Who is Responsible?

Recently, I met a school principal with whom I started conversing with about the influence of nature and nurture on human behaviour. He shared with me his personal childhood experiences and told me that he believed nurture has a bigger effect even though nature has its own influence.

The issue of nature versus nurture has been highly debated among social psychologists and many researchers. Personally, I don’t think it is important to debate the influence of nature but it does not mean that we do not need to do anything to develop and shape up what has been given to us naturally. The real question to ask, though, is who has the responsibility to identify the gift of nature, nurture its growth and shape it up in a way that is helpful to self, family, community, nation and world?.

It is not common in our culture to talk about family issues since it is considered taboo, despite what everyone knows and understands, so instead people prefer to talk behind each other’s backs. I remember that my childhood was filled with lots of questions, as it is now for most of the young generation, regarding their parent’s relationship.

Parents are not conscious how relationships with their life partner influence the future of their children. As many researchers proved, modelling the concept of social psychologist Albert Bandura, parents play a big role in the lives of children; they tend to copy what they have seen instead of what they have been told or instructed.

Unless we do it consciously, we may not even notice what we are teaching children, even though we want them to be healthy and successful in their future lives. The way we parent our children goes a long mile since it does not only influence their life directly but also the way they parent their children too; so we need to pay attention to our words and actions.

I started realizing the influence of my own upbringing after I got married and started my own family.  Although we are required to go through a long journey of education and examination before graduating to assume a position in a company or organization, we do not get a single formal education to establish a family, or nurture and guide a whole new generation that will inherit the world after we are gone.

This is very surprising?.

How can anyone know what is expected of them as a wife and mother, or husband and father, without seeing someone modelling that life before us? How do we reconcile the differences and conflicts between us and our partners unless we learn healthy communication and conflict resolution from our parents?

How can we be good parents if we are raised in an unhealthy family environment and have gone through a lot of psychological pains?

The question is not all about the responsibility at the individual level but at the community and national level as well.

Who is out there if we need family services, say, for premarital or marital counselling, family counselling, youth mentorship, parenting training, life skills training and etcetera?

It seems that the country is trying to deal with a slew of problems: sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, street children, juvenile delinquency, commercial sex work, unemployment, road accidents and other ills.

But these are all symptoms of unhealthy parenting. Even if we find the solutions to them, we would have still not addressed the root cause. It would be a waste of time to engage and labour in something that does not bring long-lasting solutions to sustainable development.

As a development practitioner who has worked in non-government organizations for more than 11 years, and have grappled with the case from both the implementer and donor side, I have not encountered institutions that have a well thought out plan for family life education. As a parent, having close connection with other parents and school communities, I have not seen schools engage in holistic child development apart from the investment they make on cognitive development.

As a community member, I have not seen a single media outlet dedicated to creating awareness about family life and a healthy society. Faith-based institutions are very much busy with their “spiritual activities” without giving a fraction of their time to measure the results of their activities. I have not heard or seen them form a separate wing to address marital and family life professionally with qualified people.

So, who is responsible to nurture the next generation? Who has taken the responsibility to train children and youth with age appropriate life skills? Who has given the mandate to train couples about family life and parents about parenting?

No one can imagine what the future will look like if things continue under the status quo, as we do not have a clear answer for all these questions. So, I believe, it is good to start thinking ahead and get ready instead of being desperate and hopeless.

By  Etsegenet Berhanu
 Etsegenet Berhanu (etse42@gmail.com) has a master's degree in Counseling Psychology and works as a family and youth counsellor.

Published on Aug 19,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 903]



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