Parents ask, “How can I inspire my kids?” Norah gives us her own experience as a child and offers tips for inspiring your children, from the point of view of an inspired child.
My name is Norah Chelagat Borus. I am a student at Stanford University in California (a rising sophomore), majoring in Computer Science. These past nine weeks, my three friends and I have been running a coding camp called NaiCode. We have had 20 participants and it has been a fantastic experience.
Just starting this NaiCode initiative, and seeing the impact it has had on other people has been amazing. It makes me convinced about the great and urgent need for all you parents to inspire your children to be creative.
Children are not taught to keep safe
I got a scholarship to attend Stanford after a very rigorous application process late 2014. And I give credit to my parent’s open trust and support – that’s how I got there. In our Kenyan culture, I notice that children are not taught to keep safe, in their dreams and ambitions. Girls in particular are encouraged to be eagerly compliant; not to question too much, not to do too much.
Parents have their children’s best interests at heart, of course, but this kind of upbringing does not inspire your children. It can lead to young people lacking assertiveness with what they want, and to believe that they are incapable of making a major change in their community.
Making teenagers stay in the house constantly instead of giving them freedom to roam, make friends, and find themselves, can do much more harm than good. It does not inspire your kids. It is important to let young people explore their environments, form bonds with like-minded people and be educated about matters apart from academics. Sheltering a teenager does not help them to be mature – it only makes them hesitant and dependent on their parents.
Typical concerns about promiscuity and drug abuse are not unreasonable, but parents should understand that teenagers are capable of making sound decisions if properly taught, and that they respond much more willingly to reason and logical arguments than arbitrary rules. “Because I said so!”… is not a good reason. Treating your teens as budding adults will inspire your children and go a long way in not only improving your relationship with them, but also in making them self-confident and active people.
Different generations have different priorities
Trust is something else that lacks in many parent-teenager relationships. What parents do not realize is that this creates a secretive undertone in their interactions with their child. Teenagers are much less likely to confide their hopes, dreams, challenges and ambitious plans to parents who believe that everything they do has a negative connotation.It is not a bad thing when your children have more information on certain matters than you. You do not inspire your kids by trying to show them that you know more than they do – especially when they know the opposite is true.
Different generations have different priorities.Computer Science, for example, has yet to become inclusive in the Kenyan syllabus, yet it is so important for our development. It is a major reason why myself and others initiated NaiCode.
This generational gap especially applies to education. If your daughter in high school wants to take the German or Music class instead of Business studies, it does not mean she is not serious with her life. If she has the opportunity to pursue her creative passions, she will do much better there than any business class she attends by force. The same applies to University courses. Becoming a surgeon, or engineer, or lawyer is not a career path in everyone’s destiny.
It is quite alright to educate children on the types of careers, along with their pros and cons, but also to take care not to force them to pursue a specific course. Remember, at that point, they are technically adults, and as such, making such a critical decision for them without considering their own thoughts does not inspire your children; instead, it will only embitter them.
Ironically, they are scolded
Teenagers need support. If they have interest in starting an environmental-preservation initiative in your estate, ask them how you can help. If they want to join a legitimate educational bootcamp, encourage them to apply. Far too many primary and high school children spend their holidays lazing around in the house. And ironically, they are scolded for doing nothing, but are barred from going outside often or engaging in other activities.
Parents — inspire your children differently; academics are not everything. Your child does not have to spend their whole holiday revising their coursework or doing homework. They can, and should, also spend their time actively improving their society. It can be through church based initiatives, or other forms of community development. Indeed, an organization does not have to be religious to do good. Allow them to engage in licit activities even outside your church. There are many people doing a lot of good in Nairobi, and Kenya in general – let your child be part of them.
Let teenagers express themselves creatively
Teenage children are notoriously difficult to manage, but have all the potential to be great. Expose them to what the world has to offer — let them express themselves creatively, and let them feel alive and present. Trust that they know what they want. Additionally, let them be ambitious in matters other than their books (academics are not the end-all-be-all). They will thank you when they grow to be self-aware, self-sufficient adults. Dear Parents — from a young person’s perspective, please heed to this call. Inspire your children.
“Aspiring coders should start early,” advises Jordan Casey, a 16-year-old programmer and entrepreneur from Waterford, Ireland. He founded two companies by the time he was 14. However, not all aspiring coders can start early. I certainly could not. I first coded at Stanford. Coding is the kind of skill that people across many industries can benefit from because programming helps us automate and speed up tasks. However, computer science has never been incorporated in the pre-college Kenyan 8-4-4 syllabus. Youth eager to learn do not have opportunities to do so. As such, they miss out on learning this important skill. I got the opportunity to come to Stanford and learn how to code in an extremely supportive environment with some of the best instructors out there. I want to give others back at home a similar chance.” ~Norah Borus Website: http://naicode.tech