The Culture of Fostering Moral Virtues on Eritrean Children

Articles - General

Every culture has its own characteristics, and is distinguished from others, by deep-rooted and widely acknowledged ideas about how one needs to feel, think, and act as a functioning member of the culture.

So, as there are different nations with different cultures and norms, it is obvious that humans have variety of lifestyle, and that’s why we raise our children in many different ways. It may be a cliché to mention that raising a child is not an easy task, but it needs a constant recapping and discussion. It is said that mothers know best when it comes to this issue, but I believe both parents, including the rest of the society, have to take equal share in nurturing a strong nation, which of course starts from a family.

Culture is usefully conceived of as the set of distinctive patterns of beliefs and behaviors that are shared by a group of people and that serve to regulate their daily living. These beliefs and behaviors shape how parents care for their offspring. That is why raising children has its own distinctive ways and approaches in most of the societies around the world.

Raising a child is not merely about feeding and clothing, but more about how you build-up the child’s character and aptitude. It’s not only important to feed and bath a child, it’s also important to discipline it. In this sense, we should know that as much as the material and educational provisions we give to our children, the most important task is to shape their moral values. However, although many parents fail to fulfill this basic task, some take it to the extreme of unnecessary disciplinary measures. In most western countries a law is being enforced on how parents should raise their children and those parents are obligated to respect the law unless they want to lose their child to social services. But this tends to give the parents less control over their children. However, when it comes to parenting, the issue of discipline is always controversial.

Discipline they say is the process of actions taken by parents to teach their children appropriate value and behaviours in the society. Probably, it is the most difficult job of parenting, because it requires more wisdom.

In the Eritrean culture, there is a very common saying, which goes as, “kolea bnesu korbet brhesu”. In its literal translation, it means that nurturing the proper attributes of a child is only possible at a very young age as it is much easier and efficient to process a rawhide while it is still fresh. That’s why a child requires proper attention and care at a very young age.

When it comes to the role of parents, culturally it is believed that maintaining the discipline of a child is the father’s role. Frequently, we have heard mothers telling their child that they will report to the father when doing wrong. The bad thing about this attitude is that, to many children the father figure is someone who is feared and obeyed. And this has negatively affected the father-child relationship in many occasions.

According to scholars, disciplinary actions can include physical and non-physical disciplinary punishments which are classified into inductive strategies such as reasoning and explaining the consequences of their actions to them, physically coercive strategies such as hitting or whacking and psychologically aggressive discipline strategies such as swearing and cursing at a child. In most cases, the kind of punishment a child receives may depend in the seriousness of the mistake the child committed. In this case, researchers have proven that parents in the East tend to use a lot of physical punishment to discipline their child than those in the west.

Verbal discipline is one way of punishment parents use to discipline their child. Sometimes parents could even be seen resorting to calling a child stupid. On the other hand, behavioural discipline such as time-out and grounded, is used to drive their children to achieve whatever is expected from them. The parents have the perception that children will feel ashamed after being punished and thus, avoiding the same mistake in the future. As a result, children do not dare to speak their mind out nor say no to their parents due to their strict way of raising them.

As children, I am sure that we have experienced different strategies of punishment from our parents, some of which are still funny to remember. Sometimes our parents used to make us fear in order to discipline us…they will call names such as hengugu (Monster), when we don’t listen and believing them we simply feared and obeyed them. They will even put name on materials they use to punish us with, such as “lemlem” “hdeat” for a stick or belt and they will say, “I will bring lemlem or you better stop crying…or do this…do that”. As children, we were even told that God will hate or punish us when we do mistakes. And the funny thing is, as innocent kids we used to believe everything we were told, until we grow up to realise what was true and false.

When it comes to socializing any child is expected to follow certain norms as part of the society. In this case, loyalty and respect are some of the highly valued traits of our society. For instance, in a bus young ones are expected to give their seat to the elders, if not so they are considered as di s respect ful . In the eyes of the society such misbehaviour of the child is even considered as the failure of the parents. Beside the family, the society also has a great role in shaping the child’s behaviour. Especially in places where families live together caring and disciplining a child may become a joint task.

But not all parents use same strategies when it comes to disciplining a child. There are also parents who choose to discipline their child through reasoning and explanation rather than physical punishment. Truth be told, children who are raised in this way are more confident than those who are extremely punished. In contrast, there are spoiled and disobedient children, due to lack of discipline. So, when it comes to disciplining strategies, it is always important to try to look into the future of the children and what you want them to become or the place you want them to have in the society. In this case, using capital punishment has become old-school, while reasoning and explaining to your children about the does and don’ts is prevailing not only by the law, but by the parents own good will for their children.

While most disciplinary methods carry the same purpose, which is to raise a child to be productive and successful, many more ways have proved the psychological and physical impact they make on the child while growing. Yet again, it is unlikely to say one culture is right and the other is wrong. Nevertheless, through studies done on children and their practical outcome, we all can avoid the harmful cultural ways of raising our children and adopt new ways. We also can learn from the experiences of successful parenting.

Indeed, among the unity of the diverse cultures in Eritrea, raising a child is the most important task in all our ethnicity. It is not only left for the parents to take care of the children; the grandparents, the extended-family and the society at large has also an input in nurturing and taking good care of a particular child. The way children are raised in Eritrea could be exemplary as far as love, care, manners, moral virtues and basic education are concerned. There is a theme at a societal level here in Eritrea that all the good is for the children.