I cannot remember quite how it started. I must have come home one day armed with some goodies for Maxwell.
I was probably out there and that parental instinct of wishing your child to enjoy something nice set in. Chances are also that I kept doing that over a certain period of time. Maxwell must, then, have developed an expectation that whenever Papa comes home, he brings something for me.
And when his brothers and sister came along, he must have found the language to brief them that Papa – and then Mummy – should not be allowed to come home empty-handed. Now, whenever Mummy or myself arrive from work or a trip, what greets us is not the conventional greeting, but the question: “Papa, what have you brought for us?” or “What did you bring for me?”
At first, it felt nice to be asked. But lately I find that the youngsters have, in their own way, turned their wish into law. And they will not accept anything. It must be something nice for a child, something sweet, or some snack that would not normally be shared by adults.
So, if I plead that I have brought milk or bread or pineapple or bananas, Maxwell will protest by saying “Aah-aah! I want something different.” (Something like yoghurt, Gorillos, ice cream, ‘crunchies’, apples, lollipops… )
And they are very choosy. Bring one item for three consecutive days and you will be told off: “Everyday yoghurt! Everyday yoghurt!”
To be honest, I have enjoyed this banter from three and four-year-olds. Those little arguments give me hope they are becoming critical and that they will slowly become assertive enough. But I must also admit it is becoming exhausting. On top of regular groceries, I must creatively think of something “nice.”
So I was recently intrigued when I read an Observer story, where Cardinal Wamala complained that we parents were fuelling corruption by spoiling children with too many free goodies. The man of God believes that because children grow up expecting free things all the time, when they are out of school or home, and they do not immediately get the eight-figure jobs, and there is no one to give them free things anymore, they start stealing.
I thought about my home and wondered if I was preparing the toddlers to become corrupt in future. Perhaps not. But still, I think parents must find a way to cope with this pressure. Going by the cardinal’s reasoning, perhaps we could give the youngsters simple tasks so that the goodies are some kind of reward for a job well-done.
One other challenge is for us to give constructive goodies. Instead of buying Gorillos all the time, perhaps we can condition them on things that are really good for them – for instance fruits like apples and mangoes. That way, we are sure we are fortifying their health rather than simply succumbing to toddler demands.
However, this may also not be over-done. One side effect that I envisage is the ‘something for something’ culture, which is at the heart of the bribery crisis that pervades the public service and corporate life. If a child has to be rewarded for everything, perhaps when he grows up, will he want people whose contract papers he moves to reward him with some 15 per cent?
Are you a father? What have you learnt or discovered about your youngsters and parenting? Share joys, trials, challenges, successes. Send them in 500 words to
Source : The Observer