The Role of Family in Inculcating National Values
In the Sessional Paper No. 8 of 2013 on National Values and Principles of Governance, the Kenya Government has identified the family as one of the drivers and value carriers in its quest to entrench national values and principles of governance in the country. Values have a major influence on a person’s behaviour and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in an individual’s conduct in all situations hence the need to have them inculcated in individuals in their formative years. Aristotle opined that good character is developed over time through a sustained process of teaching, role modelling, learning and practice.
In one of Plato’s writings, The Republic, he argued that the character of a sate depends on the quality of its citizens and their ruler. Therefore, a properly functioning society denotes that the individuals making up that society have relatively good character.
Successful entrenchment of a shared national value system requires the concerted efforts of various actors in the communities key among them being parents. Nurturing of character in individuals is one of the biggest challenges for any community. This is because character development is a process. Early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle made a strong argument for good character, seeing it as a gateway to good governance, harmonious coexistence, justice and happiness for all. Aristotle, for instance, considered character education to be the highest virtue. Similarly, contemporary communities are reckoning with the need for character development not only for its own sake but also as instrumental for national progress to help in fighting societal ills like corruption, dishonesty, laziness, recklessness, lawlessness among others.
Family plays a major role in inculcating good character hence national values. Children belong to family units that exert a tremendous influence on their moral development. Parents serve role models to their children at home; they play a major role in inculcating their ethical behaviour. Parents help diffuse boldness about cheating, lying, stealing, and consideration for others. They play a major role in developing ethical behaviour and to a larger extent national values in children. Dealing with values and moral issues is recognized as an integral part of parenting.
Every society and community has shared goals and values it aspires that its members should espouse. Some of these values include respect, honesty, fairness among others. The family being the first major socialization institution has a bigger impact and influence in inculcating national values in the younger generations. This is because the family home is the one that sets the patterns for a child’s behavior towards others in the society. The family and people in society have therefore a bigger role in supporting Kenya’s shared values as young members of the community grow up.
In Kenya there have been a number of cases where citizens have acted in blatant violation of existing laws and our shared values. There have been reported cases of some Kenya police officers being accused of taking bribes to abate crimes, which later cause deaths. Some medics are reported to sell medicine meant for use in public hospitals while some civil and structural engineers have approved substandard structures after being bribed, eventually leading the collapsing of the structures and loss of lives. There are also cases of children who have been initiated into the cycle of moral reprobation. For example, teachers, parents and students collude to cheat in national examinations. There also exists cases of some religious leaders defrauding gullible, unsuspecting congregations, contrary to societal expectation that the clergy should lead exemplary lives.
The family is the first pillar upon which the moral values of a person are built. Therefore, the family has a direct role in molding the personality of a child before he/she starts interacting with the society. Parents have a greater role in encouraging children to be accountable for their own actions very early in life hence they will learn to respect and treat other people kindly and with dignity. Parents under the family unit also have a critical role of being moral exemplars to their children very early in life. Therefore, they should never indulge in dishonest deeds in the presence of their children. This is because most children learn at home the things they later practice in life. Parents also have a greater role of helping their children develop a sense of choosing between what is right and wrong so that when they are adults they can easily grasp what national values entail. Family units should also be used to sensitize children towards the weak in society and marginalized groups. This has a lasting impression, especially on national values like protection of the marginalized and also non-discrimination of other citizens.
Value education is not a sphere of activity distinct from other activities. Values are more central constructs and relate more closely to basic human needs and societal demands. Value acquisition goes on constantly in families and schools through various activities like instruction and relationship between pupils, neighbors among others. So parental education has a major role in inculcating national values before teachers start training children formally at school. Values cannot be taught in isolation, but parents ought to provide experiences and situations in which their children can consider and reflect about values and translate this reflection into action. Value education is most effective when parents act as role models and ensure that it is at the heart of the family’s value systems. Therefore, national values ought to be explained in the family context at home by parents since family units hold a bigger sway to how individuals will behave when they grow into adults.
A child learns his behaviour by modelling what he sees around himself/herself. The family plays a major role in helping a child socialize and has agreat influence and bearing on the progress of the child. Children tend to identify themselves with their parents, other family elders and adopt them as their personal models for emulation, and imitation and hero-worship them. So, parents should be careful on the kind of values they instill in their children. If proper values are instilled at a tender age, it will be easy for children to embrace the country’s shared national values espoused in Article 10 of the constitution as they mature into adults.
Author: Dr Douglas L. Kivoi, Policy Analyst, Governance Department