“No one owes you anything” was a refrain I heard severally when I was growing up and l in reply would often snicker in my mind “I didn’t beg to be born, so you owe me plenty.”
The true meaning of those words eluded me until I became much more mature. It was then I realized what those words meant, that I was largely responsible for how my life turned out and that if anyone helped me or did anything for me, it was a privilege and not a right and that I should always be grateful for whatever was done for me.
The phrase helped me to be self-sufficient and reliant. I look back at my life and I thank God I came to that truth early in life. Looking back, I know I had no choice and I am aware that it’s the same for many people my age, we grew up with parents who did not indulge us, who saw nothing wrong in ensuring that we played our part, who ensured that we were responsible for our actions and disciplined us accordingly.
For some of us from poor backgrounds, we had awoken to the truth of those words a long time ago because our realities stared us in the face. For those of us who had middle class or rich parents, we were constantly reminded that our inheritance was an education and some of us didn’t even know that our parents had money because it never showed in how they treated us.
However, with our children it is not so; in our bid to ensure that our children do not “suffer” like we did, we have heaped upon them an over-abundance of freedom, goods, toys, treats, money etc.
We tell our children that they are special instead of just telling them we love them, we fight with family members, friends, teachers and schools who try to correct their behavior saying they don’t understand them, we don’t want them disciplined by outsiders because we want them to be free to be themselves, we free them from the consequences of their behavior by fixing things, we cuddle them and make them Tin Gods because we waited years to have them, we expose them to wealth and lifestyles too mature for them to handle too early, we give in to their every whim and tantrum because we lovedl them and we can afford it – after all they are the reason we work so hard .
We do this usually unconsciously in our quest to make life better for them but a lot of us are beginning to discover that we have unwittingly done them great harm. The frightening result we are faced with is a breed of children who think that our job as parents is to serve them and take care of their needs from the time they are born till we die.
We have brought up children who tell us to our faces that they will not have time to take care of us in old age, children who will sit at home waiting for us to bring them employment letters whilst we pay them a monthly upkeep, children who will reject certain job offers because the salary is paltry compared to what we are giving them monthly or because it doesn’t have enough perks, children who expect us to spend millions for their one in town weddings which must trend on Instagram and Twitter, help out with bills even after marriage and be the unofficial paid omugo ( child carer) till we die.
In addition, we are bringing up children that are not emotionally mature. Most of these children have been made to feel that the world revolves around them and they expect that everyone will feel the same way about them. When they leave our homes and go off to school, they find out that they are not really special after all and it takes a lot to adjust to that fact.
Some tend to become narcissist because they believe that they are better than others whilst some lose their self-esteem because they are not meeting up with the false impressions they have about themselves. Either way, this outlook affects their relationships as they tend to always look for that person who will make them happy and pander to their whims just like Daddy and Mummy do. It is no small wonder then that their marriages are failing daily as the perfect person and/or happiness is an illusion.
In always coming to their aid, we have made them unable to stand the pressures of life, every little adversity cows them and they can’t seem to rise above their difficulties without a pill or an addiction.
I am in no way belittling mental illness but it is my opinion that it is becoming an easy excuse for our youth because they have been denied the opportunity to grow the inner strength needed to overcome life’s challenges.
As parents of the me-me, generation, our chickens have come home to roost and it’s not a thing of joy at all. We are beginning to see that having children though a thing of great joy and pride is not necessarily an achievement. It is one thing to have children and it’s another thing to have responsible children.
It is said that Entitlement is a Learned behavior. The good news is that we can help our children unlearn the behavior we have taught them by ensuring that they understand their place in the scheme of things and this starts with a good understanding of the family structure.
I have always told my children that everyone of us has rights, privileges, duties and obligations to the family. E.g Education is a right but schooling in an expensive school or abroad is a privilege. Once they understand what is expected of them, we insist on them playing their part just as we do ours.
We should also not be quick to run to their aid when they make mistakes or fall down (very difficult to do) nor should we pander to their every wish. Our job is to encourage them but not live their life for them.
In my attempt to help my children live a better life than mine, I am always reminded of the story of a child who saw a cocoon and in its bid to help the larvae become a butterfly damaged its wings and crippled it.
It is a fine and delicate balance between helping our children achieve their potentials and making them dependent on us and feeling entitled.
May we make the right calls.