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To Spank or Not To Spank, That's the Parenting Question


May 15 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com. )


I was recently on a visit with an old friend. We had not seen one another in many years, so I had no idea how he had changed over the years. Usually, we used to get into fights arguing about religion, love lives or politics but mostly agreed to disagree in an attempt to preserve our friendship.

As we were sitting in his house sipping coffee that day, his father came and joined us. We started talking about religion, debating as usual, knowing very well where the argument would take us. To my surprise, my friend’s father was on his side for a change. The father, who once was religious, is now no longer devout and agreed with some of the non-conservative outlooks of his son.

It is hard to change our parents’ beliefs but not for my friend. He told his father personal and intimate experiences. I was lost because while growing up, I had never shared anything intimate with my parents. Even the idea of doing as such was frightening.

Many of us have done things in our teenage years that we are not proud of but would not dare share with our parents. Even if they have never held us to a social value standard, we conceal part of who we are or what we have done out of respect for them.

In Western countries, where there is a higher premium on individualism, there is a culture of open discussions. They even do it on TV. Many people in Ethiopia, myself included, would agree that there should be some boundary between what we are willing to share with our parents. For instance, some parents would allow their children to smoke in the house. They reason that their children might as well smoke under their noses where they can monitor them if they are bound to do it outside of the house.

But there is no accounting for the fact that this makes the whole thing seem okay and may encourage, say, a younger sibling to also take on the habit. It further kills the motivation of children to do better by their parents or change their negative ways as they would otherwise feel accepted and feel that what they are doing is not necessarily wrong.

Indeed, this is a question of parenting skills and styles. They all have their pros and cons. Some are “authoritarian,” setting clear limits and boundaries for their children. Whoever fails to follow these rules faces steep consequences. This kind of parenting style is rigid and lacks warmth, though. Other parents are overly permissive. They tend to be very close with their children and allow them to do the things they want. But this runs the risk of raising children that lack a sense of consequence and think they can get away with anything as they grow older.

But there is a middle ground. Parents should act like parents to their children, not as friends. This may sound traditional, but it is hard to deny that children sometimes need to be disciplined. It does not necessarily mean being authoritarian. Children should learn that their actions have consequences. When they are disciplined, they get a reward, and when they are “naughty”, they should receive some punishment.

I am a mother. I would want to have a good relationship with my son. He should be able to come to me whenever he needs guidance, whenever he is in a dilemma and is unsure what to do. At the same time, I would like to know about what is going on in his personal life but only to an extent, especially as he grows up. Please spare me the details!

Perhaps this makes me an old school mom, but sometimes there is nothing wrong with being as such. Change is inevitable and much needed, but this does not mean that we have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.



PUBLISHED ON May 15,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1098]



Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com.





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