PARENTING TALK PRESENTED AT GENERAL ELECTRIC, NAIROBI

Last week I had the pleasure to talk about my favourite topic, parenting, at GE offices in Westlands. That was an opportunity I am much grateful for, thank you GE!

I have thought to write what I shared with them, because you – my readers- are my main people. No good thing will I withhold from you, because I know even after I have told you 3,176,538 good things, I will still have a 3,176,539th thing to share. God is faithful.

Children cannot raise themselves properly. It takes an adult to influence the children entrusted to them for the society to be whole. The persons best fitted for the job are the parents, undoubtedly, to pass on the right values and morals to their children, to meet their emotional needs, to build them up in regards to esteem and to discipline and guide them. You, the parent, have a very short span in the life of your child within which to influence them, and ward off the many negative influences that are daily competing to snatch their attention.

In between holding down a job and holding things together at home, how is influential parenting still a possibility in a working parent’s life?

The labour laws give mothers 3-4 months of maternity leave because those first months are crucial for the baby’s survival in terms of nourishment and protective care. Why do fathers get 2 weeks? Maybe to take care of the mother? Or are 2 weeks are enough for a man to prepare his baby for life?

It takes both the mother and the father to thus realize they have no choice but to raise the children they bear, there will never be a favourable time after those 3-4 months or the 2 weeks. All the time is parenting time.  The formative years when a child is impressionable are just as crucial as the teenage years when the child is in between the two worlds of childhood and adulthood.

Watch out for these half truths that make you not be as influential a parent as you could be:

“I CAN’T GIVE MY CHILD QUANTITY TIME, SO I WILL GIVE QUALITY”

This half-truth is the one that allows parents to be busy and unavailable for 90% of their child’s growth time, and then get into the 10% with a bang. With huge presents and an occasional exotic weekend getaway or the biggest birthday party, before they retreat once more to the busy world.

You cannot have quality without quantity.

Take me as an example- I make the best chicken wings; they are my specialty. Assume I invite you for lunch at my house, in which I serve my bespoke wings. You step in and the delicious aroma is inviting you and your taste buds just can’t wait. I lay my table and invite you to sit. I approaching you with one of my big white square plates. I set my chicken in front of you. The wing! Its dripping with sweetness, it is as delicious as can be. It has just the right balance of sweet and spicy. Its crispy but still wet from the sauce. Alongside it lies a twig of parsley and a half piece of a cherry tomato. The presentation is world-class. The taste is unquestionable. But the wing is only one! It is unbelievably delicious, but it is too little. It will do something, but will it satisfy you?

I serve it and tell you to consider quality over quantity.

Will you buy that theory?

I am not saying to reduce the bang with which you hit the 10% of your time spent with your children, rather saying that you need to push that 10 to 20 and to 30 or stretch it to 40 until you can achieve a meaningful work-life balance.

How do you make this extra  time seeing as you already must work 8 hours a day?

A lot of Sacrifice.  Sacrifice your weekend activities to purposely spend time with your children to pass your values and the morals you want to see. You might need to give up the nyamchom plot with the boys if it can’t include your sons, miss a chama if your week was busy, and also not spend all your time in women fellowships. Choose activities that you can do while you are with your kids. Go with them to weddings, go with them for shopping. It will be a bit hard at first, but you will soon learn how to cope and enjoy each others company. Your kids will be kids for a short while but weekend activities will always be there. If you have no activities to do together, spend time at home with them, give the nanny a week-end off so your children can only come to you.

Sacrifice your money, if you need to run an errand that you can send someone to run for you, pay for that to be done. You will not save money but you will save time.

When you get home each evening, sacrifice your screen-time and get involved in what your children are doing.

If your job allows, sacrifice your sleep time in the morning, give up one hour of sleep, go to work earlier and come home earlier to have more time with the children. Your output must however still meet the employer’s expectations of you.

Identify what you can sacrifice, increase the quantity of time spent with your children as opposed to relying on quality.

“PUTTING MY KID IN THE BEST SCHOOL WILL MAKE UP FOR THE TRAINING I DON’T GIVE”

Once formal school starts, your child spends most of their time in school. On average per day, 8 hours will be spent at school. 10 hours of sleep are recommended, so the remaining 6 hours are to be split amongst commuting,  doing homework, after school activities, interaction with the primary care-giver then you.

Doesn’t it thus make sense for us to pay almost anything to get into the choice-school? It does, but watch out, that is only half the truth!

By all means, choose the curriculum you consider best for your child, and as far as is within your means, put them in the best school for that curriculum, one that has adequate facilities to teach that curriculum as well trained and competent teachers. One in which school rules are enforced and indiscipline is not tolerated. You can find more info about schools here.

But go beyond putting your child in the best school. Your child does not know about the hefty school fees, the school owners or the school’s founding philosophies, but he knows the teacher.Your child picks not only math and English lessons from the teacher but also manners, attitudes and world-views. The teacher represents the school. The teacher is his authority. And your most important relationship with the school is with the teacher. Make use of every opportunity to work closely with the teacher. Attend all teacher-parent conferences. Show up in school when there is no parent activity and just find out how your child is doing. Communicate with the teacher. Let your child know that the two highest authorities in his life are working together.

The teacher can help you identify the areas of difficulty your child has in learning or interacting, or just let you know that your child is not the angel you thought he was! You can help the teacher work better with your child if you let that teacher know more about what you are working on with the child at home. If your child’s school restricts direct parent-teacher communication on phone or email, always get through via the administration. Always make sure the school administration see you are in touch with what is happening with your child at school, and your child will become impossible to overlook. You will influence your child even when you are not there.

Remember your child learns not only from the teachers at school but also from the peers. A school cannot manage each of the homes represented by their students to make sure only the proper values come into the school. But the teacher knows. Use the teacher to reinforce the important values you are passing onto your child.

Allow me, dear reader, to stop here for today. This presentation took round 40 minutes  but it’s definitely too lengthy when I type and I doubt you will carry through the next three half-truths with the same attention, yet I don’t want you to miss a smidgen.

I will do part two of the write-up next week. You can trust I believe in both quality and quantity.

GE said it was a powerful presentation. I am sure you will find it so.

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