“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela
Majority of us grew up in the “typical African home” where parents do not take nonsense. One wrong move and the next thing is a deafening slap (with hands, slippers or omorogun). One wrong sentence and the next thing you will feel are your teeth rearranging themselves against a burning cheek. While this played its part as a contributing factor to shaping us into better adults, I believe we as young adults can be better parents.
I often see social media posts like, “I can’t wait to be a parent so that I can call my kids to come and give me a TV remote on a table beside me”. While this might seem like fun, ask yourself, “When my parent did this, was I happy?” If you were not happy and you still choose to do the same thing to your kids, that is you being a vindictive parent. There is a need for us to break some circles. I am not in any way speaking—or writing against the African traditional way of raising a child but I believe achieving a balance would produce better results. I am not a parent yet, but I was once a child so that gives me a certain degree of right to talk about this.
Let me give you a few examples of these vicious circles that should be broken. I took a survey and I realized that most young people find it difficult to tell their parents, “I love you mum” or “I love you dad”. I felt some of you cringe when you read that and I understand how you feel. Most of us, especially those of us raised in a typical African home were not exposed to such display of affection while growing up. Telling your children you love them every morning before you leave home and every night before they sleep might seem like a Western idea and frankly, it is. However, but it’s a good one that we should adopt. Showing affections such as this boosts their confidence because they don’t need to guess or speculate, they know that daddy and mummy love them. Sometimes knowing this is all a child needs to go through life.
Secondly, listening is a virtue that most of our parents don’t have and I say that without an ounce of disrespect to any parent, including mine. I hope that when we have kids, we will listen more than our parents did. Children tend to be silent when they know we won’t listen (what is the point of talking when no one will listen). Some parents’ impatience to listen and the common assumption that they “know their child” is the reason why some were abused and bullied as kids, without their parents’ knowledge. When they know you will listen, they will tell you anything. Ask “how was school?” when they get back from school and genuinely mean it with a listening ear. Don’t jump into conclusion, don’t shut them up.
We need to stop assuming that kids don’t observe, they do. In the words of James Baldwin, children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. Some of the non-hereditary habits we possess are those that we picked up as kids while watching adults around us.
There is no need to be unnecessarily mean to your kids or annoy them intentionally. Also, children feel hurt and they feel it more deeply than adults because of their innocence. That is why painful memories of childhood stay longer than happy ones. We always remember unhappy times longer than happy times.
Trusting an adult (friend, family, home-lesson teachers) with your child, especially a child of the opposite sex, is good but please, trust with one eye open.
If you are a young adult (married or single, with kids or not), I wish you become better versions of your parents. Don’t repeat the vicious circles.
I once watched a movie, Kyle XY (I am still pissed CW cancelled that show). I admired the close family relationship theme in that movie. They talked about everything together and dealt with anything as a family. The parents were also not afraid to call their children out whenever they misbehaved. I think it is an example of a parent-child relationship that will help raise confident children.
Again, I am not speaking against the African-Nigerian way of raising kids. It is a solid and good system, but I strongly believe in balance. For instance, as lovey-dovey as I intend to be with my kids if they do something that deserves cane, a cane is what they will get! I hear some young people say “people don’t beat their kids again…” Good! I also wish I won’t have to use pankere (cane) on them. But if they need it, I am sure it will be a shelf away.
Let’s be better… break the circle.