He became the person his parents told him he was

Someone recently shared with me the story of how Ibe, the only son of his parents, lost his life in a careless adventure at the age of twenty-five. I was told that he drove a friend’s car under the influence of alcohol and got involved in a ghastly motor accident. He was the only person who died instantly in the accident, while the others sustained minor injuries.

Immediately two of his sisters arrived at the scene of the accident, they wept bitterly on sighting his lifeless body. Their lamentation from the time they arrived at the accident scene to the time Ibe’s body was deposited at the mortuary was that their parents kept telling him that he was stubborn and yet he could not change from his rebellious life style. The wails of his sisters were heard as his body was being carried into the morgue.

“Ewo! Ibe, papa kept talking about your stubbornness right from the time we were toddlers. See where it has landed you” his senior sister said as her tears flowed freely.

At this stage, I could no longer hold back the urge to view the utterances of Ibe’s sister from the perspective of the effective parenting principles. My regret was that I didn’t have the opportunity to interact directly with Ibe’s parents. I would have clarified certain things from them.

  1. Was it really true that the label of stubbornness was put on a toddler?
  2. Was it true that they consistently told Ibe that he was stubborn all through their interaction with him?

If it was true that Ibe kept living a rebellious life style from infancy, then the following strategy could have helped him improve:

  • Separating him from any personality in his environment who was modelling stubbornness. Ironically, the person could have been the domestic help, his siblings or close relation, a play mate or even his parents. I heard of a mother who tactfully sent her son to stay with her parents when she noticed that her husband’s drinking habit was worsening. This was to prevent the child from absorbing the drinking habit from his father.


  • Withdrawal of negative name-calling.

It is proper to rebuke a child for a wrong action, but very wrong to give a child            a   wrong name because of a wrong action. I am surprised that many parents                ignorantly believe that always telling a child that he is wrong will make him                right. For instance, that calling a child lazy will make him to be diligent. Some              parents even make such negative assertions about their children before their              visitors. No! That’s wrong! It builds a negative self-image and would likely                    function to reinforce the negative trait and make the child comfortable with                being given that description. No wonder some adults have been heard saying              such things as “I know that I am hot-tempered”, “You know that I am lazy” and            “You know that I am always late”

It was obvious that describing Ibe as a stubborn child did not help him to                      overcome the trait of stubbornness. It would have helped him if his parents                  were guided to withdraw that negative name calling early enough.

  • Faithfully calling the child names that motivate him towards forming positive self-image.

No child is without a talent and no child is wrong all the time. It is easy to get a             positive attribute of a child to emphasise, while skilfully working on supporting           him to improve on his weak areas. It is true that rebuke is effective if praise is             not withheld whenever it is merited. For instance, a child may be good with                 helping out in house chores, but barely average in academics. The parents                     should always commend his diligence with domestic chores. Strategies to help             him improve in his academics should be explored without calling him a dullard.

Passionate parents don’t toy with any action that affects a child’s conviction on positivity. Consistently giving a child a negative description and any parenting practice that persuades a child into developing a negative self-image is retrogressive and should be dropped in the child’s interest.


-Uchenna N. Nduka



The boy Withdrew in Defiance, Took a Few Steps Backwards and Clung…

In my class today was a smart boy who was about two years old. Mid way into the lesson, I needed to relocate him to another part of the class. He was standing beside his sister when I spotted him. My understanding was that the two other children sitting next to where he was standing were also his siblings. The boy was therefore not comfortable with my relocation move, but he needed to be with his age mates.

When he understood my intention, the boy withdrew in defiance, took a few steps backwards and clung to one of his siblings. I walked towards him saying calmly, firmly and faithfully, “You have to obey my instruction.” His eyes were misty by the time I got to where he was standing. I held his hands and told him that I had a good sit for him in front of the class. He followed me reluctantly.

I kept observing him. Few minutes after he was repositioned, his misty eyes cleared and his mood became brighter. He became happy with his age mates who sat close him. Before the class was concluded, I announced that the children in my class were smart and obedient, especially the boy who was relocated. I told him to stand up for applause because he obeyed an instruction even though he preferred to sit with his siblings.

That boy finally made my day when he turned towards me and gave me a hug at the stair case after the Sunday school class.

I was encouraged by this experience. I, however, imagined other approaches people may adopt in similar situations.

  1. Immediately threaten him with all sorts of punishment and frighten him into obedience.
  2. Jerk him up without saying a word and reposition him forcefully.

For these two options, the boy might not have just had misty eyes, he might have cried for a longer period, not benefiting from the class. If he had cried, the class would have been distracted, especially his siblings. Also, he would have missed out on the positive impact of his being able to obey that instruction willingly and sorting out his emotions.

Effective parenting skills aim at raising children who have self discipline and are well developed intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically.


-Uchenna N. Nduka

Discipline: Anchored on Punishment?

I wasn’t sure what was happening when I woke up at about midnight. The pain on the heel of my left foot was excruciating! What came to my mind immediately was the sharp pain I had on the same spot during the day which didn’t take time to resolve. I was able to exercise restraint for a few hours before I made a call to an orthopaedic doctor. Before I made this call, all I could think of was that the doctor was going to recommend a ‘strong’ pain-relieving drug. The pain was really severe. It was as though there was a bleeding wound on that spot. I was actually panicking when I made that call.

I was thrilled by the doctor’s confidence as he observed that my spinal cord was probably complaining because of my sitting position in the office. He guided me on the correct sitting position and advised that I ensure strict compliance. My health was restored that same day. It then became clear to me that the emphasis of a good health care system is not on drugs. I would have been exposed to taking drugs for a long time if that problem was not well diagnosed.

Somehow, it can be reasoned that the emphasis of a good health care system is not on drugs the same way that the emphasis of a parenting or educational system should not be on punishment. What is important in any case is the proper behavioural pattern that will aim at achieving the right results and proper diagnosis of problems when they manifest so that the right corrective actions can be taken.

It is clear by now that discipline is the central focus of effective parenting skills as consistently communicated in the Passion in parenting blog. Our focus has always been that parents and teachers should create the enabling environment for children to acquire discipline and self-control as a way of life. An enabling environment for this purpose firmly models and insists on disciplined behaviour and makes corrections including rebuke whenever the need arises. In the right environment, children learn from their experiences with proper parental guidance. Parents who are not unduly defensive allow children to learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences as long as safety is not compromised. In other words, we do not rely on the common understanding that a parent “disciplined”a child which means that corporal punishment was applied on the child. The parenting technique we teach is not anchored on punishment.


-Uchenna N. Nduka

A parent’s fault is a child’s pitfall

Adol  was upset when he discovered that his adolescent son, Tony, picked up the habit of repeating the ‘emmm’ sound in-between his sentences when making speeches. He became more worried after his son’s teacher complained about the same issue during a private chat at a PTA meeting. He therefore made every effort to communicate his disgust for this habit to his son. Although dropping the habit was not easy on his son’s part, but improvement was gradually achieved over time.

One day, Adol gradually stumbled on a video recording of a speech he made at a forum organised by his professional association a long time ago.

“See Tony’s chubby cheeks!”  He exclaimed.

Although he was alone in his room when he played the video, he could not hide his excitement at seeing his two sons at their tender ages.  Tony was six years old then, while his senior brother was nine years old. They were both sitting beside their mum eagerly awaiting their father’s speech.

His countenance suddenly fell when his speech commenced.

“This can’t be true!” he exclaimed

“Wait. Was I actually using this repulsive ‘emmm’ so frequently in such an important speech?” he asked pensively.

He was greatly shocked when he realised that he unconsciously provided the habit for his sons during their formative years.

Passionate parents are aware that a child’s absorbent mind functions with urgency, absorbing everything that is available in his immediate environment. Effective parenting approach requires parents to apply this same urgency in purifying the parenting environment. As the arrow heads in the parenting environment, parents should therefore be hasty in dealing with their own faults before they are absorbed by their children.

It is always easier to make a child absorb right habits than getting the child to drop a bad habit so that a good one can be acquired. It is easier to achieve a disciplined child than achieving discipline with a rebellious adult. Children acquire discipline as a way of life when they are raised in disciplined environments.


-Uchenna N. Nduka

Passionate Parents Don’t Joke with the Child’s Privacy in Sensitive Discussions

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

Our traditional parenting environment had a structure which provided a guide on each child’s ability.

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

Self-Recovery: His Journey to Good Parenting

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