Parents should be shepherds (Photo: iStock)

I came across a short video clip by Dr Russell Barkley on parenting, especially for children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition that affects people's behaviour. They seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse. This is one of the many conditions that people in the third world have started learning about, thanks to communication technology and the world being a global village.

During my upbringing, such conditions were seen as a curse and most of the parents chose to ignore them and act as if everything is normal. Most of the kids born with such traits were subject to bullying and discrimination by other kids. I remember we used to call them "watoi wamekreki". Nowadays, I see some schools have special classes for autistic learners. I hope the Ministry of Education will encourage and form more schools to take care of the situation.

The good doctor on parenting asks if the parent is an engineer or shepherd. He says a child is born with more than 400 psychological traits that will emerge as they mature and they have nothing to do with you as a parent. So the idea that the parent is going to engineer personalities, IQ, academic achievement or skills is not true. What you do is to help bring the child on earth after all the factors have been put in place.

He says your child is a genetic mosaic of your extended family, which means this is a unique combination of the traits that run in your family tree. He says as a parent, you are not an engineer but a shepherd who doesn't design the sheep. If you are an engineer, you become responsible for everything that goes right and everything that goes wrong. The new generation thinks they are engineers and that is where they go wrong because they think they have failed in their roles.

Which again you can't blame them much as these days there is a lot of societal pressure in life due to social media. He advises parents to stop thinking that they are engineers but know that they are shepherds to unique individuals.

Who is a shepherd? It is a person who picks the pastures in which the sheep will graze, develop and grow. They determine whether they are appropriately nourished and if they are protected from harm. What is more important for a shepherd is the environment; but he doesn't design the sheep and no shepherd is going to turn a sheep into a dog.


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I will agree with the Dr Russell on the issue of the shepherd even when it comes to parenting of the normal kids. Most of us who were born in the seventies and eighties know that because of the rules that were set up by the society, as parents we tend to be much more responsible than the Generation Z.

Then, it was more of a dictatorship but it was for our own good. Even when it came to things like having fun, we used to be reminded that there is no end to that and one had to be responsible. At a young age, the shepherd taught us that everyone had choices, decisions and had to be responsible for what they decided. On a positive note, most of the Generation Z parents are good in allowing one to nurture their talents.

I will conclude by saying parents should take Dr Russell's advice seriously and be involved in shaping their kids' behaviours in the right environment. The kids might resist and become stubborn like sheep but better get help from the society just the way a shepherd uses a dog to help when grazing.

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