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.
At a point, the thought of getting my seven-year old child to complete her home work became a nightmare. She was always sluggish and un-cooperative. She would just cry with little or no result.
One day, I remembered to apply a parenting skill I read in a book. The skill was a motivational technique of ordering children’s activities in a way that the activities they have reluctance for what would come after the ones they have preference for. I then swapped the timing of watching her favourite television station with her home work time. It worked like magic! I was surprised at the speed and zeal with which she completed her home works before watching the television. I learnt to make play and entertainment activities come after the less preferred chores.
I have observed with regret the wrong application of the reordering strategy on occasions where children have been starved or denied education because they were ‘stubborn’ or could not complete domestic chores that were obviously beyond their abilities. It is therefore necessary that I state clearly that the essential necessities of life such as education, water, food and moderate rest/play should not be denied any child for any reason. Such denial would be inhuman and would not yield any positive result.
Children really need a lot of support from teachers and parents. Excellent results are obtained whenever the right support is provided in the right direction in the right peaceful and lovely atmosphere.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
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.
There is a lot to learn from this parenting story.
This girl arrived in my house when she was about 12 years old. She was a child of an extended family member. Low self-esteem and inconsistency were palpable in her behavior. Her parents were known to be zealous on the use of verbal and physical aggression as disciplinary measures. So her background was such that her parents would usually make threats to coerce children into obedience.
She must have initially wondered at our assuring smiles and our mutual love which guided our actions and decisions. She was quite fast in adjusting to my home environment. She keyed in immediately into the relationship I had with my children. The children I had at that time were between four and six years.
Within a few weeks, her countenance became brighter. The anger and frustration in her communication became gradually reduced. She stopped expecting to be shackled into obedience with threats and aggression when she saw that no one was going to do that anymore. She really found a comfortable place in the atmosphere of discipline in my home.
Her father’s observation during a family reunion in our family house in the village a few months later was that she was no longer hot-tempered but was lovelier. Her father also observed that she was more malleable and happier. Her parents must have also wondered at how she could obey the instructions I humbly and calmly gave. The fact that my gentle disciplinary measures such as a frowning at a wrong behaviour or rebuke could work with her was beyond their comprehension.
The adoption of any parenting approach is a choice. The right and effective approach works well with children of all races, tribes, religion and background. It is never too late to embrace it.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
A parent shared this encouraging experience. Please read and share.
There was a day my daughter was waiting in my office after school. I became too engrossed with work that I did not notice when she became the ‘busy bee’ that kids usually are at her age. She was five years old.
She went beyond the allowable boundaries of play and a valuable item was damaged. She was the first to notice it. She immediately walked towards me with the damaged item soberly.
‘I am very sorry mummy. The paper punch has spoilt. It was my fault” she said with a palpable feeling of remorse.
“Oh! No!” I exclaimed.
“Why did you play with it? Did I not give you toys?” I asked with dissatisfaction.
“I am sorry mummy. I am very sorry” she pleaded.
She left the spoilt paper punch on my table, walked to a quiet corner in my office and sat down calmly.
I continued with my work since that was actually one of my peak periods. I was not aware that she was studying my mood until I saw her standing in front of me five minutes later.
“I really made you angry mummy. Have you forgiven me?” were her words that rekindled the love we both shared.
I drew her close and gave her a passionate hug. I assured her that I had forgiven her and was no longer angry. My facial expression gave her the confidence to go back to her usual radiance. She then smiled and left.
I however noticed that after that incidence, she was very careful not to touch any item in my office without my permission. She played with her toys.
- In a healthy parenting relationship, the flow of communication between parents and their children is filled with love, patience, empathy and sound logic. Here, children are raised to be lovely, intelligent and conscientious.
- It is not true that children should be flogged before they learn a lesson. Without legislative prohibition, flogging children is a personal choice and not a necessity. Passionate parents who have effective parenting skills have achieved great results without flogging their children.
- It should be recalled that flogging (corporal punishment) was listed among the pollutants to the right atmosphere of discipline in our reflection post of 7th January, 2016.
Passionate parents are in control of their emotions and communicate effectively with the child even in the face of provocation.
These pairs of words;’Creative and dynamic’, ‘Diligent and Lovely’, ‘Golden and Peaceful’, ‘Unique and Focused’ and ‘Smart and Godly’ distinctly refer to respective individuals among the children I closely nurtured. It was a dimension of the application of praise in parenting. Those words describe their salient personality traits respectively. Each pair of words encapsulated my perception of a particular child’s unique natural endowment, attitude-wise.
Can you imagine how much my little daughter embraced love in her personality formation each time I called her ‘my lady with a lovely heart’?
Interestingly, these words of praise, which I consistently used in my interaction with them have worked marvelously well in forming their personalities along the desired line.
This is not implying that children are angels. No, they are not. But it is a parenting blunder to call or describe children by their faults, weaknesses or past mistakes. It will yield no positive result, but would rather worsen any parenting case since children usually develop into what they are called or how they are described. For instance, a child who is always called a dunce because he failed an examination would likely not make good grades as long as he is called this name.
It is proper that in parenting, faults are skillfully corrected while virtues are reinforced and emphasized.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
I am a mother of three children aged between two and six years. I met Mrs. Nduka about two years ago as a colleague in the office. I immediately noticed that her passion for proper parenting was obvious in almost every discussion we held during our leisure times. I carefully put to good use the bits and pieces of parenting skills that she mentioned.
Previously my parenting approach was based on the handed down traditional practice and belief that children should necessarily be flogged for them to be wise. I therefore employed the parenting techniques I saw in my environment. I shouted, coerced, flogged, and was harsh with my children. Although my husband was skeptical initial I when I mentioned the idea of excluding the cane completely, we decided to give it a try.
The futility of the wrong methods is now obvious after we adopted the improved approach. We now patiently talk and listen to our children with love, praise them for good works, correct them with compassion, explain instructions carefully and create adequate time to chat with them.
We cherish the closeness we now enjoy as a family. Our children now wash dishes, sweep the house and perform other house chores with impressive results. The greatest of it all is that they now obey us willingly and with love, and this has laid a good foundation for a struggle-free parenting process.
- Mrs. Rose N Nwafor, Anambra, Nigeria
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