Parenting And The Positive Bystander Effect


By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

Would you be interested in the way I’m raising my kids, if you are certain, one of them could be your son or daughter-in-law tomorrow?

I know what your answer would be. But the reason you probably don’t give a damn about my kids is because you think our paths may never cross again after now.

That’s a dangerous gamble. Those kids who attend the same church, school, karate, music clubs, etc. with your kids might show up again in their future. Show some interest in how they are being raised now.

It is dangerous to mind your business in parenting…especially in a world so connected like we have in the 21st century. It is even more dangerous to express a neutral stand or hold politically correct positions in the face of clear reprehensible parenting acts and conducts.

If you ask me, I think we lost it the day your neighbour’s child knew he or she could get involved in shady stuff outside, and you won’t tell his or parents. The decay got worse when your neighbours figured out that the most stupid thing to do is to give you honest and sincere feedbacks about your kids.

To clear up this mess, we must all assume the role of the positive bystander because, no home is completely immune against societal ills. The story of “the driver, the drunk men and the couple” should help us understand the bystander effect better.

According to the story, a woman was travelling to Benin City, so his husband decided to drop her off at the bus terminal. On arriving at the bus terminus, the man chose to wait until his wife’s bus departs for Benin. As they made their way into the ticketing area, they met some men apparently having a ball and drinking their lives away. The husband looked away, opting to mind his business. But not his wife. “How can you guys be drinking and intoxicated so early in the day?” said the woman. “Honey, I have told you severally, to learn to mind your business,” the man retorted. “Let’s go, jor” he added, dragging his wife as they headed for the ticketing counter.

In about an hour, the tickets for that trip had been sold. “Benin passengers una bus don ready to go o!” came the boarding announcement.

The man escorted his wife to the bus and recognised the face of the man in the driver’s seat. “No way! Honey, you are not travelling on this bus”, he blurted out.

“What are you saying, sweetheart?” the wife wondered. “The manager had told us earlier that this is the only bus going to Benin”, she added. “Honey, see the driver of the vehicle” the man whispered to his wife, pointing in the direction of the diver. He suddenly became paranoid.

His wife was speechless. She recognised the driver. He was one of the men who were drinking when they arrived at the bus terminal. That’s the that would be driving her to Benin. For her husband, the matter of the drinking man had suddenly become his business because it has moved from being “a drinking man to a drunken driver who is going to drive his wife to Benin”.

What do you do at that point? Get down from the vehicle or pretend as if nothing happened earlier?” What do you do when you realise that the child you refused to correct yesterday is about to become your son-in-law or your daughter-in-law today?

Being an active bystander means knowing when someone’s behaviour is inappropriate or threatening and choosing to challenge it. This is how norms and values of societies are preserved. A society commences its descent into decadence when sick acts are tolerated, overlooked, or those calling it out termed judgmental. Sane societies have conducts they forbid and the ones they applaud. Ours cannot be different.

_*Kingsley Obom-Egbulem* is author of the critically acclaimed book *When Fishes Climb Trees*._