Mediamax Network Limited

Learning to be a father on the job

Steve Mbuthia whispers to his better half, Tibaga Gacheru to confirm the topic of their next parenting class. You can depict that they have grown fond of each other since they first met 18 years ago. To Steve, his wife is not only the love of his life, mother to their two children, but they also do everything together including mentoring and training parents.

The two met at Nairobi Chapel when Mbuthia was involved with the youth. Mbuthia saw a wife and a mother in her and decided to marry her. “We didn’t date like every other couple does, we met in December 1998, and I asked her out in October 1999, from the moment I asked her out we spent most times planning for our wedding and in August 2000 we got married,” he recalls.

In as much as they were looking forward to start a family together, Mbuthia was worried he didn’t have enough skills of how to become a good father to their children. Actually, what he always wondered was how exactly he would be able to build a great family? “I lost my father when I was 12, being so young, as well as the last born, I didn’t grasp enough knowledge of fatherhood from him. We got a baby girl in 2002. Luckily my in-laws were there to support me, so my wife’s uncle asked us to attend their classes where they were learning more about parenting,” Mbuthia says.

The couple explains that the most challenging part about parenting was the different backgrounds they grew up in. Having had different journeys of how they were brought up, the classes gave a common platform and built their values of who they now are as a family.

Two years later, he had become an expert and even started advising parents on how they could build strong families. So, he started his own parenting sessions. Where they could assist parents in knowing how best to relate with their children.

And in 2007, they got a son. Raising their children, aged 16 and 11, has always been easy, not only because of the skills he has in parenting, but to the close relationship that he has established with them. “Discipline is holistic. There are many things that come in before spanking a child, talking to them is among the basics. Just like any other family, we have a structure on how best our children can be great. Our mode of discipline depends on the offence committed. Also now our children are past the age of beating—spanking is better on children below 10,” he says.

Sometimes spanking doesn’t work. Instead it can worsen the situation. “When you decide to discipline a child you want them to change. Sometimes spanking does the opposite. A child will go thinking of how bad you beat them instead of what caused the punishment, which will be useless at the end of the day,” she says.

Mbuthia insists parents should focus on moulding the children character when they are still young. “If you don’t rectify the behaviour of your children when they are still young, there would be of no point doing it when they are grown. It is best to walk with them when they are still learning the ropes of life,” he says.

Mbuthia says home is where a child should get an identity, and he has been keen on practising it with his children. “Controlling children from when they are away is really hard, this is because you will not always be there with them. Therefore, it’s good to always tell a child to remember where they come from and how best they should value their roots. This way, they will never be swayed by their peers,” he says. 

Mbuthia says children join illegal groups seeking identity. This happens when the parent is absent. They might want to do something that will make them feel good about themselves.