So…have you taken time out to notice the behaviors of kids today? Do you see that the methods with which kids are raised now is far far different from how we were raised? And does the blatant disrespect from kids give you the chills as it does me? I’m at that point where I wish we can go back in time, if for nothing else but the discipline which our parents instilled in us.
The other day, I noticed a trend in a neighbor’s kid. This baby girl should be about 5 years old. She has not learnt to greet older people as is the custom of most African homes. She would actually stare at an older person until her mother tells her to greet. Even with the prodding from her mother, she would stare at the person and blatantly refuse to greet. What is worse is that she stares at much older people in the eye, leaving a sinister feeling crawling down the spine of the person. What baffled me was when I noticed that as early as 6am (when I’m rushing out to work), this little girl gets up and goes out of the compound, walks the length of the street and finally chooses a house to go to. What in God’s name is a 5-year old doing traipsing the streets at 6am?! What are her parents doing when she is ‘making the rounds’? And in this North-Eastern region where girls are easy targets, why are the parents not worried about a baby girl walking up and down town when no one can watch over and protect her? It is so annoying even that when you try to correct this girl, she puts on this quelling look that seems to say, ‘What you gone do about it? Huh?’ The nerve!
I was returning home one night, when this kid saw me. He raised his torchlight (as it was quite dark) and flashed it directly in my face. Now, I deliberately assumed he made a mistake, so I didn’t have to take off my shoes and beat the black off his skin. In my assumption, I hoped he would apologize, lower his flashlight, and show some iota of courteous behavior by probably greeting me and/or asking for my handbag. I was too busy making these assumptions to actually think it might not go that way. When it dawned on me that he wouldn’t do so was when the light remained in my face for more minutes than was respectfully necessary. I stopped in the middle of the street and gave him the look. Only then did he drop the flash light, make a detour around me, and continued on his way to wherever he was heading. Now, this boy shouldn’t be more than 13 years. He started acting this way when I cautioned him on the use of curse words. He said something in Hausa while I was passing and I gave him a serious dressing down.
Does it feel like curse words in our local languages are dirtier than in English language? Anyway, that is a topic for another day. From that day, I guess his hormones kicked in and he started acting up. I was tempted to hold him down and get some sense into his skull but I am pretty scared of the reciprocal treatment I will get from the police. So….I ignored it, shook my head, squared my shoulders and walked on to my house.
I wouldn’t have bothered about writing this piece if another incident hadn’t occurred. Called a girlfriend and asked that we go to the beauty shop. She got dressed and we headed to our regular stylist. When we got there, the shop was full, but only one person stood out for me. She was a pretty little girl. She had such a striking resemblance to our stylist that we couldn’t help but ask if she was her daughter. Now you see, as long as we had been going there, we knew she was married and had kids, but we had never met any of them. When she told us that was her daughter, we gushed a bit over her. I should have kept my gushing to myself! The about-seven-year old gave us this aloof look and went to sit in the corner. Hurt a bit, I asked what her problem was and before her mum could respond, the little girl said she didn’t talk to strangers. I looked at my friend, and we shrugged. Secretly, I was proud that her mum was raising her with good principles, but I was worried that she was bold enough to tell us that to our faces. As we got our beauty on, the stylist kept regaling us with stories that had us laughing and generally having fun. Somewhere in that line of fun conversation, the mother started talking about a seasonal Pilipino telenovella she had watched. While that was my cue to shut up, little miss I-don’t-talk-to-strangers piped up and got into the conversation. She started talking of the telenovellas that were more interesting. Now, the silence from all the customers was probably because we would never have interrupted in a conversation our mothers were having. The silence was awkward for a while until the mother broke it by asking her daughter about the one they had watched the night before. My friend and I shared another look and we saw the other ladies also sharing a look. The little girl went on and on and after a while, we seemed to adjust to the fact that the girl had been taught that she could join in on adult conversation. What jolted us back to reality was when one of the customers urged the little girl to stop combing her hair too frequently. Her mum teased her about not even having the hair to comb and she flew into a rage. She told her mother, as loudly and as disrespectfully as she could, that her hair was far better than her mum’s and that her mum’s hair was literally like a chicken thrown in water (she actually said it in Hausa and I most likely can’t quote her without murdering the language). Anyway, one of the ladies shouted at her and told her to stop disrespecting her mother. That was joined by every other customer chipping in, in order to get the girl to quiet down. At this point, the mother was obviously embarrassed. The beauty shop felt awkward for a couple more minutes until the stylist, ever the raconteur, led the group back to normal beauty shop chit chat. The little girl was quiet for a while and then she piped up again and joined the adult conversation. She definitely couldn’t help it.
I have so many other stories, from little boys saying ‘Ukwu’ in relation to my bum when I walked past them, to the bravery of a pre-teenager entering my room to steal money when I had stepped out to see a friend off. In all of these examples, the main tread seemed to be that children were unruly, disrespectful and pretty much lacking in the morals department.
When I was younger, I didn’t dare go out of the house without having been sent. My parents were so disciplined and strict that you couldn’t just up and go like you owned yourself. So imagine what would have happened if I got up at 6am and started perambulating the neighborhood. Truth is, I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me. No…I don’t want to imagine it at all! Also, when I said I wanted to slap the tar off that teen who flashed his light at me, I must have been reacting the way my mum would. She probably would have set that boy right in less than 5 seconds. I was literally burning to do just that to the boy. Only common sense and the fear of the police cell kept me from really giving it to him.
I remember cutting into a conversation my mother was having with an aunt. When she stared at me, I died one hundred times and beat a hasty retreat to my room. Whilst there, I kept fidgeting and hanging myself over what my mum would do to me when my aunt returned to her own house. And trust my mother not to disappoint. She gave me a good knock – what we used to call ‘konk’ in those days – and believe me, the stars I saw illuminated my brain to never cut in when older people are talking. It is so bad that my boss had to tell me that as a media person, I had to know when to cut in during an interview with guests on our breakfast show. Imagine me having a professor on the breakfast show, who is probably in his 80’s, and trying to cut in when he is talking. It was (and still is) very hard. I had to get an alter ego to be able to work effectively.
The question that begs to be asked is whether the parents of these kids see the blatant decadence of their kids? And if they do, what are they doing about it?
Our parents were raised by strict parents and guardians and when they finally got to the schooling system, they were trained to be disciplined individuals whose main goal was national development and advancement. Yet, with all these training and morally sound lessons, our parents were still enmeshed in corruption, greed, power tussles and a dog-eat-dog attitude to the famed ‘national cake’. Our generation was also raised following strict lines, but you can hardly find a Nigerian youth (anywhere from 21 to 40 years) who isn’t scheming ways to eat the national cake, make advancements regardless of whom they trample on or hurt to get there. If we were trained properly by our parents and the nation is still a mess, how much more horrible will this nation be if children are not properly trained? Would basic respect be stripped in public and shamed to the gory delight of all onlookers? Isn’t it time parents looked inward to see what the problem is, and if possible, proffer solutions on how to train children?
Until parents realize that failure in their children’s character is a direct failure of the parents themselves, we will keep having unruly, disrespectful, morally corrupt children who will further – if not totally – destroy this nation that is already busting at the seams because of corruption. If children cannot respect their parents, there is then no guarantee that they will respect anyone in society in general.
I am an advocate for discipline; a well landed koboko doesn’t do any harm to the child if it is reciprocated with lessons on why the need for the koboko in the first place. When kids knew they could get punished by any Abdul, Kaliat or Nonso in the community, they were more willing to obey rules and regulations and not be found wanting in anyway. Now that kids know that their parents can summon their personal hulks when they are touched, they have become, literally, a menace to society. It falls back to parents to direct the path of their children, such that if they decide to follow their own paths, parents can beat their chests and say, ‘At least, I showed him/her the right path’.