Introducing Parents' Corner
by Aster Yilma

Dear Reader,

Before I got married in 1982, my husband and I came to a mutual agreement that if we were to have children, one of us would be the breadwinner and the other would be a full-time “stay at home” parent. At the time, because my husband was more marketable, we knew that it would probably be me who would be the primary care taker of our future child or children.

In 1984, we were blessed with a son. I have been a professional mother ever since. I must say, it is the most challenging and fulfilling job I have ever had. Since I take being a mother as a profession no different from any other “paying” profession, my approach to raising a child is the same as the approach professionals take to grow in their fields: I attend seminars, read, join parent’s and parenting related associations, network, etc. I believe that I have reached great success in my profession. This is evidenced by what I have helped my son achieve. He is studying mechanical and aerospace engineering at an Ivy League school, is active in his church, has devoted a huge amount of time to community service both here and in France and Canada, received several awards for academic achievement, is listed in “Who’s who in American High Schools”, gives 10% of his money to charity, etc. I have raised not only a smart, responsible kid but a good human being - which is more important to me than any other achievement.

Raising children is difficult, particularly in today’s complex society. For Ethiopians living outside our country, the challenge is compounded because (a) we don’t have parents or older relatives around us for guidance and (b) when we are faced with problems, frustrations or have questions regarding parenting, we don’t have an organized support system to tap into.

My column in Tadias is designed to help fill this void. For this introductory issue I address the following:

My Daughter is obsessed with designer clothes. I can’t afford them but if I don’t buy them, she will think that I am mean.

When they don’t get their way, all children think their parents are mean. As parents, we have to choose whether we want to be popular or do the right thing. Occasionally, we can do both but most of the time, we can’t . I drilled into my son that what he wore had no bearing on who he was and that designer and regular name brands come out of the same factories (except for originals that cost thousands). At the same time, I bought him a couple of designer things so he wouldn’t feel “less than”, and so he would have something to show that he was as “cool” as his friends. You don’t ever have to pay the ridiculous high prices. There are many discount stores where you can get brand names cheap. Also, you will save a lot of money if you buy them off season.

My son wants the computer in his room. Should I allow it?

Absolutely not. We had our computer in the office for a while and our son was spending a lot of time isolated. What I did was to have the computer moved to our dining room where I am constantly in and out. Of course, the computer was an eye sore among our Scandinavian furniture but this was a good way of keeping an eye on what he was doing without him feeling that he was being supervised.

Our daughter wants a TV in her room. Would it be appropriate to buy her one?

BWe have a TV in our den for all of us to use. We are one of those boring families who watch very little TV. My philosophy is “not much of what’s on TV is beneficial to any child”. I find that watching TV keeps our children from books, from productive activities, from school work, from bonding with their family and friends, etc. What I did was to let my son pick a couple of shows (per week) and watch them with him. Occasionally, I found some great programs that I myself made sure that he watched. I involved him with regularly scheduled activities like scouting, church youth group, soccer (eventually ultimate frisbee), keyboard lessons, family activities, etc. When children are very busy, they have little time to whine about TV. We just have to make sure that we involve them in things that a) they like and b) are productive. Sometimes, they don’t even have to like what we have them do. When my son was 10, he did not have the maturity to understand what he could get out of scouting. Therefore, he did not want it. I used my parental authority and told him that school, church and boy scouts were non-negotiable items in our home. Of course, once he got involved, he did not want to miss one meeting. Today, he is a proud Eagle Scout.

Our son hangs around a kid that I don’t think is a good influence. The more I try to keep my son away from this kid, the more I see them together. Is there something I can do?

There were kids in our neighborhood who I thought were headed for trouble. What I did was every time my son wanted to be with them, I offered him an alternative that I knew would be more appealing to him (I got this method from the movie Godfather where Don Corleone said, “Make him an offer he can’t refuse”). For example, when he asked me if he could go over to Bob’s house, my response was something like, “Sure, honey. But I was planning to take you , Keith and Mike to a basket ball game (of course Keith and Mike were the kind of kids that would be a positive influence).” He would immediately take my offers without me ever having to say something negative about somebody else’s child and without creating anger and resentment in my own.

Please send me your questions to and I would be happy to answer them!

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