I’ve often wondered what turns some children from cute, adorable babies into vicious criminals. We have all read stories of teenagers and young adults getting involved in gangland violence, drugs, rape, cultism and even murder. The irony is that some of them come from responsible and hardworking families. So what happened? Who should be blamed? How can we prevent such things happening to our own little angels? I ask these questions because some of us are parents, or hope to be one someday, and we would definitely not want our children to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
I have heard people blame many factors; the society has been blamed, peer pressure, lack of parental guidance and some have just come to the conclusion that some children were destined to be the black sheep in their family. Well, I will try and explore each of these options and hopefully we will learn a thing or two.
There is no doubt that today’s society is becoming increasingly morally decadent. Some things that were a taboo a decade or two ago are now considered normal and part of the 21st century. Nevertheless, some children still turn out well regardless of the society they live in. So should we blame peer pressure then? Again there is no disputing the pull that peer pressure can have on teenagers. Some children from responsible homes have been led astray by associating with the wrong crowd. However, I think that if a child is properly guided, he/she can learn to avoid bad company. After all a good number of us turned out right even though some of our schoolmates were involved in all sorts of vices.
So could it just be that some children are destined to be bad? After all we see in some families just one black sheep in the midst of other good siblings. The Woolwich Butchers did not come from a family of bloodthirsty savages neither did the Underwear Bomber, come from a family of terrorists.
I think parental guidance is the most important factor in the way a child turns out. Regardless of the society or peer pressure, each child is an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses. It’s left to their parents/guardians to understand them and guide them accordingly, instead of lumping them together with their siblings. The Holy Bible says “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. Experts have also agreed that parental guidance is important in a child’s life. One of such experts is George W. Holden, a psychologist at Southern Methodist University US, who reiterated that parents play a critical role in helping their children develop in positive ways.
Sadly, a good number of parents do not understand the enormity of their God-given responsibilities.To them having children is another item to be checked on their ‘To-do list’ just like having a degree, getting married, etc. While they approach their career with passion and zeal, going for seminars, trainings and the likes, they hardly bother about learning better parenting techniques. They would rather hope and pray that their children turn out right, using out-dated parenting templates of other generations and other people. These parents conveniently forget that children of this generation are different from the children of the previous ones and that today’s society is vastly different too. There was a time when it was perfectly okay to flog a naughty child, but if you live in the US or UK, that is seen as child abuse. There was also a time when neighbours helped to discipline naughty children, but that isn’t quite as common anymore. There was also a time when your sources of information were very limited, but today’s kids are getting access to vast amounts of information, some good, some bad, via the internet and social media. So parents of this generation have to evolve with the times and adapt parenting techniques to fit the current environment and still bring up successful children. So how can we excel at this all-important task? Well I have a few recommendations; they are by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to make more suggestions.
Lavish Praise: It has often been said that the power of life and death reside in the tongue. The tongue can indeed build self-confident children with a positive attitude and great self-esteem, or it can destroy these children, leaving them emotionally unstable and vulnerable to abuse or becoming abusers themselves. Your child looks up to you for everything. He expects you to love him unconditionally, he expects you to be his greatest fan. Do not use love as a reward for only when he is doing good. Let him know you have his back any time. Don’t assume he knows; show him by your words and actions. Don’t be embarrassed to tell your child that you love him or her. Regularly use words that make them feel special. Just because your parents didn’t do to it to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Refuse to compare your child to his siblings or friends, recognize the uniqueness of your child and praise even the tiniest effort. When your child knows that you believe in him or her, he/she will always strive to make you proud.
Recognize your role: This might sound controversial, but I think my job as a parent is more important than any other job I could possibly ever have. My success is not measured by the company I work for, my degrees or by my bank balance but the quality of children I give the society. No matter how ‘successful’ you are, if your children are a danger to the society, you have failed. If your family name evokes feelings of fear and hatred, then your successful career or wealth will be forgotten in a flash. Sadly, because we live in a materialistic society where things are not prioritised efficiently, I see many people neglecting their children for their career. I see both fathers and mothers working long hours, leaving their children in the care of domestic staff. To them as long as their children have the best food, clothes, education, go on holidays abroad, they have done their job as parents. They forget that no matter how efficient and trustworthy nannies and drivers are, they can never replace you, the parents. Your children need you to guide and train them, but how will that happen if you are never around?
Quality Time: I do recognize that both parents may need to work due to economic reasons, but they could also create time to be with their children. At least one of the parents should try to be back at home before the children go to bed each day. Ask questions probably during dinner time how their day was, listen to them, ask leading questions if you notice something might be bothering them. Take time out on weekends to do things together, even chores, and use the opportunity to communicate more. Be approachable, don’t lecture, rather ask them their opinions on issues. Even when their opinions are not entirely right, resist the urge to condemn. Rather commend them for even expressing it, see things from their perspective and then gently let them see why that opinion may not be right. Children become more willing to do something especially if it seems like they originated the idea. Consider this example:
Mum: So what do you think about wearing heavy make-up and short skirts?
13-year old daughter: It’s the in-thing mum! Everyone’s doing it. It’s really cool and grown-up!
Mum: Yeah, I do agree it makes young girls look really grown up, doesn’t it? But what do you think happens when people mistake a young girl for a grown woman?
13-year old daughter: Hmmm…I see… she could get the wrong kind of attention.
From this dialogue, you can see the mother handled the situation quite nicely, also she pre-empted events by talking about them. Don’t wait until your teenager starts dressing seductively, start asking relevant questions before he or she caves into peer pressure.
Part-time Work: In some countries, mothers can choose to work fewer hours so as to have more time with their kids. This of course means less income but for these mothers, it is a sacrifice they are happy to make. However, some career-driven mothers do not consider this a worthwhile sacrifice. They cringe at the realization that it would mean slow progression up the career ladder. To them winning in life is to compare themselves with and compete against their peers. It would do their egos great damage to be left behind by their colleagues. Well, I have come to realise that while a career can be resuscitated or even changed entirely with a new qualification, there are rarely second chances with children. Once you miss the opportunity to mould them when they are young and pliable, it takes only a very rare miracle to do that in adulthood. Remember the first ten years of a child’s life are really the only window opportunity to instil values, after that they become teenagers, developing their own ideas and will only need guidance. Is it any wonder why we have many rebellious teenagers today? Their parents were absent in their formative years.
For mothers whose work places do not offer part-time opportunities, perhaps you could consider changing careers to one with more child-friendly work schedules. You could get a postgraduate degree in education and teach in any of the schools, and if education is not your thing, you could certainly try other options. What about buying and selling, or learning a skill such as sewing, baking, make-up, blogging, farming, etc? With your exposure and education you could turn what was once considered a humble profession into a very decent and well paying career. There are many stories of successful self-employed women who are financially independent and yet have enough time for their family. You could be one of them.
I deliberately omitted prayers, not because I don’t know its power, but because many religious people are lazy, they expect God to do everything for them. I believe if we will do our best, God will surely do the rest.
So, in conclusion dear parents and parents-to-be, recognize that parenthood is not just about making babies; it involves a lot of hard work. If you are not ready for this, please spare the world another monster, we already have too many at the moment. But if you will roll your sleeves up and tend that young plant God has blessed you with, in due season he/she will be a towering Iroko tree providing a shade for you and bringing you great joy and pride.
“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.” ― Howard W. Hunter.
Photo Credit: hair.lovetoknow.com
Theresa Omoronyia is a trained business analyst and has degrees in Management Science and Computer Science. She lives in Glasgow, UK with her husband and son. Theresa enjoys being with people and her passion is to help those who are hurting. She has worked as a volunteer in orphanages, and as a peer educator and music tutor to secondary school students in Nigeria.