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
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