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February 16, 2019

Raising kids without sense of entitlement

One of the benefits of having a child after the first lot of children is a little older is that you have a new opportunity to undo some of your previous mistakes.

This time round there are some very definite blunders that I will avoid with Thayu that I made with TJ and Toriah. I think top on the list is the issue of entitlement. As a new parent years back I read a book that in retrospect jeopardised my parenting. One of the key issues the book addressed was the need to build your child’s self esteem, a noble idea by all means but the modus operandi encouraged by the author was to allow your child freedom to interrupt you even when holding a conversation with someone else.

According to the author, this helped the child know that they were still important to you even when others were around. It is a principle I took to heart and that bore unsavory fruits. What I deemed as an opportunity to love encouraged my children to be entitled. Having been taught all their lives to express themselves whenever, it was difficult to switch gears and learn that you don’t need to say everything that comes to your mind and that if mom and dad are in the middle of a conversation, you need to wait your turn.

The balance between helping them become confident and encouraging them to become entitled was a major struggle for me in their formative years. With Thayu I have become a little more balanced. I realise that any extreme is dangerous and that a child must learn early in life that though they are very important the world does not rotate around them. I now know that developing the concept that they are part of a greater whole helps a child better adjust to the world around them.

Bill Cosby in his book Fatherhood says that the beauty of the last child is that you are more gracious and take yourself less seriously. You figure this is the last time you have to deal with whatever your child is dishing out and tend to be more gracious. In my opinion this is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that you are more at ease with your parenting, been there done that, and a curse because you can spoil your child rotten by allowing them to get away with murder.

Being older you are more tired and less likely to be as particular as you were with your first baby. I know that experientially both as a first born child and as a parent of three children with a big gap between the first two and the baby. I remember growing up and watching my parents with my youngest sibling who came eight years after me. As far as I am concerned he got away with murder. Some of the things that I was spanked for he got away with just a ‘don’t repeat that again’ mini-lecture. It was so annoying. Apparently our ongoing teenage drama took away my parents attention and destructed them from his mini-crimes. That and the fact that they had learnt to win the war and not every little skirmish.

It is my prayer that that knowledge will make me more diligent with Thayu and not as lenient as those who have gone ahead of me. I cringe to think that I will join the throngs of parents who have well-behaved older children and a little brat as the baby. A friend visited with her two children some time ago. The elder child was a joy but the little one was a real pain. He wanted everything and had no qualms hitting his sister for it. If other children had something he wanted he would cry and fuss. His mother kept encouraging his elder sibling to just cede ground. “Patia mtoto” she cooed to her older child who then moved on to the next thing. It was sickening to watch and the truth was I was glad when they left. I felt so sorry for the little boy. Unless something changed he had a rough road ahead of him. The truth is that his parents were not preparing him for life; he would grow up entitled, unpopular and unlovely. The parents needed to up their game.

So as I do this second time round, hopefully I will remember that beyond all else, I am preparing TJ, Toriah and Thayu for the world and I cannot afford to make the path ahead unsavory. All three in their differing life stages are my children and the onus is on Tony and I to be there for each one of them at their level. Furthermore, we made the choice to have them; we must parent each one of them.



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