“You can’t plant potato and reap corn” is an old saying that still has significant meaning. Whatever you sow is what you shall surely reap. So, if we want our young people to exemplify core values, success, and all the great things in life, we have to set the example.
But the reality is that leaders in various spheres are guiding our youth down a tragic trajectory, setting them up for failure.
Parents who believe that their children are always victims and defend the wrong repeatedly are role models for hundreds of youth who wreak havoc in our society. We see parents on school compounds cursing teachers in the presence of their offspring.
We also see these leaders in their homes, failing to tackle early signs of deviance, and their absence in church is visible. It’s always someone’s fault when their children misbehave, even when they are guilty of major crimes and face life imprisonment. The behaviour of delinquent mothers and fathers strengthens the argument that they should pay for neglecting their parental role.
But educator Kesha Hill asked, “What about parents who have done their best raising their children but these kids still end up on the wrong path? Who should we hold accountable?”
Hold the child accountable. It is well known that ‘you can carry a horse to a pond, but you can’t force it to drink water’. Despite laudable efforts by families and a plethora of examples of youth who are on the right track, many young people still choose to engage in criminal activities. They should be punished, but effective rehabilitation is also necessary.
“Our youth need to choose friends who are value-centred, companions who will add value, people who will help them make right decisions and build their character,” advised Hill.
“If you lime with people who turn to drugs when times get hard, who give up when there is a challenge, and who constantly criticise successful people, then it is very likely that you will develop the same negative attitude and low resilience like your friends. And this is why some people say, show me your friends and I’ll show you your future,” Hill added.
“And let’s not forget the get-rich-quick culture that attracts some young people who despise hard work,” Hill emphasised. “Youth entrepreneurs establish businesses and expect quick profits. When this does not happen, they shut down their businesses and move on to another venture which they hope will generate lots of profits,” said Hill.
The 35-year-old added that “our youth need to realise that nothing is wrong with working hard, and their parents need to also help them internalise this by setting the right example. Poverty is real,” but Hill insisted that “you can still get what you want through honest, hard work”.
Parents also fail our youth when they cannot commit to saying no and meaning it. In a world where the demands of others seem endless, we have to not only protect our mental health, but also parent effectively.
In the article, Why Some People have Such a Hard Time Saying ‘No’, Devrupa Rakshit explained that the fear of saying no stems from the urge to avoid conflicts and disappointments. We prioritise the feelings of others and, many times, make decisions that will haunt us now or in the future.
A typical example is parents’ confiscation and returning of cellphones to young children who remain distracted by these devices. Knowing full well that there is direct correlation between the abuse of phones and poor academic performance, parents continue to maintain the ‘peace’ in the house and undermine their own effectiveness by giving back their children the ultimate source of their decline.
You may hear some attempt to rationalise their decision: “I told her she wasn’t going to get it back, but I couldn’t help but feeling sorry for her.” Another common one is, “I told him when he behaves or gets better grades, he will get it back.” And once the stressor device is back in the hands of the children, the cycle of abuse starts all over again, making it difficult for teachers to reach our youngsters. As parents, we must set the example—say no and mean no.
And we want working youth to also take note. In his article, Rakshit pointed out that “we’re culturally conditioned to think that saying ‘no’ will prevent us from getting ahead in life.”
We have to be careful what we choose to internalise. Go-getters who work round the clock and embrace that yes culture will surely experience the dark side of engagement sooner or later. Don’t overdo.
“Learn how to say no diplomatically, without feeling guilty.” Why? Because burnout is real and its health implications are extensive. Chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, and heart diseases are just a few examples,” said Hill. The educator reminded us that burnout can also exclude you from getting that coveted position.