Raising a child in the diaspora

I recently attended an extremely vibrant and heated conference on the criminalization of corporal punishment in homes in South Africa. The various groups that participated felt strongly about the legal banning of corporal punishment of children in homes.

I listened intently to this absorbing debate, but eventually left the conference more confused than when I first arrived. The notion that seemed to carry the day was that while in public life and schools, corporal punishment was banned under the South African Schools of 1996, the same had to be done for homes. Parents and guardians should not be allowed to smack their children as this would amount to a criminal offence once the legislation was passed. As a Zimbabwean living in South Africa, I began to consider the baffling child-rearing methods that societies adopt and concluded that for Zimbabwean parents raising their children in a South Africa, the experience would be a trying one. The Zimbabwe constitution allows for ‘moderate’ corporate punishment at home and for boys only at school.

The corporal punishment issue is a minor one compared to the myriad of challenges faced by Zimbabwean parents raising children in SA. Against the background of close contact with divergent cultures, parenthood becomes a skill enriched with daily experiences. How to raise respectful, courteous, intelligent children becomes a challenge and yet it is every parent’s dream. According to a United Nations publication, “Effective child-rearing practices play a vital role in children’s growth, brain development, personality enhancement and health promotion.”

For many parents, it has become difficult to draw the line between loving and spoiling a child. A friend once shared that her five-year-old son wanted an iPad and she would get it for him. Further, something as rudimentary as greeting visitors has become such a tall order for kids, particularly when their parents do not care enough or are too busy to instill the values of hunhu.

“It is a challenge to raise children in SA. We teach them morals at home but once they go to school they listen to their peers and bring those unbecoming character attributes back home. At times I stress about my son, who is only 12, as he is already rebellious. I have tried to monitor his friends and action when he is at home. But he is at school more than half the day so I actually cannot control the people he interacts with during that time,” said one parent.

Parents are still finding that delicate balance of raising children in a society with many different cultures. While this could be an advantage in many ways, it causes challenges for those bent on raising their children the same way we do it at home. The whole situation is made much worse by the fact that parents, especially in the diaspora, are spending more time away from their children in a bid to earn a living. Those who spend the most time with these children have the biggest impact on shaping their behaviour.

Post published in: Africa News
  1. Earl Richards

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