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“You know it’s a great thing when parents trust you with their kids; it’s even a greater thing when parents trust the values that you instil in their kids,” Lesego said to me.
These words came after I shared news about a call I had received prior to my conversation with my friend, Lesego. As an NGO (Young Man Movement), we had planned a trip to Pretoria with the boys we mentor. This was an excursion for the young men to go watch the Mamelodi Sundowns vs Kaizer Chiefs game live at Loftus Versveld Stadium.
On Friday, I got a call from a parent of one of my mentees. This was after I had told her son that he won’t be joining us for the trip as a result of his absenteeism, lack of communication when he can’t make it to our sessions and also carrying himself in a manner that defies everything we stand for as an organisation.
Initially, I thought his mother was calling me to entreat on his behalf regarding the trip, especially because he is a big soccer fan.
However, I was completely wrong. The lad’s mother actually called to commend me on my principles and discipline.
“Abuti Kabelo (as most of them affectionately call me), thank you for being firm with our child. I was telling his father that I am so impressed with how you don’t let these children dictate to you. Our son doesn’t deserve to go to this game at all. Continue to keep them in line,” she said.
You can imagine how much relief and jubilation I had after that call. I got reminded of the words that raised me, ‘You spare the rod, you spoil the child.’
For me, disciplining a child has little to do with punishing them physically, but rather about denying them the things they enjoy and hold so dearly.
That boy would never forget the pain he felt at not being able to attend the match, especially because he is at the top of the list of young men within the group who love football.
Nevertheless, I certainly don’t believe that sins should go unpunished.
The young man called and sent several text messages apologising for his misconduct. He sounded sincere and very remorseful. However, I didn’t let that move me to reverse my decision to exclude him. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything, but it would definitely set a bad precedent for the rest of the young men.
It was after such a great bitter-sweet moment that I fully understood what Lesego also meant when she said, “it is an honour when parents appreciate the work that you do with their children”.
Indeed, to be trusted with children is a great honour and one of the most difficult responsibilities to carry out, especially when they are so young, averaging at 11 years.
I have over the years learnt that there will always be effective ways to discipline children that do not include any form of violence.
What looked like just a trip to a stadium to watch a soccer match turned out to be more than just that. It was more than anything a lesson about discipline and values.
Kabelo Chabalala is the founder and chairperson of the Young Men Movement (YMM), an organisation that focuses on the reconstruction of the socialisation of boys to create a new cohort of men. Email, email@example.com ; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala
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