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.
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
Mummy, I know what I am looking for,” was my teenage daughter’s response when I inquired why it was taking her time to make a choice out of the good quality shoes available in the market. She would not take advice from me at that time because her understanding was that my disposition to fashion was outdated. I reminded her gently but firmly that I was tired of being taken round and round the whole market searching for her choice of shoes.
She led me again to one of the shops our search had previously taken us to and chose a pair of silver coloured shoes from a heap of shoes that looked abandoned. I tried to communicate through gestures that I was uncomfortable with her choice but she was too desperate to understand what I was doing. I collected the shoes from her, turned the side that was already loosening towards her so that she would see it clearly and asked her with a calm but strange voice, “Do you like this shoe?” She said, “Yes.” I turned to another loosening part and asked her a similar question and she also affirmed her choice.The shoe was about three thousand naira (N3, 000.) I paid for it and we left. It was unfortunate that the straight face that I kept throughout our stay in that shop failed to alert her that something was wrong.
I avoided any discussion on that shoe until we arrived home. On sighting the shoe, her senior sister asked her a question with a searching glance. “Was mummy there when you chose this shoes?”
I just entered my own room and was relaxing on the bed when I saw the two of them entering my room, the senior leading, while her junior was trailing after her with a remorseful look. I understood that she had met face to face with the harsh reality of her actions.
When her senior sister asked why I allowed her buy that pair of shoes. I explained that at the point she was buying her shoes; my guidance was not needed so I allowed her to make her choice and be responsible for her actions. My next statement that the shoes will not be replaced brought tears to her misty eyes because she needed the shoes for an important event.
The shoe was never worn. Some months later, I saw her when she held the shoes and said: “You thought me a lesson I will never forget.” She said that the shoes taught her that she still needs parental guidance in order to make good choices.
1. This story provided evidence that the “rod” of correction was effectively used to achieve discipline in a child. Please note that discipline is a personality attribute.
2. The “rod” does not necessarily mean a cane or whip.
3. The “rod” of correction has been explained in our devotional post ‘Achieving Discipline in Children: The Right Approach’ on 12/12/2015. Please read it.
-Uchenna N. Nduka