How to raise a democratic child in the new Egypt

Ingy Deif, Wednesday 2 Mar 2011

The new generations of Egyptian youth have opened Egypt for democracy and dignity. How do adults internalise this and set an example for children? Acclaimed behavioural consultant details tips


In the warmth and coziness of her living room, a mother puts down the newspaper and watches her little boy play for a few minutes before she tucks him into bed. Her mind drifts away into the current events taking place in the country and a pressing question poses itself in her mind: What kind of story do I tell my child before he sleeps now? What kind of values need to be emphasised now? How do I raise my child to be a member of the coming generation that manifests the great social and political changes that came so suddenly and took us - and the world - by storm and highlighted the bravery and political awareness of the Egyptian people? This mother is one of millions who are perfectly aware that a sincere patriot or a good politician is a result of a good upbringing.

This is confirmed by Azza Tohami, behavioural consultant and acclaimed child education expert in various NPO’s called Wataneia that develop orphanages in Egypt. “The roots of freedom, acceptance, and democratic thoughts could be cemented in the children through many practices by their parents," she asserts. Tohami suggests the following:

  • Every little voice counts: For aslong as we can remember, Egyptianparents have passed on the attitudes that reflect deeply-rooted belief in centralising the process of decision-making, marginalising the views of younger members of the family, even those who compensate and take decisions that favour of their children don’t include their little ones in the process. They simply notify them with the end results. Such an attitude not only unties the younger ones from the family, but also implements in their subconscious the very first seeds of dictatorship and polarisation of ideas. Parents should become conscious of when they do this, stop immediately and replace their attitude with a system of alternative methods that will prove the importance of every member of the family through sharing ideas and voting to make a decision.
  • It is never too early to be a responsible person!: It is difficult to come up with a value that is more important than responsibility - and it's never too early. You can start by assigning certain jobs to the child, like planning the family holiday or asking them to manage the household budget for a day. Make sure that the task is within the child’s ability and applaud the child afterwards to boost up their self-confidence.
  • It's perfectly Ok to have a different opinion and even to be wrong!: Throughout the process of bringing our children up it is very important to show them in a practical way that all opinions are subject to assessment and discussion. This gives way to a broad margin of flexibility. Every now and then parents can open a discussion in front of their children. They can elaborate on an idea, give their opinions, one parent can adopt an idea and the other embrace an opposite one, etc. The child can witness one of them letting go of his own and simply reflecting upon each opinion after a reasonable debate.
  • It is a gift to be able to listen: Usually when two persons indulge in a conversation, each of them is actually spending the time talking or thinking how to prove the other's argument wrong. Kids need to learn firsthand from their parents the importance and essentiality of listening to each other, and that cannot be obtained unless each parent listens carefully and in full attention to the arguments of the little ones without trivialising any of them.
  • Teach them to be tender: A tender soul can never embrace the ideas of tyranny or dictatorship. Compassion and tenderness are two faces of a coin, such feelings and values can find their way in the child's heart if his parents involve them in charity and community work in addition to emphasising kindness through stories and when speaking of family situations.
  • Let Egyptian historic sites be part of their memories: We all tend to feel nostalgic towards places we have visited in our childhood, even if it felt a bit boring or dull at the time. The next time you plan to take your kids out - no matter what their age is - include historic and major touristic sites in your route, even if they protest. Find a way to make it fun and if anything you can take them afterwards to a more entertaining place.
  • Social and voluntary work is crucial: In our currently changing society and amid the challenges that the country faces, it is almost obligatory to dedicate every single effort towards the process of developing our country. So, volunteer to do community work in various fields. Children should never feel excluded, and should, on the contrary, feel that their efforts matter and are appreciated. Surely they will learn team work and taste the sweetness of contributing to their future.
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