But constantly, i’m struck by how much narrower their experiences have been, their particular struggles, especially with money, and their lack of self-determination, and sometimes confidence, and I wonder...how can this be? How can a man who comes from nothing, garner the highest academic achievements by hardwork, rise through corporate ranks to become, say the CEO of a bank...how can such a man end up with an aimless son, who lives from paycheck to paycheck, instead of becoming someone, who by virtue of the fact that he had a leg-up in life, should in every way be better than his father? How does the son of a president of a church dupe his friend? How does a much-respected vice-chancellor of a university have a son, who brings upon not only himself but his family so much shame? How does the head of a company like the then Ashanti Goldfields, a man who started in the pits, have a child who is dealing in heroin? How does one of the highest ranked people in the police force have a son who considers peddling hard drugs? How do you who grew up in the village eating bankye ampesi with palm oil , hustler like your type now have kids who neither can speak twi or find their way to the Kwame Nkrumah circle without a driver? How does this happen?
That it happens is especially disconcerting for two reasons. The first of them is that this is not the life the parents hope for their kids. Parents usually want for their kids, a life that's better than the ones they themselves had. I would even go as far as to say that at the heart of it, what we really want is for our children to be better -in every sense of the word-than we are. And yet, despite their parents better hopes for their kids, the kids don’t turn out well. The second reason is that when kids turn out this way, it actually drags our country backwards as they take two steps back when their parents took two steps forward.
So here’s the heart of today’s blog post:
Why did these great people fail to raising their kids to become better than them, and more importantly, how can we who will be tomorrow’s greats learn from their failures so that we may get it right?
I have some ideas. While I recognise that parenting is such that even when you know what to do, it’s not always easy to do it right, I think a better understanding of the fundamental problem (s) can still be helpful.
First, is that they spend a lot of time on their jobs and away from their kids. They’re not there to correct them, and train them. I this accounts for part of the problem but I think the second point I’m about to share is really where much of the problem comes from.
Second, if you’re poor and yet high-achieving, you end up in a lot of spaces where you’re the only one like you. You feel different, and that’s okay, because you are different. You may talk differently, dress differently (sometimes shabbily) and dream differently (a little less boldly). But you also realise that there is another reality...a better life...and you find that if you do excellent work, you can attain this life and escaping poverty and non-significance. So you do, and all is great. It seems to me that when Ghanaians become successful, they let go of every aspect of their past, the food inclusive and embrace without question their new life, including, unfortunately, its associated ills. Why do they let go of their past?
1. They think, erroneously, that everything of worth is found in this new world.
So when they have kids, they give them all that the new world offers such as the material things they did not have - tvs, the nice clothes, the computer games, a room of one’s own, and trips abroad. For example, whilst the parent may have lived in Kumasi and spent their holidays in a village, fully immersed in the life there they buy into the hype that letting your child visit the US or London gives them “exposure”...even if the child only stays indoors all day, and then finally at the end of the stay, returns to Ghana with new mall-bought stuff. How is that any more of an “exposure” than times spent in a Ghanaian village? When parents buy into this hype, they trade in one set of limited experience (knowledge of village life) for another (a summer of watching tv all day in someone’s living in Maryland) ...when they could have offered their kids so much more by giving them both. So in actuality, the kids end up being no better off than their parents...as far as being worldly is concerned. In many cases, they are actually worse off.
2. They are ashamed of their past
I don’t know why, really. I guess because some aspects of growing up poor were unpleasant, they don’t want to have anything to do with things that remind them of this past. What they fail to see if that there were things about that past that contributed in making them who they are. If anything, that past is to be celebrated, not discarded. Afterall, if it were so bad, it wouldn’t have produced someone as accomplished as you. But no...parents want their kids to be everything they were not. Example dadaba. But what does it mean to be a dadaba? In our culture, the true meaning of dadaba is always negative. Dadaba connotes, spoiled. Rich people’s kids who are properly brought up are not referred to as dadaba. It is usually the kids who are overdoing it, over-indulged, untrained that we refer to as dadaba. Instead of raising kids based on their values, we find parents who came from poor backgrounds consciously cultivating their children to become adadamba...and then they’re surprised when their kids do what adadamba do.
I’ll end by asking the question again:
Why do successful people fail at raising their kids to become better than them, and more importantly, how can we who will be tomorrow’s greats learn from their failures so that we may get it right? On a personal level, what will you do differently?
If you think I’ve got it wrong, I’ll be more than happy to hear what your own ideas are. I look forward to your comments.