The little victim of sexual abuse could have been helped if…

When I first heard the story some days ago that a certain thirteen-year-old girl was sexually exploited from all sides since she was nine years old  by two men, the father in her foster family and his son, my first reaction was to treat it with disbelief. Even when this news filled the social media, I persuaded myself to still doubt its authenticity. Finally, its reality became more obvious when I listened to it in a television news broadcast by a reputable television station who also reported the death of the girl as a result of the complications arising from the premature exposure to sexual exploitation. Most people have expressed their disgust for the actions of the perverse father and son by calling on the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the law is allowed to take its course. I even came across social media publications from the school she was enrolled in before her death.  I choose to look at it differently from the dimension of coping with the reality of high rate of sexual abuse of children.

I wonder if anyone is still waiting for proof that sexual abuse of children is closer to us than we imagine. Are school teachers, children workers in the churches and religious organisations, parents and everyone else  still unaware of the high rate of sexual abuse of indigent children? Is anyone still ignorant that this evil locates children where they usually stay including the home, religious environment, school, and play ground? Are people not seeing with me the need for urgency in attacking this monster that is devouring children with boldness? The weapons of dealing with sexual abuse of children include the following:

  • Education of children to resist sexual abuse.
  • Education of parents to pay necessary attention to issues concerning safety and protection of children.
  • Governmental regulation and control of child welfare and protection.

 

  1. The education to equip children with the skill and boldness to resist sexual abuse

This education is a necessity for every child. It should be repeated regularly at home and in the school with an assurance to children that reported cases will be well-handled.

It need not necessarily mention sex for preschool and primary school pupils. It is ok for primary pupils to be told that it is sexual abuse to touch or play with any of the private parts of a child’s body.

My opinion is that it need not necessarily be called ‘sex education’. It can be taught as a sub topic under the topic ‘Part of the Body’. It can be called ‘Privacy Education’ or any other name as long as the important points in the message are effectively communicated.

  1. Every child should be taught to protect the privacy of his body.
  2. It should be emphasised that no one should be allowed to touch or play with the private parts of the body.
  3. Children should know the evil consequences of allowing secrete and wrong touch or play with the private parts of the body.
  4. Children should be taught what to do if anyone attempts to secretly touch or play with their privacy.
  • Shout ‘no’ emphatically
  • Repeat ‘no’ without any explanation.
  • Leave that person immediately.

Scream and put up a frightening resistance if you are prevented from leaving.

  • Report the incidence to a trusted adult.

 

  1. Education of parents and teachers to pay necessary attention to issues concerning safety and protection of children.

This is a very wide topic, but it is anchored on the commitment of parents to being sufficiently available and keeping the feedback channel of what happens when they are not around very open by being close enough to their children and wards. Teachers are also encouraged to be close to their children and ask them a lot of questions. It needs not be emphasised that all suspected or reported cases of sexual abuse should be followed up.

 

The victim of sexual abuse in our story could have been helped…

Her biological father, though he wasn’t staying with her, could have helped her more if he had a better understanding of his child’s exposure to sexual and other forms of abuses.

Her foster mother was supposed to understand her plight more than anyone else. The nature of her relationship with the victim is not clear yet but she could have helped her more if she had spared a few sentences of genuine communication with her daily.

Her teachers could have detected it if they paid more attention to obtaining deeper understanding of the reasons for her errors and struggles.

Her schools could have helped if they were serious with educating every child to resist the pressure of sexual abuse. Children usually open up during well organised seminars.

She could have managed her predicament better if she had benefited from any ‘privacy education’ ‘or ‘sex education’ seminar organised in her church or neighbourhood.

 

  1. Governmental regulation and control of child welfare and protection will embolden children to resist and report abuse.

Children will be reluctant to report sexual advances, especially if they perceive insecurity. A child may prefer sexual exploitation to increased physical abuse in other forms and withdrawal of privileges which may result after reporting the abuser. Children will not freely report sexual exploitation if the law does not give them protection from the free for all physical battering in the name of discipline and training. The little girl in our story endured the painful experiences of managing two sexual partners to obtain care and sponsorship of her educational pursuits. Is it not time for everyone in our country, especially, legislators, NGOs and human rights organisations to take the issue of actualising children’s welfare and protection more seriously?

The care and protection of every child should be everyone’s responsibility, jointly and severally. Therefore every little step taken to equip children to resist and report any sexual advance will surely help in reducing the incidences of sexual exploitation of children. Passionate parents are always alert because there is no safe haven as long as the issue of sexual abuse of children is concerned.

 

-Uchenna N. Nduka

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He became the person his parents told him he was

Someone recently shared with me the story of how Ibe, the only son of his parents, lost his life in a careless adventure at the age of twenty-five. I was told that he drove a friend’s car under the influence of alcohol and got involved in a ghastly motor accident. He was the only person who died instantly in the accident, while the others sustained minor injuries.

Immediately two of his sisters arrived at the scene of the accident, they wept bitterly on sighting his lifeless body. Their lamentation from the time they arrived at the accident scene to the time Ibe’s body was deposited at the mortuary was that their parents kept telling him that he was stubborn and yet he could not change from his rebellious life style. The wails of his sisters were heard as his body was being carried into the morgue.

“Ewo! Ibe, papa kept talking about your stubbornness right from the time we were toddlers. See where it has landed you” his senior sister said as her tears flowed freely.

At this stage, I could no longer hold back the urge to view the utterances of Ibe’s sister from the perspective of the effective parenting principles. My regret was that I didn’t have the opportunity to interact directly with Ibe’s parents. I would have clarified certain things from them.

  1. Was it really true that the label of stubbornness was put on a toddler?
  2. Was it true that they consistently told Ibe that he was stubborn all through their interaction with him?

If it was true that Ibe kept living a rebellious life style from infancy, then the following strategy could have helped him improve:

  • Separating him from any personality in his environment who was modelling stubbornness. Ironically, the person could have been the domestic help, his siblings or close relation, a play mate or even his parents. I heard of a mother who tactfully sent her son to stay with her parents when she noticed that her husband’s drinking habit was worsening. This was to prevent the child from absorbing the drinking habit from his father.

 

  • Withdrawal of negative name-calling.

It is proper to rebuke a child for a wrong action, but very wrong to give a child            a   wrong name because of a wrong action. I am surprised that many parents                ignorantly believe that always telling a child that he is wrong will make him                right. For instance, that calling a child lazy will make him to be diligent. Some              parents even make such negative assertions about their children before their              visitors. No! That’s wrong! It builds a negative self-image and would likely                    function to reinforce the negative trait and make the child comfortable with                being given that description. No wonder some adults have been heard saying              such things as “I know that I am hot-tempered”, “You know that I am lazy” and            “You know that I am always late”

It was obvious that describing Ibe as a stubborn child did not help him to                      overcome the trait of stubbornness. It would have helped him if his parents                  were guided to withdraw that negative name calling early enough.

  • Faithfully calling the child names that motivate him towards forming positive self-image.

No child is without a talent and no child is wrong all the time. It is easy to get a             positive attribute of a child to emphasise, while skilfully working on supporting           him to improve on his weak areas. It is true that rebuke is effective if praise is             not withheld whenever it is merited. For instance, a child may be good with                 helping out in house chores, but barely average in academics. The parents                     should always commend his diligence with domestic chores. Strategies to help             him improve in his academics should be explored without calling him a dullard.

Passionate parents don’t toy with any action that affects a child’s conviction on positivity. Consistently giving a child a negative description and any parenting practice that persuades a child into developing a negative self-image is retrogressive and should be dropped in the child’s interest.

 

-Uchenna N. Nduka

 

A Child Perceives Disciplined Behaviour from the Perspective of the Values that are Availed and Allowed in the Parenting Process.

For a long time, I kept wondering why one of my neighbours would almost always mess up every issue with his friends, neighbours and colleagues in the office with his harsh words.  When I got closer to him, I found him more pleasant than he presented from a distance. Eventually I found out why.

After observing the result I got on a particular day from my intervention in a conflict which resulted in the quick and peaceful resolution, he expressed his regret for the trait he got from his foster mother. He explained that his foster mother was always talking to everyone in harsh tones and expressed dissatisfaction with his inability to achieve much result in his struggle to drop the habit.

My advice to him was that his challenge could be corrected through a process of self-reconstruction spiritually, emotionally and cognitively in order for him to forge ahead in life with peace and progress. I advised him to enrol in a speaking class because he was really losing out on the beneficial outcomes of good interpersonal relationships with people around him.

There is an age long belief in my village that child training is a collective responsibility of members of the society. Therefore, in the traditional environment, the child-training process made it possible for children to have access to neighbours and relations who modelled characters that provided support for children in areas that their parents have weaknesses in. The traditional architectural designs also encouraged this positive character modelling by responsible adults.

On the contrary, the modern designs of buildings are closed-up flats with limited interactions with neighbours. Although this design has the advantage of shielding children from negative peer pressure, it limits the children’s access to adults in the neighbourhood who are able to model desired behaviours and provide parenting support. There is then the need for the government, non-governmental organisations, religious groups, schools and others to establish effective parenting training programmes for adults in different communities and train workers who will provide parenting support to children.

Finally, no one should continue to live with a bad habit that was acquired during the childhood period. All available options for self-reconstruction should be followed up faithfully until the habit is dropped.

 

-Uchenna N. Nduka

Children learn from their mistakes naturally

A few days ago, I read an interesting story in a group chat.

“When I was about nine years old on a Saturday morning, my mum travelled and my siblings weren’t around. It was only me and my dad that were at home. I decided to do something great, first to make my dad happy and second to make my mom ask who did this when she returned. I decided to mop the house to make it clean. I took the rubber bucket in the house while my dad was in his room, put some water and was carrying it to clean the room. Suddenly, the bucket slipped from my hand and broke… I was sad, but I felt bad more because I couldn’t fulfil my dream … I had to first clean the spilled water… So when my dad came out and saw the splashed water and broken bucket … I was still explaining… He flogged me… I wept and so much bitterness filled my heart… As I was crying, I vowed that I will do evil… The experience is still fresh even after two decades”

Dear readers,

The correction process was already on course…

The ‘rod of discipline’ was obviously available and staring the boy in the face – to first clean the spilled water. That would have been an opportunity to improve his problem-resolution skill and his dexterity at mopping. He was lucky that he didn’t fall because of the slippery floor.

The grief of disillusionment, remorseful sorrow, was being excited to spur him to take corrective actions and work towards doing it better in the future. The correction process was almost completed before his dad arrived at the scene. The application of effective parenting skill was all that was needed from him to consolidate the correction process. He should have listened to his child, supervised the mopping and skilfully provided a guide that would help the child act with more wisdom in the future.

But no! His dad truncated the correction process ignorantly. His dad “spared the rod”. He just replaced godly sorrow that was correcting with worldly sorrow that was destructive (2 Cor 7:10). The child ended up in confusion and sorrow. I doubt if nothing much was achieved in terms of learning on the child’s part.

This story is a good illustration of how the cane, misinterpretation of intentions, condemnation, disregard for the feelings of children and punishments are applied to frustrate the proper development of children. Ironically, many adults mistakenly see these as necessities for good upbringing. This approach excites anger and rebellion in children, and develops adults who are strangers to themselves, cannot achieve much with their talents but merely exist.

It is becoming clearer that parents shouldn’t just quickly reach for the cane whenever the child is being corrected. Enduring discipline in children is achievable with the right parenting support. There is need for parents to keep learning for improved results.

 

Uchenna N. Nduka

The boy Withdrew in Defiance, Took a Few Steps Backwards and Clung…

In my class today was a smart boy who was about two years old. Mid way into the lesson, I needed to relocate him to another part of the class. He was standing beside his sister when I spotted him. My understanding was that the two other children sitting next to where he was standing were also his siblings. The boy was therefore not comfortable with my relocation move, but he needed to be with his age mates.

When he understood my intention, the boy withdrew in defiance, took a few steps backwards and clung to one of his siblings. I walked towards him saying calmly, firmly and faithfully, “You have to obey my instruction.” His eyes were misty by the time I got to where he was standing. I held his hands and told him that I had a good sit for him in front of the class. He followed me reluctantly.

I kept observing him. Few minutes after he was repositioned, his misty eyes cleared and his mood became brighter. He became happy with his age mates who sat close him. Before the class was concluded, I announced that the children in my class were smart and obedient, especially the boy who was relocated. I told him to stand up for applause because he obeyed an instruction even though he preferred to sit with his siblings.

That boy finally made my day when he turned towards me and gave me a hug at the stair case after the Sunday school class.

I was encouraged by this experience. I, however, imagined other approaches people may adopt in similar situations.

  1. Immediately threaten him with all sorts of punishment and frighten him into obedience.
  2. Jerk him up without saying a word and reposition him forcefully.

For these two options, the boy might not have just had misty eyes, he might have cried for a longer period, not benefiting from the class. If he had cried, the class would have been distracted, especially his siblings. Also, he would have missed out on the positive impact of his being able to obey that instruction willingly and sorting out his emotions.

Effective parenting skills aim at raising children who have self discipline and are well developed intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically.

 

-Uchenna N. Nduka

Discipline: Anchored on Punishment?

I wasn’t sure what was happening when I woke up at about midnight. The pain on the heel of my left foot was excruciating! What came to my mind immediately was the sharp pain I had on the same spot during the day which didn’t take time to resolve. I was able to exercise restraint for a few hours before I made a call to an orthopaedic doctor. Before I made this call, all I could think of was that the doctor was going to recommend a ‘strong’ pain-relieving drug. The pain was really severe. It was as though there was a bleeding wound on that spot. I was actually panicking when I made that call.

I was thrilled by the doctor’s confidence as he observed that my spinal cord was probably complaining because of my sitting position in the office. He guided me on the correct sitting position and advised that I ensure strict compliance. My health was restored that same day. It then became clear to me that the emphasis of a good health care system is not on drugs. I would have been exposed to taking drugs for a long time if that problem was not well diagnosed.

Somehow, it can be reasoned that the emphasis of a good health care system is not on drugs the same way that the emphasis of a parenting or educational system should not be on punishment. What is important in any case is the proper behavioural pattern that will aim at achieving the right results and proper diagnosis of problems when they manifest so that the right corrective actions can be taken.

It is clear by now that discipline is the central focus of effective parenting skills as consistently communicated in the Passion in parenting blog. Our focus has always been that parents and teachers should create the enabling environment for children to acquire discipline and self-control as a way of life. An enabling environment for this purpose firmly models and insists on disciplined behaviour and makes corrections including rebuke whenever the need arises. In the right environment, children learn from their experiences with proper parental guidance. Parents who are not unduly defensive allow children to learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences as long as safety is not compromised. In other words, we do not rely on the common understanding that a parent “disciplined”a child which means that corporal punishment was applied on the child. The parenting technique we teach is not anchored on punishment.

 

-Uchenna N. Nduka

The future of a society will depend on the experiences and practices children are exposed to.

As a child, I remember that on many occasions, especially in the village environment, I heard adults request for caution to be applied on an issue or an action to be put on hold because children were around. The traditional societies were very protective of the ideologies, knowledge and practices that children were exposed to.  The fact that child training then was everybody’s responsibility provided the drive for societies to set up structures to achieve this purpose even at the communal level. The implication of this was that conscious efforts were made to expose children to activities that would provide reinforcement for desired societal values of love, discipline, self control, hard work, peace and sanctity of the human life. Children were thus shielded from a lot of obscene and violent practices.

No doubt, the absorbent mind of a child functions with urgency, and makes the issue of practices and experiences children are exposed to a critical one. For instance, societies and nations in which children have unrestricted access to events (live or recorded) where human beings are slaughtered as result of personal, family, or communal conflicts face the risk of genocide in the future. Children in such societies may grow up to be people who will quickly resort to murder in settling issues or challenges of life.

This practice of being careful of the things children are allowed to view or hear is really worthy of emulation and is applicable even in the modern world. This explains why television programmes that are safe for children are classified as such. This also advises the actions of careful parents, who take time to watch children games and read their books, to be sure that they are free from negative contents before they are released to the children.

In that regard, nations that are faced with violent communal conflicts should hasten up with peaceful resolution, otherwise  violence will be so etched in the minds of the children that they will grow up to be aggressive adults and resort to violence at the slightest provocation.

It is therefore important that efforts should be made to create parenting environments where love, discipline and other godly virtues are practised. In other words, exposure of children to events that will lay foundation of hatred, violence and attraction to social vices should be avoided for positive personality development and peaceful co-existence.

 

-Uchenna N. Nduka