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Encourage your children to speak up when in trouble

When I was a child, my parents would take us upcountry for the December holidays.

I loved visiting my grandparents because I enjoyed unfettered play, peace and quiet, friendly and generous neighbours and a chance to mingle with cousins.

On the down side, I was terrified of my grandparents wooden pit latrine. Getting inside took an immense act of will because of the creepy-crawlies which made it their habitat, not to mention the darkness once you shut the door.

Once inside, I would take a deep breath to bolster my spirit, close the door with every intention of relieving myself but after listening to the buzzing of the mutant green flies, I would exit at high speed, mission unaccomplished.

As a parent you should encourage your children to speak up if anything makes them uncomfortable or afraid. No topic should be taboo for them to ask, and their inborn curiosity and outspokenness should not be muzzled.


My eight-year-old daughter does not hesitate to speak her mind. Once, when she visited her grandmother while on holiday, she started crying after putting on one shoe.

A neighbour berated her for being so namby-pamby, but I asked her what the problem was. Everyone around us burst into laughter when she swore adamantly that her shoe had ‘bitten’ her when she attempted to wear it.

Out of curiosity, I turned it upside down to find out what she meant amid snide remarks about pampered city children.

Despite the fact that my daughter was shrieking in agony, I felt a surge of triumph when a scorpion crawled out of the shoe, sting at the ready. Everyone’s smiles vanished as they rushed to assist.

Parents know that giving their children too much leeway can lead to crushing embarrassment when they say or do something inappropriate.


To avoid this, admonish your children when they are too outspoken, or shush them when you feel discomfited by the nature of their questions.

As a result of keeping a tight rein on them, you may inadvertently contribute to their inability to speak out when they face difficult situations.

My phobia for the latrine resorted to furtively doing my business in the bush. My habit was later discovered, I received some lashes which deepened my hatred for the latrine.

I also suffered from constipation well into adulthood for suppressing nature’s calls, simply to avoid going to the latrine.

The incident taught me how to deal with my children. I try as much as I can to answer their questions, no matter the subject. I have found that encouraging this interaction soon overcomes any initial awkwardness and draws them closer and in turn builds trust.

It is difficult not to be annoyed when my daughter is up in arms, for instance, falling asleep with the lights off, despite reassurances that prayers offer protection from any ills.

Her phobia for the dark is her pit latrine situation, and I put myself in her shoes, by switching off the lights after she falls asleep. I need to exercise patience until she outgrows her fear.