HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 15 — Nine of us were all uncomfortably packed into a horse drawn cart on one September afternoon. Most were returning from work, some more tired than others, but all wanting to get home.
Everything began with an older woman who I’ll call Maria. She explained that she was supposed to wear glasses, but that when her grandson was home there was no way she could. “If I put them on 20 times, he’ll snatch them off 21,” she said. “And in the end, the boy winds up throwing them on the floor. It’s a miracle these glasses aren’t broke,” said the 70 year-old lady.
Maria’s neighbor, a young nurse who was accompanying with her, attested to the truth of the grandmother’s words. She added that the boy, Manuelito, was only five, but that he was a total brat. “He doesn’t pay any attention to anybody, and his parents don’t know how to control him. It seems like he never gets tired of acting up. Still, everybody thought he’d get better when he started school – but no way. He’s just as bad, if not worse!”
The nurse hadn’t finished her comment when Luis, the only man present except for the driver, interjected saying that he had two children and that: “They’re young men. One is studying medicine and the other one is in cadet school. But ever since they were little they’ve been very polite and well-disciplined. They never bother anybody.”
“Children behave according to how they’re taught. Their words and actions reflect the family environment in which they’re raised. If the parents set a good example then the children will have good behavior,” he added.
Maria didn’t like anything about his comment. Demonstrating her annoyance she responded: “Well, that’s just not true! My grandson’s parents are very concerned about his education. My son is an engineer and my daughter-in-law has a Masters in Educational Sciences. They’re very intelligent and well educated, and they don’t tolerate his bad manners. They try to teach him the best way to act, but no matter how much they try they don’t always succeed. So not in all cases does a child’s behavior have to do with the education given to them by their parents.”
Another young woman also jumped into the already hot debate: “In my house, no one uses obscene words or bad language. And we hardly ever listen to music. So tell me this: Why does my younger brother use so many swearwords and so mush street talk? And how did he become a first class dancer without any of us teaching him? And if it’s like you say, then why is Daniel —who’s the son of a rabble-rousing trouble-making neighbor with no education— how is it that he’s the most polite and obedient boy in the world?”
The problem of ground soybean meat
The driver, quiet up to that moment at the wheel, turned and said: “Listen folks – the problem is that ground soybean meat has a lot of protein, and that’s where all this energy comes from that kids have these days.”
Though it was impossible not to laugh at that, he continued: “I have a little granddaughter who’s two years old and beautiful. But let me tell you, that little girl must have escaped from the devil, judging by the things she does. There’s nothing in the house in one piece anymore. She’s broken everything – absolutely everything. And to her, it’s the same thing to break a glass, mess up a bed or draw on the wall… which are things her mother and uncle never did.
This went on with almost everybody in the car sharing stories about their children, grandkids, nieces, nephews or neighbors. What caught my attention most was how no one said anything positive about any of the youngsters.
People who know me know that I’m a tireless talker. I’m always ready to give my opinion, and of course to defend it. But even though the debate touched close to home, since I have two children, I limited myself to just listening. I was wondering if today’s children are in fact more spoiled than those of the past or if today’s parents and family members are less patient.
A spoiled child is one of those who throw themselves on the floor in tantrums or pull their hair out to get they want. They’re the ones who insult or hit other people, or who fight their parents. A spoiled child is one who doesn’t take no for an answer.
But still, are they spoiled because they want to be that way or is it that we contribute to these beautiful little people at home becoming selfish, bad-mannered and spoiled?
Well, undoubtedly the family, especially the parents, bears a great part of the blame part for such behaviors that is becoming increasingly more common.
Working parents spend little time with their children, and when they get home they don’t give them the attention and affection they need. Of course that behavior isn’t on purpose, it’s because they come home tired, or because they sometimes transform the house into an extension of their jobs. They have other responsibilities in the home —especially the mothers— and that’s why they allow their children to do anything the kids want. It’s easier to please than to teach and to discipline them.
We need to teach our children so that they’re responsible, and we need to always do that with love. They need physical contact, stimulation, attention and especially affection.
More than the parents
Differing from the developed nations of the world, in Cuban society we experience the phenomenon of multigenerational families, where children live not only with their parents, but also with uncles and aunts, grandparents and cousins.
Maria Esther Lobaina, a young psychologist from Guantanamo, says that parents try to give orders and make those be respected, but other relatives —either consciously or unconsciously— let those children get away with disobeying those directions and obligations.
“Grandparents are especially lenient, and since parents spend more time at work than in the house these days, they’re unable to exert a great deal of control. If the parents were the sole ones in charge of the upbringing of their children, the situation would be different,” said the specialist.
The high rate of divorce that we experience in our country is also significant. Cuba now finds itself as the country with the third highest rate in Latin America. Equally important is the crisis in values; this results when the parents try to inculcate something good in a child, but in the street the youth collides head on with a different reality.
Concrete examples of this are the television spots that we see daily that try to instill certain values – such as not stealing, not lying, not saying obscene words, or being a good friend. It’s one thing what’s reflected on television, as a medium of communication, and something else what a teacher or someone else says in school, or what the child sees in the neighborhood or in the home,” she explained.
Meanwhile the parents —exhausted or stressed out by the excessive shortages and economic difficulties, among other problems— fail to act as good parents. In one way or another they end up mistreating their very own offspring.