Bar-trotting children in Kenya

Published by EAS on 15/05/2010

By John Muturi

I recall during last Easter holidays when I caught up with a friend and his wife in an entertainment spot in the outskirts of the city where they had taken their children. The popular spot was buzzing with activity. A children’s dancing and acting competition appeared the main attraction. I was just in time to hear a drunken DJ call out the winner—a small sturdy boy who received a victor’s thunderous applause. The boy walked forward and received a lollypop, bottle of soda and two beers for his parents. The parents stood up to acknowledge the cheers.

Shocking entertainment

It was very shocking to see the way children’s entertainment had changed. Who would have thought in the recent past that a parent could expose their child to the bar culture? Who would have thought that one can turn their child into a bar entertainer for a paltry bottle of soda or face painting? Much as such parents may be trying to encourage their children to hold their own in our competitive world, there are better places and ways of raising a well-adjusted child.

Today, many parents freely frequent bars and other adult entertainment spots with their children. Consequently, many children sit and watch adults misbehave after getting drunk.

The foul language used, the indecent touching and music with questionable lyrics is not lost to bar-trotting children. While a parent’s intention may be sincere — introduce their child to the competitive world and also give them the desired time — this is a far cry from quality time that counsellors advise us to give to our children.

Negative impact

Such parents, in their haste have not thought about the negative impact this has on their children nor the importance of recreational activities that are safe and age-appropriate.

It is as if parents who believe in taking their children to alcohol-free entertainment spots with many activities that children love — for instance, Uhuru Park, City Park, the Arboretum, the Giraffe Centre, Museums of Kenya, the Snake Park, and Paradise Lost — may be thought of as belonging to the old school.

Veronica Njeri, a counselling psychologist with the Kenya Association of Counsellors, while acknowledging the need to nurture a child’s talent, maintains that there is no reason why a parent should expose a child to a corrosive environment such as the bar. Chances are such children who model on their parents might become hooked to alcohol in future.

“It is important to encourage and assist a child to exploit his talents from an early age. But be selective on the right platform to achieve this. More likely, the child’s morals will be corrupted and you can’t rule out their becoming alcoholics in future,” says Njeri.

Parents are the first teachers and models that a child role models on. Thus when they expose their child to bars at such an early age, it gives the child the impression that hanging out and drinking is ‘cool’.

The counsellor recalls a couple who resorted to taking their children with them to the bar after discovering their houseboy was sexually abusing their daughter. They felt safer to be with their children but never thought how this affected the small children.

By taking children to pubs, parents assume they are killing two birds with one stone — entertaining themselves in the bar and at the same time giving their children quality time and attention.

Developing value system

Says the counsellor, “Unless a parent has values they stand for, they will have nothing to pass on to their children. They should start by agreeing on a value system on how to raise their children. Parents have an important role to play in the behaviour and character moulding.

“Nurturing by parents and teachers has to work in conjunction with the environment or nature.

But nurturing has a comparatively greater influence in character formation hence parents must be careful on how they nurture their children especially for the period up to 13 years.

This is simply because it is a very critical stage of the child’s character formation,” says the counsellor.

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