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
Children may easily be shackled into whatever behaviour adults deem fit, but the paradigm for reckoning in any society on the propriety of its parenting beliefs and approaches is the extent of discipline achieved in the adults that have been raised over a period of time. A studied look at the disciplinary content of the average behaviour of adults raised in a particular society will surely inform the way forward on the necessary improvements to make on the prevailing parenting practices. It may be necessary to ask such questions as: Are political leaders disciplined? Are government ministries and parastatals administered with honesty and discipline? Are adults so disciplined as to willingly obey law and order without being seriously closely marked by various law enforcement agencies? What is the trend in prison congestion? What is the trend in crime rate? Is that society generally secure and peaceful?
It is really worrisome where the personalities of adults in a society are formed in such a way that only a few can be trusted to manage public funds without the mass media being littered with news about corrupt practices and looted fund recovery. The prisons are congested and crime is on the increase. If in security is rising and peaceful coexistence is elusive, then the heart of such a society shouldn’t just bleed and her tears freely flow at these alarming dimensions of rebellious manifestations. Such a society is truly at the turning point and its parenting and educational processes require urgent overhauling.
This is food for thought for those who passionately administer wrong violent and abusive parenting practices for mainly cultural purposes. Societies that have established standard parenting and educational laws and practices have better stories to tell. A parenting approach will be effective if parents are sufficiently available to model discipline and provide the right support and guidance for the proper development of their children. Therefore, our little individual efforts at ensuring that the parents in our respective communities apply effective parenting skills will surely help in reducing crime, violence and corruption. Workshops and seminars should be organised to teach the right standards of practice to parents, teachers and care-givers of children. Yes, it will greatly help in achieving the kind of improvement that will transform a dysfunctional society into the kind of societies with admirable and functional systems.
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
The teacher’s comments may be:
Oh! There is something terribly wrong with your child!
Your child surprisingly made the best result in her class
Your child is careless. He lost all his books and personal belongings.
Your child was not serious at all during this term. She didn’t submit most of her assignments!
Your child kept serving punishment for various offenses.
Your child is the only one in my class who cannot write all the letters of the alphabet.
Whatever the teacher’s comment may be about a child (positive or negative), whatever academic result a child obtains (poor or excellent),a passionate parent should tactfully and patiently get closer, love more and talk more with the child in order to get into the innermost thoughts of a child to achieve firsthand knowledge of his or her activities and experiences while in school.
The holiday period avails parents and their children wonderful opportunities to share experiences. Parents should be able to extract information about school experiences from the child in a relaxed atmosphere. It may even be at the playground. In the process of close interaction with the child, a great parent will have clearer appreciation the child’s challenges while in school as well as areas in which the child improved or declined in all aspects of the child’s development.
The child should be commended for improvements achieved. Parental support should be provided in the areas of decline after a proper diagnosis of the contributing factors. For instance, a parent may consider changing school for a child if the present school’s service delivery standard is low, holiday lessons could be arranged to provide support for the child in weak subjects, the child can be helped in organising a daily routine timetable and cupboards with locks can be provided to help curb loss of personal items.
Parents should therefore cherish and utilize every holiday moment as a great parenting opportunity. It is therefore not proper for children to always be sent on holiday visits to distance places. As much as possible, parents’ leave periods should be planned to coincide with the periods when children are on holidays.
-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