Parents all over the world are desperate for their children to learn some good manners. Even the most evil of parents want their children to be disciplined, to be polite and courteous and observe basic etiquette.
They teach them to say ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘excuse me’ in whatever language they use. Mothers and babies play the ‘give mummy’ game to teach them to be giving people and siblings are taught to share.
However, if you want to know what we are teaching our children in Rwanda, come with me to the school parking lot. Come to Green Hills Academy, for example, where I watch parents daily at the drop off and pick up hours.
With their children in the cars, parents park rudely behind others and hold them up, they aggressively cut across as one tries to park and get to the slot before you. Never mind parking in between two slots (as long as I get a slot for myself who cares about another?)
I have seen people behave in the most selfish, uncouth, uncivilised manner with their children in the car. No manner of courtesy is remembered, no thought of the next person. You can see the highest degree of selfishness in that parking lot and believe me our kids are watching and learning well.
You see, what we parents forget is that all children learn more from what they see us do than what we tell them to do. As the saying goes, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’
What children see everyday from Daddy or Mummy is the right thing to do in their eyes and they will surely learn to do it themselves. Do not be deceived that they will see you do one wrong thing and do better! Never in most cases.
As soon as they jump out of the car, parents remind their children to politely greet the teachers at the gate and say ‘Good morning’ loud and clear, with a smile.
Of course the children will do so obediently but a seed has been planted, a seed that will germinate later in the playground and in the class with their peers.
When our little ones take over the toys and the swings and grab things from their friends, they are only following their parent’s example and simply doing as they have been taught.
Not helped at all by the fact that human nature is generally selfish, people tend to lean easier towards being selfish than being kind, sharing and giving.
When children see the parents whom they look up to, whom they consider the ones who are right and know the answers to everything, being so selfish, a signal is sent that tells them that selfishness is the right way to grow. And selfish they become.
So parents, the next time you cut in front of another parent as you grab and scramble for parking space, the next time you shout at a house help, the next time you do anything you would not want your own children to do, remember they are watching, listening and learning.
They learn so well, you will not believe it when they mimic exactly what you did or said. Forget about ‘Do as I say and not as I do’- this does not work. What works is what they see and hear from you.
The parking lot is just one of many examples. Since as parents you set the best examples for your children, they will emulate them since you spend more time with them at home.
Therefore, next time you shout at your wife, act rude and unkind to your workers or other relatives and behave savagely to others sharing the road with you, remember “Dad, Mum, I will do as I see, not as you say!”