Saint Lucia
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The Open School on Positive Parenting

Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E
By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

WELCOME students to another lesson in the Open School for the final term for the academic or school year 2022 to 2023. The school is open to parents, guardians, teachers, students and members of the public. It is my hope that students will acquire knowledge and skills on Positive Parenting.

At the end of the lesson, students should be able to (1) Explain positive parenting, and (2) name two factors that influence children negatively.

Parenting in St. Lucia, and, perhaps, the entire Caribbean has been regarded as very challenging. Indeed, the serious crime and violence situations we are presently experiencing in St. Lucia, may be as a direct result of poor parenting.

Social Research has identified a number of factors which have been responsible for poor parenting, crime and violence.

The following factors should be considered in this regard:

The high percentage of single household. Now for the purpose of this article, we will consider the family household as a group of people who share the same living accommodation, including spouses and children; share financial and other resources.

In St. Lucia we know that there are many households which are led by mothers, maternal households, as well as households led by fathers, paternal households. The ideal would be to have both spouses living together in order to dispense parenting knowledge and skills to the children under their supervision. In the absence of that structure, many children could go astray.

Another factor is the disappearance of the extended family and community:

At the time when I grew up I had both parents around, until they migrated to the United Kingdom in order to improve the livelihood of their children. But the good thing was that I had both my maternal and paternal grandparents; aunts and uncles to guide and direct me and siblings.

Fortunately, both grandparents lived adjacent to each other, so that I was able to get breakfast at my maternal grandparents with whom I lived, and lunch at my paternal grandparents. Sometimes I had the difficulty of deciding where to have supper. Indeed, I had two sets of extended families to guide, instruct or punish me, if that became necessary.

Now, more than that, the whole community in George Charles Boulevard where I grew up, was ready to correct the children around when they were going the wrong way. They could even spank you if that became necessary. And you wouldn’t dare go home and say that you received a spanking from the next-door neighbour or any member of the community, because you would receive another spanking from your parents or grandparents at home. So, you just kept quiet!

Indeed, now that I am a granddad, I can reflect on these positive periods of my childhood days.

I am saying that these solemn period in the lives of children are now quickly disappearing. Parents have become ‘so loving’ that other members of the community cannot correct their children. Classroom teachers themselves have their own problems with parents and guardians of children which they teach.

Another factor which social psychologists have identified, is longer working hours. In order to make ends meet parents may have to work longer working hours. I know of parents who have a job during the day, and another in the evening. This could spell disaster for children who are unsupervised.

Still another factor is the absence of fathers. The presence of a male figure in the home is crucial for the development of children. Mother usually has a soft voice whose instruction would easily go unheeded. But the gruff, bass voice of daddy is always heeded! It does not go unnoticed.

We come now to the factor of lack of effective discipline skills. Indeed, some discipline skills come naturally. However, there are many others that must be learnt.

Now what are some of the discipline skills that parents should be ready to impart? They are: Listening, following instruction, questioning, sharing time, space, people and things; Exhibiting social skills such as- manners, empathy, which is the ability to relate to the emotions of others, humour; cooperation with others; understanding the reason for rules; independently completing a task; exhibiting leadership; communicating effectively; organizing time, space, people and things; resolving problems; taking initiatives in problem solving; distinguishing facts from feeling; and sacrificing and serving others. A great deal, you would say!

We come now to the factor of migration. Many parents have had to move from St. Lucia to the United Kingdom, the United States of America. Closer home, to Guyana, Curacao and Venezuela. And several others! They migrated in order to make life better for their family members. In many cases the children who are left behind suffer immensely.

The absence of parental involvement with stimulating activities could lead to another factor: early pregnancy and lack of parental involvement with stimulating activities in early brain development of children. Now, this is a serious health concern in our society today. And the government of St. Lucia is presently addressing that problem with free antenatal care for pregnant women.

We come now to a very worrying factor: That of infiltration of technology. In our society today, we have television, computers, cell phones, and a whole list of others. It should not surprise you to see many people, including youngsters, crossing the roads and streets with their heads down using their phones.

It is well known that children go to stations on their television and computers which they know very well that their parents would not support, since they do not lend to healthy development.

Now two questions for you: (1) what do you understand by positive parenting? (2) name two factors that impact negatively on children.