Thursday, 1 August 2013

A very good investment for Oman

A bit of an unusual post for this blog, but these thoughts were chasing me for some time.

There is a lot of talk and some actions as well on strengthening the employment in the private sector, enhancing the SMEs, creating an Omani labour force that will play a major role in the sustainability of a non-oil economy. This is all good and encouraging. There is one aspect thought, that - in my view - will have a massive impact on the future of the country and that is parenting.  Education and pedagogy as an activity carries a major paradox that of trying to prepare kids for the future, a future that is unknown for the educators themselves.  Parenting is somewhat similar.  We are all trying to educate our kids for their 20s, 30s 40s and beyond; not really knowing what will be challenges they will face in 10, 20 or 30 years time.

One thing for sure, we as parents have a window of 10 to 14 years when we can set the grounds for the development of their personalities.  After that the high school friends, the sports club buddies, coaches, often the boarding school teachers abroad, or the street ‘gangs’ themselves are the educators with most of the influence. All we can do is follow the events and give an opinion eventually try to intervene when things go off track, or we think they do.  In some cases we are very vocal in expressing our opinion in some others we try to be more persuasive given explanations and examples, but no matter what we think, our teenage kids will still consider it just an opinion. The last time I remember really taking away my parents advice I was around 10-12.  But is not just our communication with the kids, and the pieces of wisdom we want them to remember, it’s the whole experience of home, spending time with Mummy or Daddy. Seeing how they relate to each other, how they solve a conflict (do they solve it of just swipe it under the carpet), how they encourage their child. The patience they show and the trust they put in their development. The determination to curb things that are seen as wrong and the creativity of enforcing the good. There is a whole range of situational and contextual information that shapes their personalities and values.

Now this might seem all boring parenting textbook, but here’s the thing.  Most families are heavily relying on nannies, or even worst, maids that are asked to work as nannies. Now think of all these aspects above in the context of being raised by a nanny that unfortunately more often than not is just doing a job.  An underpaid, under motivating, often frustrating job. She cannot behave as a parent for obvious reasons, she is not a mere baby sitter as a full time nanny, and often times she has her own child back home.  Therefore a whole generation could grow up under a very loose and particular parenting environment. A generation the country will have to rely on.

I don’t really know what is the solution to this, but parenting in Oman  - and everywhere else for that matter - definitely needs more investment.  Investment from the scarcest resource 21st century people have: time.