“The things that we do or say are the things our children learn” – Abel, a peer educator
Parenting or bringing up children is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood! According to renowned developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind, there are four patterns of parenting: Authoritarian parenting (Strict/harsh), Authoritative (responsible/caring), Permissive (lenient), and Uninvolved (neglecting/careless).
In Uganda, the situation for parents is challenging given the extreme poverty and hardship surrounding them every day causing them to be authoritarian or uninvolved. It is also exacerbated by the fact that women in Uganda have on average 6 children, so that it can be difficult to provide all children with the caring and love necessary. Many young girls also told us that they became pregnant and were forced to drop out of school because of their uninvolved and busy parents.
Parenting is one of the topics that is covered during the Ni-Yetu Peer-led Outreach Sessions. Earlier this month, two peer educators, Clare and Abel, facilitated a session on positive parenting with 45 girls between the ages of 15 to 22 years of whom the majority are young mothers living in Acholi quarters.
(Photo: Peer educators, Clare and Abel, facilitating a session on positive parenting)
During the session, the girls were asked to share about the kinds of parents they see in their community and how they care for their children. The participants shared the following insight and stories with the Ni-Yetu peer educators:
(Photo: Ritah sharing a story of harsh parenting with other participants)
“Most of our parents are harsh. I have a friend called Dauphine. Her mother is a very harsh. Dauphine was hungry and asked the neighbor who happens to be a man for some food. When the mother found out, she thought that her daughter slept with the man for her to get food. She told her to undress and tied her on a tree, opened her legs and got a burning Jerri-can and positioned it to her private parts as a punishment. After that, the mother asked her to prepare food for the young siblings yet she was going through a lot of pain!”- Ritah
“Most parents punish us because we don’t listen to them. My father always advises me not to walk at night so that I can avoid peer groups and other related risks involved. One day, I forgot and moved at night, my dad punished me. Ever since then I avoid moving at night.” – Ruth, 17 years old
(Photo: Lillian participating in the discussion on positive parenting)
“I am a young mother currently doing a hairdressing course at a vocational school. This program has helped me so much so that I can decide what I can do and keep my good health. During this session on positive parenting, I learnt that as parents we must not be so harsh to our children. We have to be their friends so that we can understand them” – Lillian, 18 years old
(Photo: Lillian (center) with her daughter during a group exercise)
A Quick Guide for Parents and Caregivers:
Parenting is a mutual responsibility between fathers and mothers. It can be a fun and life-changing event in one’s life if the parents are prepared for it. Children have basic needs for safety and security as well as physical needs such as food, water, clothes, shelter, etc.
However, parenting goes beyond just fulfilling such basic needs. It requires amongst others knowing children well, practicing good communication and listening, positive disciplining, being a role model for children, and knowing our emotions as parents and managing ourselves.
Positive parenting can influence the sexual and reproductive health decisions young people make in the future and the kind of parents they become. Many children model the types of families they grew up in. They may even choose to stay in violent relationships because of the kind of parenting they received.
That is why peer educator community outreach sessions on positive parenting are so important! They allow the youth in the slum communities with the space to identify their own childhood experiences and see how they can transform the negative experiences to become positive and responsible parents, being authoritative rather than being authoritarian.