As a prefect in my secondary days, I was coordinating a school activity for junior students when I noticed that a particular student had ugly scars in place of three of her left fingers. My heart was stirred. When I came into close contact with her, she told me about the incident that resulted in the loss of her fingers.
“The story I heard was that the incidence happened when I was a toddler. I was with my senior sister who was breaking a raw bonny lump of beef with an axe. I was told that she warned me not to collect the pieces of meat until she finished cutting. She had already hit my hand with the axe before she noticed that I suddenly put out my hand to collect a piece of meat. I lost three of my fingers” she explained.
Oh no! She lost three of her fingers in such an avoidable circumstance! Although I tried to control my emotion, I could not but ponder over some confusing questions. Was there no responsible adult around to take the necessary safety precautions? Was a toddler capable of obeying the instruction in that story?
It was a case of child neglect. It is wrong to blame the child in such incident for disobedience to the given instruction. She was yet too young to comprehend the implication of disobeying such an instruction. As a toddler, the will power and concentration to obey the instruction was beyond her ability. A safe option a responsible adult should have in such a circumstance would have been to keep her a safe distance away from where the beef was being cut.
Parents who understand the developmental peculiarities and limitations of children have realistic expectations in their interaction with their children. Such parents struggle less with their children and take necessary safety measures against accidents. Their children are allowed to gradually develop, and are not distracted with unnecessary blame and criticism arising from targets that are beyond their abilities.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
The boy’s countenance fell when I asked him why he did not report to his parents the first time his vice principal coerced him into sexual practices in his office. We were interviewing him in respect of his involvement in sexual activities in the school.
“My parents would not have believed me if I had told them about it” He said pensively.
“Really?” I enquired.
“My parents would usually be very angry that I did a wrong thing. I was afraid of telling them. Some teachers have already told them that I was a stubborn child. They believe that I am a bad child.” He said mournfully.
After his first experience, the boy got deeper with the activities of a group in his school, a group supported by the vice principal. For several months, they carefully swept their immoral acts under the carpet with the support of the vice principal. Their bubble however burst one morning when a child who faced sexual harassment by a member of the group in the night daringly put a distress call to his father. The immoral activities were then investigated and dealt with by the managing directors of the school.
There are many parenting lessons from this story.
- Isn’t it wonderful that while one child was afraid to communicate a challenge to his parents, another child made that same communication effectively with boldness? A healthy parenting relationship makes communication between parents and their children easy and effective. The communication breakdown in an unhealthy parenting relationship is a disaster!
- Negative branding of children with such names as evil or stubborn should be avoided because it reduces self-confidence and negatively affects proper bonding of parents and children. Teachers should be detailed enough when communicating issues they have with any child so that parents can understand the child’s challenges well. It not right for a teacher to just tell a parent that a child is stubborn.
- Parents should always exercise caution with teachers and other care-givers who desperately communicate that children left in their care are stubborn. There could be serious issues of child abuse and neglect that such communications are meat to shield. All complaints by teachers or care-givers about a child should be carefully investigated.
- It should be noted that the fact that a child is wrong or stubborn on an issue does not imply that the child will always be wrong or stubborn on all other issues.
- Parents who achieve great results with their children will always prayerfully love more, get closer and listen more to their children in dealing with any parenting challenge. Parents should always let their children know that they will always be supported.
- No matter how bad any child gets, he or she will always need his parents’ prayers and support. Abandonment of children is never an option because it will only make the child’s situation worse.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
We were about four adults waiting to be attended to in an office. Then suddenly, one of us received a disturbing phone call about his child which sparked off a discussion on child training. Unknown to us, one of us was actually battling with the dramatic negative result he got after all his ‘efforts’ to train his children. No wonder he didn’t participate much in that educative interaction on the proper parenting approach.
“The peer pressure will eventually make a mess of all these efforts you people are making” the man said pensively. All the comments he made implied disillusionment and frustration with the whole parenting process. His children were all either adults or in their late teens. He was not happy that most of them abandoned parental instructions and chose pervasive ways.
When I pried further into his situation, I discovered that the environment he stayed in when his children were small was a hamlet where children interacted without any restriction. Parents were mostly artisans who struggled to make ends meet. When they were not in school, the children were usually gathered either on the playground or in any house or place in the neighbourhood which had facility for watching films or playing with electronic toys. The undoing of the man in question was that he underestimated the extent of the peer pressure influence and pollution that could exist in such environment even among the toddlers!
The reality is that the children’s playground is not a safe haven. Every person or thing at the playground could be an agent of pollution! Children therefore need parental guidance even at the playground and when films are being watched. In healthy parenting relationships, parents are close enough to immediately identify the nature and extent of pollution and peer pressure their children are exposed to in order to strategise towards checking and minimising their effects. To cope with this situation, parents should strive to minimise the children’s contact with the agents of pollution and be available and close enough to immediately clarify and correct wrong information from such unavoidable contact. The following parenting tips will be helpful in achieving this.
- Inculcate discipline in the children’s daily routine. The time and duration of play activities should be stipulated and enforced.
- The allowable play grounds should be well-defined. Safe play grounds are well-illuminated, close to the children’s houses and noiseless. Children should be instructed to avoid hidden and dark corners in a compound. Houses or corners in the neighbourhood with loud sounds from electronic equipment or generators should be avoided by the children while playing. Playgrounds that are far from the house should not be allowed.
- Parents should exercise caution in cases where a child’s relationship with any adult becomes intimate and private.
- Children’s play activities should be done on the allowed playground. Parents should discourage the practice of children playing in their neighbour’s houses.
- Film and electronic toys available to the children should be carefully examined by parents in order to exclude pollution from evil contents.
- Children’s access to the internet should be restricted and guided.
- Parents should spend time with their children daily. Children learn a lot from the stories of life experiences of their parents, folktales and intimate discussions with their parents.
- Housemaids or hired helps who have questionable characters should be disengaged. Relations should be of good characters for them to be allowed to stay with children. Such people should not be given unrestricted right to punish children so that the children can effectively resist any negative influence from them.
- Parents should be careful in selecting schools for their children. Schools with antecedents of producing rebellious children should be avoided. Also, schools that emphasise corporal punishment instead of professional student-teacher relationship should be avoided.
- The negative influence from the mass media will be reduced if parents are available to monitor the programmes that their children are exposed to.
It needs to be emphasised that a healthy parenting relationship positions a parent well in a child’s life to win the struggle between the establishment of the right behavioural values and the negative influences of peer and environmental pressure. Surely, through the mercies of God, a skilled parent will win this struggle.
-Uchenna Ṇ. Nduka
I was in the staff room that morning when I noticed a group of three teachers interacting with a female student who was about fifteen years old. I was a teacher in that secondary school at that time. I observed that the girl was telling a heart-rending story. At a point, I was invited by one of the teachers to listen to the girl’s story and suggest a solution. One of the teachers said she initiated that discussion because she noticed marks of violence on the girl’s body.
Our student left her village where she lived with her biological parents to stay in the township with her aunt’s family because her parents didn’t have the resources to care for her. Her aunt was a banker who had two children. Her aunt’s children were attending a nearby nursery school. Our student was therefore expected to assist her aunt’s family with domestic chores. The scars on her body were as a result of the beating she always got for not meeting the expectations of her aunt. She got beatings from either her aunt or her aunt’s husband.
In handling her case, we were conscious of the peculiarities and limitations in our environment. We did not resort to searching for a reliable governmental welfare facility or affordable legislative redress procedure for children in such situations. Moreover, the girl in question told us that she still wanted to stay with her aunt instead of going back to her village to stay with her parents. We therefore decided to take her through a counselling session that was aimed at achieving improvement in her relationship with her aunt’s family.
At the end of the counselling, our student’s ability to understand her aunt’s domestic and career challenges was enhanced. She understood the nature of the parenting relationship she had with her aunt and the right inputs that were needed from her to achieve peace. We assisted her in organising her daily chores more effectively so that she would also give attention to her studies. It worked. Her aunt’s dissatisfaction with her behaviour and the associated punishments reduced substantially within a few days.
Parents should understand that children are more responsive to instructions when issues and procedures are well explained. Time should be created to patiently explain to children family challenges and the roles the children should play to assist. Yelling, rebellion and violence are negative features of parenting relationships in which there is communication breakdown. The story above shows the counselling role professional school teachers can play in assisting parents with child training challenges. Counselling is a preferred approach in coping with parenting difficulties instead of endlessly resorting to violence.