Early childhood educator Lucille Goddard is crystal clear about it. Parents should not be pushing their children “too hard so early”.
That is to say, parents and guardians ought not to be hurrying their charges along. They should instead be letting the children for whom they have responsibility “take their time to grow, develop and learn”.
Ms Goddard told teachers of children ranging in age from three to eight, at an Easter vacation workshop of the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College just recently, that it was her experience some parents were putting too much on young children, expecting too much from them.
And it hardly has anything to do with “too much education”, as Ms Goddard suggests we will want our children during those early years “to deliver a positive disposition towards learning”, encouraging a period for them that would be “rich and stimulating”.
We aver it has more to do with parents not letting children be children, but burdening their charges with adult responsibilities and expectations, exampled by their very own aberrant adult conduct –– these parents and attendant relatives who wilfully and/or ignorantly refuse to allow their children to enjoy their early childhood and be exposed to positive experiences, as they are entitled to.
Ms Goddard might seriously consider extending her counsel at workshops specifically targeted at many of our parents today, as we are not exactly as comfortable as the childhood educator with the notion there is any marked increase in the number of Barbadians being more aware of the importance of early childhood education and positive stimulation.
The principal of the Government Industrial School, Irwin Leacock, underscores this weakness in the parent-child relationship –– even as the minor grows older –– and alludes to the hypocrisy of us adults.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the Soroptimist International of Jamestown last Monday night, Mr Leacock referred to “troubled children” whose predicament was not solely of their making; but more of their parents’.
He noted: “Children don’t just learn by your saying, ‘Don’t do . . .’. They observe too . . . .
“We are such a deceitful people, such hypocrites, we walk around with a holier-than-thou attitude, and we expect our children not to mimic what they see us do. And, then when they do, we demonize them!”
While we do not buy into the proposition that virtually every “deviant child” who comes before Mr Leacock at his Government Industrial School, of which he is principal, is the victim of a dysfunctional family or ruinous parenthood, we accept that any number of our minors who are the negative products of poor parental role models are far too many.
Mr Leacock’s painted picture of girls “wandering” from home because of having to suffer the indignity of incest or sexual molestation, and their not being able to internalize it any more, is nothing short of abhorrent and abominable –– the perpetrators of the crime against these innocents deserving no less than public shame and lengthy incarceration.
With Mr Leacock we grieve for a children deprived of natural childhood –– as the older among us have been accustomed to. We are told, to be brutally frank, that the Caribbean –– Barbados not exempted –– can boast the lowest ages of early sexual initiation in the world. And, this international reckoning has not come by accident.
Caribbean adults openly think sex, talk sex, sing sex, play sex, dance sex, wear sex –– even have sex before the very eyes of our children –– day in, day out. Vigorous wukking up, simulation of the sex act, is second nature to many of our young women, including mothers. And it is plain before the whole world on Kadooment Day especially.
Just this week on CBC TV8, well-known presenter Rosemary Alleyne was expressing her shock over the skimpy wear of some mothers as they accompanied their young to an elementary school fair. And we would not be half as shocked if the deejay music was as equally disappointing, for, regrettably, too great a part of our song collection puts rhythm to decadence.
As Mr Leacock has proffered, it is time we as adult Barbadians stepped higher above the unsavoury examples we set our nation’s children.
We acknowledge that parenting is no walkover, but by our degree of effort we will either gain from or pay heavily for what we guide our children to be. Solomon’s wise counsel still rings relevant as ever.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
–– Proverbs 22:16.