A few months ago, in April, I attended a conference in Kampala, Uganda, under the theme “Positive Discipline in childhood and adolescence (behaviour modelling & positive parenting of children living with disabilities, & those in special contexts in Africa).” Despite the title of the theme being on positive parenting, the conference was generally on parenting practices and challenges, and the good practices “experts” in childcare can take on.
Spending quality time with the children is very important.
Coming from SOS Children’s Rwanda, I thought that I was well used to the concept of parenting and that it was an issue that others had but not me. However in the presentations (they were quite many from 13 countries in Africa), I started to realise that the concept of parenting was not having enough resources to cater for children’s needs only (clothing and food) but was much more than that. As presentations went on and on I started noting holes in my self-portrayed image as an expert on family and parenting. Having held a position with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, I realised that many of the issues being discussed were challenging me to self-evaluate myself as a parent and a husband and how the experiences were helping me to do things differently.
Among the many things I learned, I realised that the issue of spending some quality time with my kids was more important than I had always thought. I also realised that the degree of interaction with my kids and my family needed to be upped. I had an arrangement with myself of making up for time not spent with my kids by getting them fun stuff like toys and candies. However one of the presenters indicated that we risk being substituted by the gadgets and gifts we give kids to make up for the time we don’t spend with them. The gifts may end up being more meaningful to the kids than the parents who give them to the kids.
An SOS family in Kigali, Rwanda
I also had a presentation to make about a positive practice from my community but this reflection caused me to also think about how far I have practiced it. I came to the conclusion that there may be many people like me who work with many policies, strategies, best practices on family and parenting on a regular basis and who merely think there are experts in parenting and dealing with families and yet may not like what they see if they reflect on how it contributes to their roles as parents.
As employees of SOS Children’s Villages, an organisation that deals with issues of children and families, we must not be carried away by the work we do but also reflect on how it influences/impacts our families and relationship with our families and communities. We spend time encouraging families we work with to support the process of de-institutionalisation and take children into their families, but I guess we also need to reflect on these issues at our different personal levels and within the community. Having stirred the questions in our minds, let us reflect on how we relate to our children given the exposure and experience we have on various parenting concepts. As once said by someone, Life offers us thousands of opportunities for learning. Let us learn to make meaningful outcomes for children given the experience we get from our work!