This world is filled with varying degrees of influences that we cannot avoid no matter how much we try. Even a hermit would have difficulty staying outside social pressure as the tools with which society influence our thought processes are many and quite subtle. It is often common for us to seek solutions to problems with causes we are yet to fathom. This is not to say that we do not have an idea of what is wrong with us. We know to an extent that we have a problem. In some cases we know the root cause of the problem but the will to treat the problem is absent because social influence and pressure never stops not for rain or snow, not for elections or sanitation. Each and every day, we fight battles with ourselves over habits we have no control over, over social engineering but it is often a losing battle and there are some of us who just say what the heck and dive into it, letting go of all our reservations and fears.
It is in this world that we bear children and bring them up. We introduce them to society like a chrysalis opening up to the sun and we watch them grow gangly, shy, and timid, like tender green shoots sprouting out of a rich fertile soil. We are proud of them and then they have to go out; to school, to the church, to the mosque, to camps, and other avenues of socialization allowed growing children. We try to ensure that they are protected in such places; we check the rules and regulations, find out everything we need to know about the personnel that would be in charge of our children welfare in the duration of such and such activities; is he a paedophile? Has she served time in a jail before? Does he abuse drugs or alcohol? Is she too strict and heavy handed with the punishments? We check all of these things but often than not, the first influence in a child’s life are the parents.
We find ourselves playing roles of affronted guardians when it comes to our children and we often forget that we are sometimes predators preying on their innocence without knowing this. When our children are pressured outside the home, we are quick to lay blame, point fingers, fight on their behalf but in the home, where the first lessons are learnt, where the first wounds are often inflicted and treated, we do nothing because we often take for granted that we are influencing our children. There are parents who leave evidence of the debauchery of their lifestyle lying around the house and their children find them and even though it might be innocuous at first, it will become the face of a habit later on. There are several examples; cigarette stubs still trailing smoke, empty bottles of liquor on the table, plastic cups of pills by the bed stand, pornographic VHS tapes in an old cartons, bong pipes of college days and so on.
Curiosity is one of man’s biggest strengths and one of his biggest weaknesses. We as a race are curious and our need to know has led to so many grand discoveries but at the same time, this need has found young girls on an alley way at night, drugged and abused because they didn’t know better and were curious to find out. We leave trigger tools all over the place each and every day and our children see these things. We know what these things are doing to us as bodies of flesh and bone, as bodies of ideas and thought processes, as bodies of power and spirit but we let our children, the most precious gifts we will ever get have open access to them and when they too fall into the same cycle of pain and loneliness, of fear and sickness, we blame peer pressure.
We cannot always blame peer pressure for everything. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are the reason why our children do not want to come home. We are the reason why our children do not want to do better, be better. Now not everyone falls into the category I have cited above; parents who nonchalantly leave tools that can influence their children all over the place. There are some who desperately create a place filled with all the things they consider good and try to shelter their children from what they consider to be evil. Besides the fact that good and evil is based on perception in such cases, some of these parents influence their children not by what they do with their own hands but by what they say and what they support.
A man who believes that a certain race, religion, ethnic group should be wiped off the face of the earth just for the sin of existing will not always be careful around his children when he spouts the words that condemns such peoples. He would use derogatory terms to describe them and his children will hear. They will take this ideology and use it to build their own psyche, their own understanding of how the world works. We often hear a girl say my father would not let me marry this person for this and this reason. She has not asked for his permission yet, she has not introduced the person to her father yet but she knows because over time he has expressed his bias in no uncertain terms. It is in such a manner that children become racist, develop phobias for different ethnic groups, religions and belief systems even sports teams and political affiliations. We must not take this for granted, the power, we as parents have over the moulding and building these little ones into balanced adults.
People often lay blames on others as the cause of their problems without bothering to trace the journey they had journeyed to that point and identify where it all started. It could have been listening to your parents go at it at night in your one room shack when they think you and your siblings are fast asleep. It could as well be the old man who always sent you to buy some illicit gin and cigarettes. It could be your elder brother’s friends who inject themselves all day in your bedroom when your mom has gone to work. The point is influences as myriad and many as they may be start from somewhere. When you can trace the source then you can begin to find a cure. But like any other ailment, prevention is better than cure.
What then do you do as a mother living in an area filled with ne'er-do-wells, junkies, pimps, serial offenders and the like? Do you leave your children to find their way about in such a world? Do you talk to them about the world they live in and how there is a better place than where you are and how it is possible to escape where you are and do better or do you beat them down with your words and promise them hell on earth? Do you pour your pain on them like hot oil and watch with glee as they repeat the same mistakes you made when you were their age or do you tell them your story and try to guide them through the obstacles before them with your own experience as guideposts? If you have the opportunity, do you move away from such a place or do you say this is the only place I have ever known, I cannot leave here? Do you tell your children that they would amount to nothing or do you give them hope at night, when the power is gone and the candle flickers on their faces, showing their hopeful gazes?
If as a parent, your child has not picked up on some of your bad habits do not think that it is your will alone that made it possible, understand that your child has been lucky enough to come across positive influences outside the home that has stirred them in the right direction. It is better to keep away from the home any and every influence that is dangerous to the physical and mental health of your child. To you it might be just a harmless habit that hurts no one but yourself but while you might die having only smoked weed and drank beer all your life, your beloved son might go a step further and pop heroin into his blood for kicks. Whatever the case maybe, it is wise and far better to keep excesses away from children as you are their first social influence and your word is the first book of the bible for them.
In a world filled with influences forced down our throats from the television to the internet, the home is supposed to be the safe place, where we can gather the right tools to perform well as individuals in the society. The home is supposed to be protected from all of these influences either by their absence or through supervision and ensuring an understanding of what any and everything we see, read, hear, smell, taste or feel entails. As parents, we are guardians of young psyches who will grow up to guardians of young psyches too. The onus is on us to ensure that we guard not just with surnames and bared teeth at strangers standing at our gates but also by ensuring that our charges make the right choices and if they don’t be strong enough to guide them back and show them a better way without breaking them in the process.