GREAT BAY – “Delinquent fatherhood leads to delinquent youth,” says Lenworth Wilson, one of the speakers of Wednesday’s night, Fatherhood seminar in the Harbour Village. Wilson runs a business together with his wife, Shirmell, called The LAB (Learning Advancement Bureau), where they provide homework support and learning coaching to students after school, and since January 2015, he has been serving as the education coordinator for the Miss Lalie Center for Youth Rehabilitation and Detention.
“In my time as an educator, I came across different situations, and one of those situations propelled me to be more active in my role as an educator, motivator and a youth activists. I was teaching at a school here on the island, and there was a 6th grade student who was known as a problem child. I’ve never met with the parents at that time. It was either the mother or the father, and every time the father came he had a story about the mother and every time to mother came she had a story about the father. Their relationship got split because there was domestic violence, and though they were separated, the domestic violence continued.
“One day, the mother came to school a Monday morning, quite distraught, and she said that after her son spent time with his father on the weekend, he came home with a noose. The father had told the son to give the noose to the mother as a gift with a verbal message – he wanted to tell her to go hang herself. So even outside the house, the abuse continued – and teaching the son that this was acceptable behavior by using a part of his intimidation and oppression to this woman. 10 years ago, this same young man, was one of most gifted basketball players that the island has seen. At age 12, his father introduced him to marijuana and by the time he got to age 15, he was completely out of control. At one point, I’ve seen a video of him and his friends breaking into somebody’s house.
“I briefly looked at the role of a father. A father is expected to do three things, and one of those things is to provide. First, and foremost, children need a secure home – free from violence with parents who’d love and protect them. So that when things go wrong they have a safe haven – a place they can feel secure. If there’s turmoil on the T.V., or go to school and get bullied, at home they should feel secure. The father should be provider, but not just the material things but also the stability that the child needs. The father is supposed to protect. He’s a symbol of security, strength and defense. One of the greatest tragedies is when the father leaves his role – leaving his home and abandoning the children. And an even worse tragedy is when he reverses his role – when he stops protecting them and becomes the attacker – that’s even greater damage than if he just left and had nothing to do with his children or spouse.
“The third thing that a father does is teach. Every parent, father or mother, is a teacher. Whether you like it or not, your children are watching you and soaking up every word and every action you do. Children are constantly learning what is right or unacceptable, so when the father becomes an abuser the child is still learning. A father teaches his son how to treat women – whether he does it directly or indirectly – the son will learn the level of respect a father shows his spouse in her presence or absence. So when he goes to school and starts treating the young ladies, or even when he gets a partner and he continues the cycle – remember you taught him that.”
Wilson continued to point out the fact that abuse isn’t just physical, but it is verbal, psychological and sexual as well, and that raising a child in such environment, even if the child is not being directly attacked, is creating a monster that either the parents or someone else will have to face.
The second speaker of the night was Wendell de Leon, a behaviour change therapist, and highly skilled facilitator, trainer and clinical consultant on behaviour in the areas of social and organizational development throughout Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean region and the United States of America. Additionally, with his particular passion for fatherhood, De Leon is also the founder and CEO of the National Institute for Promoting Responsible Fatherhood. Wendell stressed the fact that a father’s role in a child’s life is “extremely important”, and that men should learn to become comfortable with being affectionate with their children – even their sons.
The night was closed off with two poems, Black Man and Restoration of Manhood from Ralph Cantave both expressing the importance of fatherhood and raising a community.