Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bring up a child in the way he should go

I saw a link for this new short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the New Yorker on Uknaija's blog(thanks for the link) and I must say it is a must read. It reads like non-fiction, but even if it is fiction, it captures one of the dilemmas of modern day Nigeria very vividly. In fact, not just Nigeria, but the fact that the law is more buyable in Nigeria makes it worse.

Many parents care so much about what others think and say and because of that put their children's future in jeopardy by not making sure they are properly and adequately punished when they err.
Many teenage boys in Nigeria go through this stage of stealing and extreme misbehaviour. Their parents raise their hands in despair, and make raise up a lot of warm air, but do not really try to get to the root of the problem. I am speaking from the experiences of friends and family members.

Case 1 - A friend of mine in secondary school sneaked out his british passport and sold it to some mallams for 75000 Naira in those days. And spent the money in a few days. His parents were upset with him, after they finally dragged the truth out of him. They then took him to the british embassy and police station, claimed the passport had gotten stolen, got him a new passport and shipped him off to London. Tell me, is that the right way of dealing with such behaviour?

Case 2 - My cousin who repeatedly stole tens of thousands to take to school to show off. His dad threatened brimstone and fire, locked him out of the house one night, but his mother kept telling the father "jo rora", please take it easy. What was that amount of money doing in the house in the first place? Even today his poor mother is still in her old age making excuses for him. And outsiders are not buying it anymore.

Case 3 - A son who beat his mother up because she didn't give him the money he asked for- simply because he could not afford it. He terrorised his mother so much, brought guns into the house, his father just emotionally withdrew and acted like he was unaware of all the ongoings. He ended up finally being shot dead by policemen during a clash with cult gangs (he was a cult member).

Case 4 - There was a story carried by all the daillies last year about a commisioner in an eastern state who had been shot dead by her own son. This son had apparently been charged with rape years ago and the only fitting punishment his parents could find for him (probably in order to save face) was to ship him off to America, in order to prevent him from facing the music. Since a leopard does not change his spots, this young man soon got convicted of a crime in the USA, and after facing his prison term, was deported back to Nigeria. It was when he got back that he killed his mother and stole her car.

All the stories above demostrate failed parenting very starkly. Our people care too much about what other people will say, etc, so they let their children get away with things they should not be getting away with. And some are just too busy chasing after mammon to be able to carry a punishment through. For them, such behaviour is just irritating and doesn't fit into their well planned scheme. I don't want to generalise, but some Nigerian parents are not fit to be parents at all. In fact, may times the problems with their kids can be traced back to the parents. When a person has no respect for the sanctity of human life, treats other people as a means of getting what he want, does anything to aquire the most important thing to him (in Nigeria, that is usually wealth), has no principles, it is no wonder that the lives of many young people are being destroyed. After all, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. The sad thing is that, as with everywhere else, its usually children from well-to-do and middle class families who have these behavioural problems. When you outsource the upbringing of your children to God knows who, just in a bid to make more money - be ready to one day face the consequences. And blaming the moral decay on western society is just because we refuse to look deeper. Most of the blame rests firmly at the parents' doorstep. I remember my mother randomly checking my bag in primary and making me return every pencil or eraser that she did not buy for me and asking fiercely "where did you get that from?" - most times it wasn't delibrately taken anyway. There was no way you would come home in clothes my parents had not bought for you and it would not be noticed. In fact when my older cousin who lived with us started to do runs, he made sure to keep the newly acquired baffs well out of sight. He could be as cool as he wanted on the street, but dared not bring that past the doorstep.

Almost a whole generation has been destroyed by cultism and other ills, it is important for our generation to take our parenting tasks seriously. If you can't afford more than one child, don't have more than one so you can spend time bringing up your child properly instead of running three jobs to make ends meet and having no time for the four children you decide to have. Also be strict with your children. I'm not saying be a "god of judgement" type of parent, but even while being loving and striving to be friends with your children (as is the modern way- and it good too), remember your child is not your friend. You have a responsibility to God, your nation and your child to bring them up the right way. Otherwise, you'll have no one to blame when they turn out badly.

We are mirrors of acceptable behaviour to our children. If your child sees you beating up your wife or cheating on your husband, filing false tax returns, using a fake title you did not earn, taking bribes or using false documents, somehow, subconciously, it will take it for granted that things should be that way. When you start getting righteous when he steals from you at 16, its already too late to fix things. You need to be consistent from day one. If you do believe that stealing is the only way forward, then teach your child how to steal well, no pretences here. What does the greatest harm is the double morality of our parents. They do stuff which is obviously wrong, and then pretend like you are a fool and can't see it and start preaching to you and taking you to church. Thats why one sees some young people who despise their parents.

Remember " train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he shall not depart from it" Proverbs 22:6


uknaija said...

I agree that many parents could do a lot more but I also wonder if there isn't a bit of randomness- I've known crap parents produce great kids and vice versa

Marin said...

I think there can be a bit of randomness, but what is going on in Nigeria right now is an epidemic. Obviously crap parents are producing crap kids. Look at the whole issue of cultism in our universities for instance, I don't know anywhere alse not in the throes of war where such things happen.

Liz Aremu said...

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girl said...

Hey Marin,
I know this is a little late but i was just reading your blog and decided to comment on this write up.

I grew up in a home whereby "woe betide" you if you bring anything that does not belong to you home from school. the same way your mother checked your bag is the same way my mother checked mine.

I was not allowed to borrow things from people simply because i did not have mine own. My mother was and is still a firm believer in the doctrine of being satisfied with what she and my father have provided for us.

but in some aspects they were really strict. i remember that you blogged about the houseboy who almost messed with you when you were 8 yrs old. i think i had that as well but i think i have blocked it very firmly out of my mind.

but i can still remember very clearly when i was around about 13 or so when this "brother" from church became very close to my family.

he started showing me things that someone my age should not see. especially from someone whom my mother trusts. he started touching me in places that i should have not been touched. i wanted to tell but i could not because i thought i would be blamed.

Can u believe that? he was also holding over my head the fact that i had a huge crush on a boy that lived in my estate. he said he would tell my mother. and i was scared even when i was doing nothing that could get me in trouble. i was still scared because i knew that my parents trusted him and might believe him over me.

To cut the long story short, my mother found out what he was doing. i have no idea how she did cos i did not ask her but she still found out. i felt to ashamed.

the thing is that if i was not so scared of my mother and what she would have said, i would have run and told her the first time he ever touched me.

i guess the moral of the story is that yes parents should be strict but they should also encourage their children especially their daughters to talk to them. mothers should be telling their daughters that no matter what they would always hear their side of the story before passing judgment.

I would say that i am over this incident and have grown into a very well rounded person but when i look deeply i see a person that is too jaded, cynical for her age and a person that does not trust people easily.

i am usually a person that is as my friends say "to lazy to be bothered by hate or drama" but i realize that i hate the person who did this to me "the brother" with all my heart. i cannot stand the sight of him. and i find that i cannot forgive him.... because i lost my innocence (thankfully not my virginity)during that period.

an innocence that i should have lost at my own choosing and with a boy of my choice at any time i chose.... preferably at a later date.

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