THE FAMILY ON THE BRINK

Original Published, November 2014

In the game of modern football, the goalkeeper acts as the last line of defence and at the same time initiates the attack. When the keeper is beaten the entire team is beaten. So also does the home function as a family unit, and whatever happens to the family affects every aspect of society.  “When the foundation is destroyed what can the righteous do?”- Psalm 11:3

Not quite long ago, formation of human identities was determined by pre-established social roles and norms; and the home, functioning as a family unit, was the first school, the first church, the first mosque and the first government where the child had their orientation into public life.  Society/neighbours and school were vital support systems to the family, but parents bore the ultimate responsibility of raising their children. That was then.

Today, with the family structure seriously undermined due to so many factors, human identity formation is now a fluid concept, a construct that is built when one moves along, according to one’s environment and choices.

Today, the development of the individual human identity is strongly mediated by information gleaned from mass communication avenues such as newspapers, radio, television, face book, internet,  Twitter, etc, and those with impressionable minds virtually feed, identify and imitate the patterns and models they learn on these networks, whether good or bad. In a postmodern sense, therefore, development of human identity is based on pluralistic and fragmented factors.

Celebrities

Majority of our young people virtually mimic the lifestyle of people with celebrity status whom they adopt as their role models. But what are the character and the value systems of these celebrities who now influence our children?

Perception and reality are two different things, and it is time we tell our children that attaining celebrity status does not necessarily make a person a role model. No! Not when most of them could best be seen as “tabloid made” celebrities without any moral character. Celebrities may have, in addition to their fame, expensive clothes, sleek cars and houses in gated communities, but the fascination stops short of character since most of them often get embroiled in deviant behaviours, get hooked to crack cocaine, marijuana, etc and finally end up in rehabs and correctional centres. Let’s point our children to a more virtuous standard of behaviour.

Role Models

Where have all the good role models gone? Are they in the league of political heavyweights in the western countries or they are in the priesthood? I doubt.

How some deviant behaviours now get the support and approval of some politicians and archbishops makes me wonder whether these leaders are honest to their own conscience or whether they have values that qualify them to be described as role models.

The emphasis on who a role model is has now shifted from the girl-guide, who renders community service to children of disabilities without expecting any reward, the school teacher who sacrifices their time and scanty resources to motivate brilliant but needy students etc, etc to the musician with flashy clothing and the footballer with global iconic status no matter his or her character.

Since when has it become acceptable for our girls to lift their bikinis and their tops to please the drunken, misguided simpleton, and immature frat boys and still call their attitude modernism? Is the good-boy good- girl persona now extinct? This is the time to take our children through the various transitions of human development for them to become responsible citizens.

We need a revival of the family structure and traditional value systems such as hard work, personal responsibility, i e, how to take care of duties entrusted to one’s care, being accountable for one’s behaviour and being dependable.

We need to teach our children the importance of the family unit, respect for authority, self-discipline, civic mindedness; that is, a regard and recognition for rights, freedom and property of others. We need to inculcate in our children deferral of gratification so that they wait to obtain what they want legitimately and at the appropriate time.

Today’s youth suffer from stimulation hunger, which is a clear sign of immaturity and, therefore, do not understand what boundaries are. This is the reason why they carry drugs, engage in cyber fraud and illicit sex for instant gratification. Stimulation hungry people have superficial values and live thoughtlessly and impulsively.

Instilling essential elements of proper moral values in our children shall go a long way to shape them to become better human beings…

Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Since parents are the primary caretakers of children, orientation of the child should start from the home.

The current social climate seeks to attack the family, which is the bedrock of society by redefining everything moral or traditional. Spurred on by the doctrine of the humanist and the unfettered support of powerful politicians together with the shameful endorsement of notable archbishops, the current social climate favours individual choices and denies moral absolutes, divine revelation, objective truth and acceptable standards. Parents should therefore protect their children from this polluted culture which comes with the misguided notion about freedom, sexuality and basic human dignity; a culture that treats persons as products.

Alloparenting

Parents need to make time and give quality attention to their children in spite of the pressures of urban life. Most parents have now resorted to alloparenting of their children – a system of parenting in which individuals other than the actual parents act the parental role. So we hire strangers to take care of our home so that Dad and Mum will have time to attend evening school for their degree or attend fellowship meetings at church. By the time our children wake up Dad and Mum are gone just to beat traffic. The first person the child sees is the house help, then the driver and next the teacher. When the child closes from school the clock is reversed. Mum and Dad come home when their children are asleep. Weekends are fully booked all year round for funerals, engagements, weddings and religious activities. Where is the place of the child in the home? We are losing the battle to have custody of our children.

I need to remind parents that the primary vehicle for transmitting values to children still remains the parent and not television and computer games. With the world descending into a new incivility, we need to embrace the primacy of the family as the first vital human cell of society; the first government and first mediating institution of our social order and do all we can to invest in building families with strong moral foundations.

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