They, must be seen but not heard?

I grew up in a culture where children were supposed to be seen but not heard. I was born & raised in Zimbabwe. In Southern Africa. That was not unusual but the usual, emulated and expected.

Seen but, not heard-Around adults

When children were around the adults whilst they were conversing, moms would encourage them not to interrupt or join in the conversation, unless when asked to. The younger women, when among older women, they would listen, but not try to join in the conversation. And at times children will be playing whilst adults are talking. This was because usually, children don’t know what’s appropriate say in the presence of people of high stature or visitors.

At times they start bringing out secrets or what the adults have been talking about before. It was a way of showing respect to adults. Plus a way of training young people. Except when one of the privileged older women would ask them to speak.

The sooner, the better

If you would dare try to ask your mom why she is asking you to bring her a bowl, that was a few inches from her, she would not answer you. But you would just get a full-fledged slap. A slap or a beating was part of the discipline. You would respect and adhere to mom’s rules with no question. The Shona people have a term,” Musha mukadzi, meaning , a home is made by a woman since a woman is a center that holds the family together; without her, it is likely to fall apart.

At times, discipline would get to another level, where your mom says, “Ndava kuzoudza baba vako!” ( Now I am going to let your father know about this one) Then you would know you are in real trouble. That was Africa, Zimbabwe. My dad would come in on issues mom would think are too high for her.

Visitors were very important

If there were visitors at home, moms would discourage children from lingering around the elders, unless when called upon. Then, you would do your assignment and leave. If you would try to do any funny business, your mom would look at you in a way of saying, “If you keep this up. When the visitors go I will deal with you.” Parents did not want any embarrassment in the presence of visitors.

This in no way, does it mean, that parents did not care about their children. They cared a lot and loved their children but, this was a norm, part of the culture. It teaching their children how to be appropriate with elders. Younger people were supposed to respect all elders irrespective of they are family or not. Elderly people would also lead by example by being polite and kind to passersby.


Your dad’s sisters would be your allies. If you know you have messed up then you go through them so they talk to their brothers. Your da’s brothers we would call them dad. Not uncle. We knew they were uncles but there was this thing of trying to unite the family and having the family do stuff without differentiation. my mom’s sisters I would just call them mom. Like mom from Harare, Mom from Masvingo. Families were so much in the unit. We would visit each other without prior notice. there were no cell phones and mail would take a while.

Then comes the, “It takes a village to raise a child phrase.” It was real, in the very literal sense. If I had a child and I want to go to the city to look for work, it was a default that my mom would look after her grandchild. And If children are playing the neighbor would be checking if they are doing alright and offer food. If you would mess up, the neighbors would tell your parents or they would discipline you. There were unwritten parameters to the extent the neighbors would discipline you. In a sense of saying.“Vana ndevedu tose.” Your child is as good as mine”

About Mavis Chuma

I love Jesus. I love life. I love people. My life is hid in Christ in God. I belong to God & am seated in heavenly places with Jesus Christ. As Jesus is in heaven so am I in the world. So I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. I am a winner.

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