“New Age” black parenting v “traditional” black parenting

Not sure how it was in your household growing up, but in mine and many other Caribbean homes, Saturday mornings were dedicated to household chores. Maybe my mother possessed ‘the rod of correction’, and she had those steely eyes that shot daggers, but I knew I had to get up and get cleaning like it was the week before Christmas. Truth be told, I did not inherit my mother’s skills, because I can’t seem to get my teenage son out of bed, much less vacuum the lounge. Let’s not speak about his bedroom (not sure what animal died in there). Is the new-age parenting style failing our future generation? What made my mother’s eye glance so compelling, that it affects me even today as a ‘grown-ass’ woman?

I would like to argue that parents back in the day raised their children in fear – fear of a spanking, fear of being embarrassed, oh and fear of being ‘put out’ the house. Whew! That last one was my biggest motivator. I did not openly have a boyfriend until I was 19! Was this fear right, or was it an impediment in developing a sound, open relationship with our parents? New-age parenting, in my assessment, includes creating ‘healthy’ environments for our children to speak openly and ‘be themselves’. Yet, research shows an increase in major depressive episodes from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014 in the age range of 12 to 20 years. Has the open forum helped the youth feel more at ease?

Now, I acknowledge that depressive episodes are more complex than just being able to open up, and I do not want to undermine the severity of mental illness. However, I query how the modern parenting style is helping our children or society. For instance, my son is lackadaisical, oblivious to most social issues, and he is ‘unbothered’ about grades or his future. He views school as an opportunity to meet up with friends and play. He lacks ambition or drive, except to increase his followers on Instagram, YouTube and SnapChat. To this end, I have sought the assistance of a life coach to intervene. Am I failing to be an active parent? How did my parents manage and raise four level-headed, not too ‘shabby’ children/adults? This I wonder, more than I should.

Which brings me to the issue or rather challenge of disciplining children, particularly in an era where spanking or corporal punishment is now labelled as abusive. I was spanked, and I still remember some of those events and what caused the wrath of my mother to emerge. I am still very sorry and have not done most of those things again. So, was the spanking effective? If the transgressions were never repeated, I would say yes. ‘Time-outs’, limited screen-time and confiscation of electronics have not been quite as effective, at least in my home. I have not achieved the desired effect of changed behaviour or any greater sense of responsibility. I am hoping that intervention and guidance from the life-coach would help.

Maybe I am draconian and expect a well-behaved, disciplined, obedient, responsible son. And with high expectation, comes great disappointment. Or perhaps the liberal, new-age method, with open dialogue and individualism is the most effective way to achieve accountable adults for the next generation. I guess only the future would tell!

Dara D 

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