The UAE's rapidly changing society has eroded family values, and parents are not working hard enough to bring up their children properly before bad behaviours arise.
Family experts take parents to task for unruly children
ABU DHABI // Unruly children are badly behaved because their parents do not work hard enough to bring them up properly, experts said yesterday.
Home is where children need to learn basic values first, Dr Osama al Mossa, the head of awareness at Dubai Civil Defence and a psychology graduate, told a discussion at Zayed University.
"Home is the first school for children," he said. "If they do not have a good upbringing, where do they turn to? Streets, and then where? Prison?"
The Developing Values Forum was organised by Nada al Hammadi, a student in her final year the university, as part of her graduation project.
Speakers from several government ministries, and the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments all stressed the importance to the nation's future of developing and maintaining strong family values.
Many parents seem unaware how much their children can pick up from home at an early age, in the process passing down bad habits, they said.
"This woman was at a mall with her nine or so children saying, 'You donkey, hold your ass of a brother' and 'You cow, hold the other dog'. I told her, if you want the zoo, it's not here," Dr al Mossa said. "We see a lot of kids running away from home, so we go to their homes and see the number of problems there," he said. "Hundreds of homes have problems.
"Girls say they sleep hearing their mums scream, and wake up to their dads' shouts. Parents should not have children if this is how they are brought up."
He said an over-dependence by some parents on maids and nannies by parents also contributed to neglect and failed to instill core values.
"Who controls homes? It's the maids," he said. "The kids have a funeral when the maid leaves, they are so attached, they would rather stay home with the maids than go out with their family."
Parents had a responsibility to instill good behaviour in their children by acting responsibly themselves, Dr al Mossa said.
He recalled a friend from Ras al Khaimah who habitually dropped litter whenever he visited Sharjah. His three-year-old son criticised his behaviour, but the father replied that it was OK as long as it was away from home. Later his son picked up the habit and the father could not stop it.
"This the kids then take to be the norm, is this how they should be raised?" Dr al Mossa asked.
Too many parents, he said, waited until it was too late to start bringing up their children, neglecting them in their most critical early years.
By the time they were teenagers, parents were left to drop their children at school, dreading what stories they would hear when they picked them up at the end of the day.
"They actually thought they could wait until the kid was 15 to start raising them," Dr al Mossa said.
Dr Hessa Lootah, an assistant professor in the Mass Communication department at United Arab Emirates University, said some modern problems provided a clue to where parents were going wrong.
"Look at the problems here, like obesity," he said. "Three-quarters of children are obese, they sit in cars honking for the shopkeepers to come out. And they don't care how long they wait, as long as they can stay in their cars."
Fawzia Rahma, head of the family development department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that with the population structure and the leap the country had made in the past few decades, family values had been lost along the way.
"This is a generation of changes," she said. "The difference between now and before is like the different between the earth and the sky.
"Before, little boys would go with their fathers to prayer, there was respect among children for elderly parents, they knew not to be late.
"How many dads now take their kids to pray? Some kids don't even pray at all any more.
"We have lost our values because of changes in society, media, and so many other people in the country."
"We are not a bad society, on the contrary," Ms Rahma said. "But there are things we need to go back to the past to remind ourselves of."
"Emirati kids have the ability to do anything, the parents just have to fix themselves," Dr al Mossa said.