My firm belief that I can be in control of my Sunday school class without holding a whip has always worked with children of different backgrounds. The efficacy of this belief has been severally tested especially when I visited or relocated to new environments. Therefore, my response to the caution that “You will need a whip to control the children in this environment” would always be that it is not necessary to do so. One would not need a whip if he/she prayerfully applies the right skill or approach.
I was with a class of children aged between three and nine years. I relocated newly to that environment at that time. The class was in progress and effectively controlled when my attention was suddenly taken away from the class by a pressing issue. Just in ten minutes, about one-third of the children in the class were hitting each other with angry fists!
I took time to ask some of them why they were fighting. They all had one flimsy excuse or the other to justify why the other person deserved to be beaten. I was initially confused and was not exactly sure of the sources of that pollution. It was obvious that the children learnt physical aggression as a method of conflict resolution from the environment they grew in. It became clearer when I later understood how much the children were exposed to very aggressive parenting processes. It was a free-for-all situation. Parents, school teachers, church teachers, neighbours, bigger siblings, other relations and in fact every adult was free to hit children at anytime for whatever reason.
My explanation that the perceived offences could have been communicated without hitting the offender sounded strange to most of the children. In fact one of them told me that if he didn’t hit the one who offended him the person would not understand that what he did was wrong. I have had very similar explanation from parents when they justify aggressive parenting approaches. It was really unfortunate that children at such tender ages had such wrong belief etched in their minds! What kind of personalities would such children develop when they became adults? Is it then a surprise that communities and nations are gradually being wiped out by terrorism?
There is really a very urgent need for everyone who is bothered by the spate of violence across the globe to be involved in promoting the purification of the parenting process by eliminating all aggressive practices. Peace is achievable in every human community through the effective and violent-free parenting approach.
The strange look on the face of that teenager who visited my home early in the morning did not even prepare us for his shocking utterances. He said that he had a clash with his father and had visited us for intervention. He was about seventeen years old. Our interaction with him revealed that he and his other siblings were mixed up in the conflict between their mum and dad. He was obviously on his mum’s side. In the bid to explain how ‘terrible’ his dad was, he made this statement that has made an indelible mark in my memory because of its severity.
“Do you know that since I was born, my dad has never paid my school fees or bought my books? My mum has been doing everything”
Of course, we are close enough to his family to know that his statement is not true. His mum has not been doing everything! Of course she could not! Not with the nature of her job. We reminded him of the visible indications of care from his dad such as school runs and others. We told him that it was unfortunate that he and his siblings were mixed up in a marital conflict. The boy was obviously struggling with the pollution introduced by his resentment for his dad. He received wise counsel from us on the issues he was struggling with before he left.
When the boy left, my husband and I took time to ponder on the development. We couldn’t place our fingers on why he got the communication and actually believed that his father abandoned his care to his mum alone in that circumstance where his dad was visibly involved in the parenting process. Were there actions or omissions on his dad’s part that sent wrong signals? Was it possible that his mum ignorantly communicated such negative notions? Is it true that some spouses make such negative communications in vendetta? Whatever be the cause, the resultant hatred, confusion, rebellion and resentment were avoidable.
In an ideal parenting environment, parents should not be competing for children’s attention because their respective roles at any point in time are complementary. The spouse who is engaged in a job that brings in more money is as important as the spouse who is more available to attend to domestic issues. Parents owe their spouses a duty to make communications that will establish love in the hearts of their children towards each other. Where this is achieved, children are receptive to parental instructions and enjoy the synergistic benefit of the parenting efforts of both parents.The parenting environment is purified and virtues of love, peaceful co-existence and good interpersonal skills are available for children to feed on.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
A voluntary comment by one of my secondary school children’s teachers when I came to the school to take them home for their holidays was that “Juliet is doing well, but the problem is Carol.” My children had been in the boarding house for about three months. So, my immediate response was to seek for more information about their evolving personality issues from one of those who stayed with them in school. My intention was to understand the nature and extent of support each of them would require during the holiday.
“What kind of problem did Carol give?’ I asked with keen interest.
‘Well, her sister is quiet while she is not” was the teacher’s response.
“Please, I will appreciate if you mention a particular problem Carol created or was involved in” I requested.
“It is just that she is bold. Her sister is on the quiet side.’’ said the teacher.
Her last statement was all I needed to understand her confusion. I became worried that this confusion was capable of causing a lot of pollution in Carol’s personality development in the school. So, I went ahead to educate her.
I told her that the respective personality disposition of every child is unique. Bold people are as important to humanity as the timid people because a timid person would be a misfit in a situation that requires boldness, the same way that a bold person may not function well in a situation that requires timidity. It was really unfortunate that the teacher described a child as a problem because the child had a bold personality disposition. This description, if not that it was nipped in the bud, could have introduced such impurities as negative branding, demonization, confusion, unrealistic expectation, frustration, alienation and resentment into the parenting relationship my child had with her parents and teachers.
What should be paramount in the parenting process of any child is that discipline is achieved. The desire of great parents should be to properly develop every child to express his or her unique personality in righteousness.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
The parenting process actually prepares an individual to use wisely the freedom to make choices. Great parents give age-appropriate spaces for children to make choices and learn from the outcomes of those choices. If every life experience is seen as an examination, the rod and reward are indicators of examination scores of the related choices and actions.
Rewards are the favourable outcomes of the right choices and actions. They include achievement of targets, conflict resolution, provision of a need, recognition, promotion, gifts, awards, fulfillment of desires, commendation, peace of mind, freedom and so on. All these function to reinforce right actions.
Wrong actions lead to unfavourable outcomes. The unfavourable outcomes are the rod of discipline. They include loss in all its ramifications, progress stagnation, demotion, worsening of a problem, fine, penalty, emotional and physical pain, imprisonment and so on. A real life example is the experiences of an unmarried teenage secondary school girl who discovers that she is pregnant without a responsible partner. The emotional and physical trauma of the realisation that her education will be truncated, her health will be endangered, her social life will be disrupted and she will deliver a child she is not mature enough to cater for is a rod already too big for her to bear alone. Such a child would need the support of those around her to cope with her calamity. Flogging her with whip or cane will be an act of ignorance. The discomforts of the rod make the related choices and actions unattractive in the future. Parents should note the following about the rod.
- The rod is a natural flow of events. Parents don’t have to initiate the rod experience. Parents who successfully communicate this to their children help them to stay away from evil even when they are not being watched by anyone.
- Overbearing and protective parents can shield children from the rod hence the admonition that parents should allow the rod of discipline. Yes, the right measure of it should be allowed.
- The rod does not mean, and need not necessarily include the cane, whip and other forms of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment introduces pollution in the parenting process. It can be described as a tool for the unskilled.
The parenting environment is a prototype of the whole life experiences of the child. The life principle that right actions are rewarded, while the rod is always there to correct wrong actions anywhere and anytime holds true for children, youth and adults. Children who have good understanding of this develop into conscientious adults.
-Uchenna N. Nduka