There was a mammoth crowd at the conference centre at the end of a women’s conference I attended some time ago. I was about to leave the premises when I observed a woman yelling hysterically at her little daughter ofabout four years old . I had to get closer to assist the child who was already looking traumatised. I was a few steps away from them when the woman slapped the child angrily on her head asking her what she was doing when her younger brother she was taking care of wondered off. The little girl only cried sorrowfully and still looked up in fear, expecting more slaps. When I noticed that she was beating her, I quickened my steps towards them and tactfully distracted her attention from the child with some questions that could lead us to finding the missing child. The boy was later found within the conference premises. He was about two years old.
I walked away from that scene wondering if the woman’s expectation that her four-year-old child was capable of controlling her brother in such a place was realistic. Isn’t it also possible that that girl is exposed to such challenges in other aspects of her daily life? I agree with the line of thought that lack of proper understanding of children’s developmental limitations is a common cause of anger and violence towards children. Our traditional parenting environment had a structure which provided a guide on each child’s ability.
The environment where I grew up as child was an exciting one. Although it was an urban area, it was also a highly populated residential area with large number of children of all ages. There was a palpable level of communal interaction. It was really interesting how every child was identified with an age group. The socialisation process was so apt that even a new child in the neighbourhood would immediately be identified with an age group. Each group had its own expected developmental attainments, limitations and issues.
As children, we observed that the age group issue was applied with more seriousness in our village than the urban community. It really provided a parenting advantage because the behavioural as well as developmental dispositions of each child could be understood by making reference to his age group. For instance, it was easy to spot a child who was slow to talk or crawl or walk. It was also easy to understand the expected maturity level of a child by reference to other children within the same age range. Also, the age group a child belonged to provided him or her with a bench-mark for self-assessment of performance.
Parents in the traditional parenting environments had the respective age groups to serve as guides to the expected developmental abilities and peculiarities of each child. Many parents in today’s world have access to more information about child development from seminars, good books, web sites and the social media. Passionate parents therefore should not ignorantly abuse a child in whatever way as a result of the child’s failure to achieve tasks that are beyond the child’s ability.
-Uchenna N. Nduka