A long, long time ago, all a parent needed to correct an errant child was a few well-aimed thwacks on his behind.
The child would scream for forgiveness and all would be well after that; the offending behaviour beaten out of him for good.
The “weapon of choice” depended on what the parent fancied. It could be anything from bare hands to thick, bendy canes.
Punishment for a deviant child used to be meted out by all and sundry.
It was an unwritten rule that if one “sinned” next door, he was punished there and at home. It used to take a village to raise a child but the village has become global.
Take the viral video of a boy that went round social media this past week. It featured him spewing expletives to tell off one of his schoolmates who allegedly called him gay.
Some comments on social media about the boy bordered on cyberbullying but all seemed to agree that he needed help.
Additionally, his parents and those of the girl he was addressing were castigated by many, with their parenting skills being analysed on TV shows and on social media.
Bad and absentee parenting was largely blamed for the boy’s foul mouth.
If this child had grown up in the early 1990s, perhaps all his parent would have needed was force him to wash his mouth with soap, slapped the f-bombs out of his head and made him write an apology letter to the girl.
But times have changed. Parenting has become complex. Children have become complex. And everyone is trying to keep up with the changes.
It doesn’t help that the society has become more and more individualistic.
People are happy to report children’s misdeeds on social media and offer their unsolicited advice on parenting from the comfort of their smartphones.
The claim that children have been left at the mercy of househelps, TV and electronic gadgets is quite exaggerated, but technically true.
These are just the realities of today and should not be used as a measure of good or bad parenting.
And if they are indeed measures of parenting, then none of us are immune to the so-called bad parenting. Boy X in the video could easily be your child.
They say parenting does not come with a manual, so which manual is this being used to judge parenting skills?
Most working parents leave their houses at the crack of dawn and come back late in the evening.
They leave their children sleeping and often find them asleep. Is that absenteeism?
They hire people to help them take care of their offspring when they are away at work. Is this bad parenting?
Truth be told, some parents are pure evil and others neglect or mistreat their children, but most try to do the best they can.
Hillary Clinton, in her book It Takes a Village, sums up the challenges of modern parenting: “We are living in an interdependent world where what our children hear, see, feel, and learn will affect how they grow up and who they turn out to be.”
This interdependent world is rife with pressures that spring from the digital era, which both parents and children are trying to grapple with.
Parents are dealing with children who are seeking the approval of the world through likes, comments and followers.
They are fighting for their children’s attention alongside social media, TV and video games.
It doesn’t help that the digital era, which was supposed to make it easier to communicate and socialise, is making it harder to do so.
And no, going analogue is not the solution in a world that’s going digital. Parents are doing their best in this complex world, so let’s support them.
And even if the village is now global, it still takes a village to raise a child.
The writer is the editor, Living Magazine; [email protected]