On the various methods of rearing children

Guyana Chronicle
September 20, 1999

COMPARISONS, as they say, are odious, and if therefore anyone seeks to compare the way children are brought up in this age with what obtained a generation ago, the contrast may be just too sharp for any useful parallels to be drawn.

Persons who grew up in the 1950s can remember for instance, how schoolteachers took a personal interest in each of their charges. Not only did the teacher know one's parents and where each child lived, but also shared a commitment with parents and guardians to ensure that children attended every session, did their best at the three R's and were respectful, mannerly and generally well-behaved. Even when children were outside the confines of home or school, they had to be careful in their behaviour since any adult could admonish an errant boy or girl in public.

In today's permissive world where television influences abound and where children measure their personal success by grunge dressing and designer footwear, it is a brave adult indeed who would venture to scold a bad-behaved schoolchild in public. Even teachers who love their vocation would think very carefully about taking a personal interest in children whose parents they do not know.

The men and women, who grew up in the era in which parents were true authority figures and where children were allowed to be children, are today grateful for the firm grounding they received in their early lives.

While some of the discipline dispensed by the poor, working-class folk could be considered a bit harsh, that discipline was invaluable in teaching children right from wrong; in instilling respect for elders and authority; in grounding youths in the fear of God and in the virtues of honesty, diligence and thrift; in inculcating love for family; in the importance of reading, writing and education; and best of all, in maintaining the dignity of the human person.

Some 50-somethings could be forgiven for believing that as progressive as some industrialised societies are, their guardians of behaviour and culture would have benefited wondrously from healthy doses of the old time principles of child-rearing. Instead of divining new syndromes for the myriad manifestations of violence practised by rich and bored youths, parents and authorities would recognise evil impulses for what they are and take the necessary steps with the birch or cane to civilise young miscreants.

The phenomenon of peer pressure must be debunked and exposed as a shallow index by which one's worth is measured. While no parent should force a child to wear garments which could make that child stand out in a negative way, children must be taught through careful and sensitive discussion that their sense of dignity and well-being does not rely on the external reference points of high-priced designer footwear or garments, but instead comes from their character, their love and respect for others, their humanity and their successes in the world of scholarship.

Teachers and parents must bring to the attention of youths, the scores of stories both written and oral of historical figures, who in spite of abject poverty and other disadvantages triumphed over their circumstances by ingenuity, effort of will and hard work.

Let us save our youths from the tyranny of negative influences.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples