parent?
Karen Stephens in “Parents are powerful role models for children” states Role modelling can be an extremely effective parenting tool. It is powerful that we should use it to our advantage! Being a positive role model requires fore-thought and self control. Today we talk a lot about disciplining our children. We parents need to put an equal emphasis on disciplining ourselves. It’s easy to dispense don’ts to our kids: “Don’t smoke.” “Don’t drink and drive.” “Don’t do drugs.” “Don’t lie.” It takes much more effort and discipline to practice what we preach. It takes a strong character to give our kids a good role model to copy, because copy us they will. What a disservice we do to them if we only give them self destructive behaviors as a road map to follow in life. If you don’t want your kids dying of lung cancer, a wise strategy would be to stop smoking yourself. (And if you think you can sneak a cigarette when the kids aren’t looking, you are wrong; they smell it.) If we don’t want the kids lying to get out of going to school, we best not lie about taking a “sick” day from work.