We were all in a happy mood that evening relishing the family reunion in our big family house when we heard a cry from the children’s corner. Shortly afterwards, the crying child walked in, still sobbing, towards his mum. He was about six years old. Immediately he walked in, everybody’s attention was on him to find out was the problem was.
“Victor hit me on my hand and my ice cream poured away” the child explained.
On hearing his name, the countenance of Victor’s mum fell. In a twinkle of an eye, she discussed her son’s faults without restraint and the efforts she has made in futility to address those faults. Victor was about seven years old. She told us how mischievous and incorrigible Victor was. She also said that Victor the worst among her four children.
My heart skipped when I realised the possibility that Victor could be around listening to his mother’s negative comments. I actually walked around and it was true! Victor was in lonely corner, quietly listening to our discussions!
The scene described above is a common one in my environment. Any time I observe parents commit this blunder, my thoughts are provoked in many directions. In the case of Victor’s mum, was she trying to confirm the child’s claim against her son even without hearing her son’s version of the story? Was she trying to prove to us, her relations and neighbours that her son is always wrong? Would her constant condemnation of her son at that age in that manner help achieve improvement in the child’s behaviour? Would her open declaration that her child was a bad child be in her child’s interest?
The reaction of Victor’s mum above showed frustration. It is possible she was frustrated because the ‘efforts’ she made to help her son did not yield the desired result. Who knows if she was making the right efforts? The clouds created by sibling comparison are also an issue that could cause confusion and frustration in the parenting relationship between Victor and his mum. Whatever the issue was, it was unnecessary to discuss a child’s faults openly in that context and manner because of its negative consequences. It may lead to low morale and self esteem, negative branding and formation of negative personality traits, false accusation and unfair treatment of the child by his teachers and other adults, abandonment and neglect by the child’s caregivers.
We should recall that our recommendation for discussions to correct a child’s wrong behaviour is that parents should talk more with the child, listen more to the child and pray more for the child in privacy. Even rebuke, when necessary, in child-training is effective when it is done in privacy.
Yes, passionate parents go for the parenting methods that are effective.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
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
A man once told his story. He was ready to make sacrifices to ensure that his children were well-developed morally and academically. He realised that he was greatly handicapped due to his upbringing. Conscience as well as proper cognitive development of children was not given attention in his society. He said that he and most other children in his neighbourhood grew up with the understanding that life was a game of chance. As children, their consideration in taking any action then was whether one would be caught in the act and the severity of the punishment that would be meted out if caught. Nothing else mattered! Most of them ended up becoming dexterous in performing wrong acts without being caught and stronger at enduring the punishment when caught.
By the time he grew up, he felt on top of the world. No one could intimidate him into taking any action against his will. That was the beginning of the woes. He became very excited at his freedom from the clutches of his parents and moved at a very high speed. Not quite long, before his twenty-third birthday, his bubble burst – he got sentenced to prison. Although his body was filled with scars, each telling a tragic story, none could be compared to the emotional torture in prison for the whole year he spent there.
It was in prison that his restoration to normalcy commenced. It was there he learnt he could willingly put his hands and brain to positive use, trusting God. His heart learnt to understand and give love. He learnt respect for and obedience to the prison authorities. He understood he had a choice to make between good and evil. He needed no further proof of the consequences of evil, but the reward of good choices was consistently revealed. He was happy that the discipline he could not acquire as a child due to his upbringing was achieved in prison.
When he came out of the prison, he took a critical look at the children in his neighbourhood where he was raised and became convinced that most of them were headed towards the same calamity that befell him. He was so dissatisfied with the degenerated societal values that he made efforts to make a difference in the lives of his children. He limited his children’s interaction with the bad eggs in his neighbourhood and ensured that they were separated from the environment that almost destroyed him. His children stayed in boarding houses in good secondary schools.
He has tried to be committed in his relationship with his children and hopes to learn more effective parenting skills so that the output of his parenting efforts will be fruitful. He was willing to learn and adopt an improved approach and not insist on any traditional parenting practice which confused him and most of his friends as children. He has understood that for him to get it right with his children, he has to make love and discipline his lifestyle and firmly and consistently communicate same to his children.
Yes! Great parents are ever learning to achieve great parenting results.
Happy second year anniversary to all lovers, readers and followers of the Passion in Parenting blog
Uchenna N. Nduka
A story was told of a boy named Isa who was taken to his village to live with his maternal grandparents at the age of five years. Isa’s father yielded to this request because of his confidence in the moral standards of his wife’s parents. In the first few years, it seemed as though everything was alright because Isa gradually became responsive to his traditional value system. His parents were quite impressed to hear him speak their native language perfectly.
Their bubble, however, burst at a birthday party Isa attended when he was on holiday with his parents in their township house. There was a sudden uproar and children were screaming. The few parents who were around ran towards the direction of the noise. It was an unbelievable sight. Isa was on top of a slightly bigger boy on the floor in a serious fight. It was a struggle separating Isa from the other boy. Isa’s mother was ashamed and embarrassed when she saw the ugly injuries her son gave the other boy on his neck and face. The other boy’s mother could not hide her feelings.
“Madam, from where did you bring this beast into this decent environment?” she asked pensively.
Isa’s mother apologised to the host and the family whose child Isa fought with and hastily left the party in humiliation. His father was also embarrassed by the horrible incident. Isa’s parents therefore took a studied look at their child’s personality formation and value system. Their findings revealed Isa as a child who would go to any length to violently attack anyone physically and verbally as long as a wrong is perceived. The boy he fought with at the party only stepped on his new shoes mistakenly.
Isa’s parents didn’t have to search too far to understand the environment Isa acquired the aggressive attitude from. His siblings were decent and emotionally stable. The need to ensure that their son was properly located in a decent environment for the necessary value re-orientation was obvious to Isa’s parents.
It is noteworthy that children urgently and desperately absorb environmental values and attitudes through the practices and experiences of people around them. Parents should be conscious of this in deciding on the people they accommodate in their homes, the communal environments where their children are raised, the audio and video films and programmes their children are exposed to, the disciplinary measures their children are exposed to by their teachers and caregivers. It is good to raise children in environments with good values that children will feed on.
-Uchenna N. Nduka
I strolled down my street to buy something from a nearby shop on a Saturday morning. When I got to the shop, I observed that the owner was a woman who was assisted by her teenage son. The boy was holding a broom to sweep the surroundings of the shop. He was about to start sweeping when his mother instructed him to start from the opposite direction. The boy hesitated and then ignored his mother’s instruction and continued sweeping. When his mum noticed that her instruction was not obeyed, she yelled at him to stop sweeping from that point and go over to the other side. The boy stopped sweeping and murmured while making daring gestures. Suddenly, his mum picked up a big aluminium scoop and charged at him.
“If you don’t go over to the other side I will throw this scoop at you!” His mum roared hysterically. The boy quickly ran to the other side of the compound and started sweeping as if he was remote-controlled.
Even though the boy’s quick response almost forestalled my objection to his mother’s threat, I still expressed my reservation. Her explanation revealed further the extent of her struggles with her son. She said that it was almost impossible to get her son to obey any instruction without such threats. I wondered at what she was really saying. Did she teach him how to sweep correctly and why he should sweep from a particular direction? Was she saying that her son’s personality was so underdeveloped (spiritually, mentally, emotionally and socially) that force and threats of violence must be used to make him obey instructions? If that was what she was saying, then there was real danger looming in the air.
The danger in this kind of situation is that if nothing is done to intervene and achieve improvement in the boy’s relationship with his mum he may develop into a rebellious and violent adult personality. At a point, he may stop responding to her threats and damn the consequences. On the other hand, his mum may become frustrated, throw in the towel and abandon him to his fate. The street children in our environment are evidences of such mishaps. I therefore left that shop with a big burden of how that woman could be helped to improve on positively communicating with her son and adopting a parenting approach that will ensure that her son is effectively developed physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially into a responsive and responsible adult.
There is an urgent call on every informed parent to mentor adults in his/her neighbourhood and community. Schools should also be diligent in providing proper parenting guides for parents through the PTA meetings. Religious organisations should also be involved in preaching and teaching proper parenting skills.
Uchenna N. Nduka
Clem was the first son of his parents. Expectations from him to be of good behaviour and make a success of whatever he did were high. All eyes were on him to set good standards for his siblings. He struggled through his childhood to live up to the high expectations until he stepped on a banana peel in his adolescent period. His relationship with his parents turned sour. Anxiety heightened and all corrective measures adopted by his parents seemed to be failing. He became greatly delinquent and took to the streets.
He was on the streets for some months until some relations intervened and started the process of reconciling him with his parents. Surprisingly, his parents were not favourably disposed to the reconciliation move as a result of their belief that Clem would never truly repent. When his parents chose to relate with him at arm’s length, Clem had to struggle through life without palpable parental guidance. He became emotionally alienated from his parents and siblings.
Eventually, in their adult years, Clem became a thorn in the flesh to his siblings even long after the death of their parents. His personality was greatly underdeveloped. He could barely take care of his family. He kept frustrating every move for peace and progress among his siblings. He turned their joint heritage and moments of joy and celebration into platforms for rancour and confusion.
There is a lesson to be learned from Clem’s story. Parents should remain the brace of endless love even in the face of challenges. We recommend that parents should prayerfully love more, get closer to the child, listen more and talk more with the child in order to cope with any issue bordering on child-upbringing. Wise parents should be proactive in laying a foundation of love and harmony among their children to forestall siblings’ rivalry. A passionate parent forgives his child even before the child asks for forgiveness so that he will be close enough to the child to continue his parenting role. Excluding any child from the canopy of parental love is a condemnable act which would likely result in the deterioration of any child-development issue.
Uchenna N. Nduka
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