The [#EritreanCommunity] should play an important role in nurturing the young to grow up towards their #Potential
By Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, West Virginia University
Raising children in Diaspora is not easy and can be difficult under any circumstances. Many Eritrean parents struggle with our children who are disrespectful, obnoxious, or even abusive toward their parents. Many of us might have tried talking, arguing, screaming, yelling unkind words, punishing, pleading and negotiating, but still they continue to behave in an insolent manner. All children behave badly from time to time. But when defiance, hostility and refusal to comply with family rules and regulations are ongoing in our households, the behavior affects the entire family and requires a more serious intervention. Fortunately, we have observed that when we use the right tools starting from childhood, we can change our children’s problem behavior quickly and dramatically. If we do not pay close attention to them at a young age, or if we try to be parents, as the children say, when they are bloated with serious problems like abusing drugs and alcohol, any kind of tool does not work to change the problem behavior of our children.
Obviously, parents are expected to love and care for their children. We are expected to send them to school to acquire knowledge and skill. We are expected to expose them to religious institution to gain faith and acquire moral lessons. We are expected to make and spend time with our children to teach them the facts of life. As parents, our instinct is to take care of our children. We feed them and they don’t even wash their dishes. We give them shelter and they don’t even keep their bedroom clean. We wash their dirty clothes and they even mess up our bathrooms. We give them a ride to anywhere at their convenience and they don’t even appreciate for the service. We pay their tuition and school fees and they are not even serious in school. We spoil them by buying those expensive clothes and shoes. We make life comfortable for them by allowing them to stay with us for a long time. It is commonly observed that many of us, Eritrean parents, work to maintain a comfortable environment in our home and let our children stay even up to thirty years of age. However, this situation actually may not be good for both the children and parents. We should encourage and even stir them up to go out and explore the real world. We need to allow them to flourish and be independent. The following short story from Today in the Word (1989), can be an excellent source of wisdom for our lesson. We can learn from this story how to motivate our children and stir them up to be the best in building a healthy sense of self-worth.
Nature plays its own course and has its unique lessons to teach all living things. Some of us might have the opportunity to see pictures of a huge eagle’s nest placed high in the branches of a tree or in the crag of a cliff. But very few or none of us might have gotten a glimpse inside the nest. By observing the way the eagle’s nest is built and the way the inside part is structured, one would simply wonder the natural intelligence of mother eagle. When mother eagle builds her nest she starts collecting thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and some other items that seem entirely unsuitable and uncomfortable for the project. But then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs and for the eaglets after the eggs are hatched. By the time the growing little eagles reach flying age, the comfort of the nest and the luxury of free meals makes them quite reluctant to leave the nest. That is the time when the mother eagle begins stirring up the nest. With her strong talons she begins pulling up the thick padding of wool, the carpet of fur and feathers, exposing and bringing the sharp rocks, thorns and branches to appear to the surface. As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles. Eventually, this and other urging tactics from mother eagle prompt the growing eagles to leave their once-comfortable nest and move on to be independent with more mature behavior and character. Mother eagle urged the young eagles to face the real world situation so that they could become tempered by hard work and disciplined by self-reliance and patience.
Thus, the moral lesson of the story is that whenever trouble or pain comes in the life of children, it is important to let it be an opportunity for them to evolve and overcome adversity. For when their character is challenged and their destiny is tested, their endurance has a chance to grow to maturity. So parents should let their children grow up, for when their endurance is fully developed, they become strong in character and ready for anything challenging in life and in due course of time they can develop a complete and joyful life. It is obvious that motivation should come from within themselves, if only our children can motivate themselves. When it comes to growing up, however, our children need a guidance to stir them up and get them motivated. There is a need for parental intervention to make children develop to their potential. Like mother eagle “motivating” her eaglets to launch out to grow towards their full potential, some kind of prickly thorns or uncomfortable situation should be created in our children’s life that should act as “wake-up calls” to stir up their nest and motivate them to move them out of their comfort zone. The mother eagle that stirs up its nest, hovers over its young and spreads its wings to catch them and carry them to safety when they try to fly and fail. Our children should also be protected by the wings of parental love and blessing, so that they can try to fly and move on to the path that is meant for them in the real world. We need to stir them up to become all that we envisioned for them to be and to do all that we want and expect them to do. As mother eagle does not neglect the eaglets once they are out of the nest, we don’t leave our children alone in the wilderness. We need to give them the necessary moral support and protect them from danger as they struggle to build confidence and self-reliance. The Eritrean communities, religious institutions, and particularly the Eritrean scholars and professionals, should play an important role in nurturing, advising and coaching the young and the restless to grow up towards their God-given potential.
Family specialists agree that using physical force, threats and put-downs can interfere with healthy development of children. Strict parenting does not necessarily produce better-behaved children. In fact, strict parenting produces children with lower self-esteem who behave worse than other children. Positive and loving guidance and discipline are crucial because they promote children’s self-control and self-esteem, teach children responsibility, help children make thoughtful choices, and encourage children to adapt appropriate behavior. Family specialists also agree that a perfect formula that answers all questions about raising children does not necessarily exist. Children are unique and so are the families in which they live. A discipline strategy that might work with one household may not work with another. Teaching children self-discipline is a demanding task for parents. It requires patience, thoughtful attention, cooperation with school teachers, and a good understanding of the children and their peers. Leading psychologists agree that taking an active role in our children’s burgeoning interests is crucial to their development. Children grow up so fast. Before we know it they become teenagers, and we wish we had paid closer attention to them. While we still have time, we need to make effort to build trust and openness in our parent-children relationship. We should be able to make time and talk to our children starting from childhood. With kind words we can move our children to care and show love for their parents. With kind words we can inspire our children to perform noble deeds in building their professional career and turn their life around for the better. The great thing in life is not only so much what our children are doing at the moment, but also the direction in which they are heading to the future and the kind of critical role we need to play in paving the road for their journey. At the end of the day the most important, rewarding and overwhelming key to our children’s success in life is our positive and active involvement in the lives of our children.