By Oludare Mayowa
I am relearning all over again the act of parenting after over 25 years of my first experience in the business of fatherhood. It seems odd, but the reality of our time has again nudged me to rethink my strategy and overhaul what seems to be the pattern of parenting in my home.
A series of occurrences in recent times have forced me to rethink my previous position on parenting and inspired me to pursue a new order to ensure balance and healthy parenting.
Don’t get me wrong; I have never been an abusive parent, and my children love me dearly for being a father they can trust and talk to at any time. But then, no matter how much love you shower on your children and how much they love you, there will always be some areas of friction, or, more harshly, areas of conflict and collision.
I have had my fill of disagreement and harsh treatment of my wards, especially when I feel pained that, despite all my efforts, they are not following the direction I wish they should. Particularly with my first girl, now in her twenties, I have had the occasion to resort to the cane, or what the Bible calls the rod of correction, to bring her back on the right path when I felt she was not responding positively to correction.
The other two girls have equally had their own taste of the rod of correction treatment whenever they step out of bounds, but not in the same measure as their elder sister. As you grow older, you lower the tempo or intensity of the sanctions your children receive from you and may inadvertently resort to other means of correcting them.
Again, you can’t blame the parent for doing some of these and many more to ensure that their children did not fall into the trap of what the Yoruba called ‘akebaje’ and bring reproach or be subject to correction outside, which may translate to a kind of blip on your parenting skill.
So, what are those areas that I considered archaic methods? Nagging your children when they fail to do what you want them to do or using harsh words on them when they get you annoyed and you can’t find a suitable word to describe their attitude is out of bounds for me.
I have begun to realize that harsh words do not bring a change in attitude; rather, they often harden their hearts and create more opportunities for them to tag you with words that suitably describe your way of responding to them.
Just like it was in the years past when students would label their teachers, especially those of them who are considered harsh to them, the same way they would label you as ‘my dad can shout for Africa’ or ‘my mom loves to shout over little things,”
They may not say this in your presence, or they may wait for a jolly good day when you’re relaxed and in the mood for a joke with them. That is when you will realize that after all the shouting, nothing has changed with them.
I have equally realized that no matter how much harsh treatment you give your children, they are still susceptible to making their own mistakes in life.
I have also learned that regardless of their mistakes or blunders, I should not completely write them off or condemn them harshly over their error, but rather encourage them to make the right amendment and adjustment in their lifestyle in such a manner that their past mistake will not be repeated.
They have already made the mistake; pummeling them over such a thing would not add any value to them. No one is perfect, and I am aware that I have made my own mistakes in the past and am still making some to date, so my role is to ensure that they are not unusually broken because of their error but rather, when they fall, they are able to rise again.
I have also come to realize that it’s not my responsibility to mold them into what I desire them to be; that is the responsibility of their manufacturer. My duty is to guide them on the right path in life by living right and showing them a good example that is worthy of emulation.
I have discovered that there are many parents whose only desire is to turn their children into zombies, a replica of the image they have in their hearts. There are other sets of parents who are indirectly forcing their children to pursue careers they never wanted and end up becoming what they are really not.
There are other sets of parents who, because of their own regret over their upbringing, struggle with guilt, and in their quest to prevent their children from turning out the way they did, they transfer the aggression to their children whenever they notice that one or two of their children are taking after them.
The gene is a major factor in the lives of our children; there is nothing we can do about that. We cannot force a change or decree one. The question we should ask ourselves is: have we made the necessary adjustments in our own lives? Have we been able to turn a new leaf and begin to walk on the right path, or do we still exhibit those traits that we are noticing in our children and are equally resentful of in them?
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I have seen many parents agonizing over their children’s lifestyle, which reminds them of their own childhood experiences that they would have loved to forget; it’s like their past is coming back to haunt them in terms of history repeating itself in the lives of their children.
One of the flaws that some parents exhibit is that they usually want to force their own way on their children. They want to dictate the kind of clothes they can wear, the way to walk, the manner of eating, the friends they should mingle with, and the course of study they must undertake.
I once asked a question in a gathering of parents: how many of us have not resisted our parents’ imposition on us in the same manner, and why do we think that our children will not rebel against our own way of imposing our will on them?
Like I wrote somewhere, our responsibility is to guide our children to make the right choices, not for us to choose for them. That is where engaging them more in dialogue on major issues in their lives comes in.
We must learn the act of negotiation with them; we must provide them with the right atmosphere that would enable them to make the right choices; and we must create for them a pathway full of illumination so that they can see clearly and be able to make informed decisions when the time comes for them.
But to think that we can force our own way or opinion on them is to turn them into rebels and, in the process, disorient them in such a manner that they could end up making the wrong choices in life.
Also, part of relearning parenting is to understand that it’s not good to make comparisons between our children and their siblings or other children like them. Many of us are guilty of doing that; there are times we say, “Can’t you see so and so doing well in class better than you?” Or saying something like, “You are not even learning from your friends or your sister, who will always greet people.
We can only get the best out of our children when we intentionally bring them up with love and understanding, recognize their peculiarities, and deal with them accordingly.
It is better to correct them when they are wrong than to compare them with others as a way of pointing out their error. We all should know what is called individual differences, and we should respect that rather than ridicule it in the process of correcting it.
It’s good that we are able to identify areas where we have missed it in our parenting style and seek to make appropriate corrections in ourselves rather than telling ourselves that we can’t change our way because that is the way we were brought up.
How we were brought up by our parents may have been suitable in the past, but I can bet with you that some of those old methods are no longer relevant for today’s parents.
It would not augur well for us to subject our children of today to the level of discipline and abuse we were subjected to in the past, even though we appreciated the fact that it was done based on their level of knowledge of parenting back then.
But if we try such methods today, we will eventually destroy the confidence of our children rather than build it up. We could also end up turning them into rebels and making them think that the only way to show love to others is through abuse.
Maintaining balance in our act of parenting will require that, while we don’t spare the rod, we also understand that the rod is for correction and not to cause damage.
So, never correct them in anger, and never use the rod of correction in a harsh way that would end up leaving a bad memory of you with them. Also, never, in anger, say hurtful words to them; be conscious of the kind of words you use to correct them. Say words that will build them and not destroy them; speak life into them and not curses.
Don’t give up on them, and don’t give up on yourself as well; just learn to evaluate your position to ensure that you are making an impact and improving your parenting lifestyle.
For those who have done the wrong things and are perhaps feeling guilty about their past, you can still make some level of correction with your children even when they have all left home.
Be modest in accepting your past errors, and let them understand that all you desire for them is for them to turn out well and better, regardless of your method of bringing them up.
Readjusting to changes in lifestyle comes with challenges and resistance, both within and without.
Again, whenever you choose to make adjustments to your lifestyle, be patient with yourself and your children as well. Results don’t just pop up suddenly; keep reminding yourself that change manifests gradually with self-discipline and commitment.
Just remain focused and prayerful; change will definitely come at the appropriate time, and you will be glad you made the right decision to make a lifestyle adjustment.
One of the best methods to prepare the ground for a lifetime of change and adjustment is to study the works of some great men who have documented their experiences in book form. Get yourself a mentor—those who you consider to be living a life worthy of emulation—and join a group where such issues are regularly discussed. If you’re a Christian, you should be committed to studying the Word of God.
In fact, the best way to make a long-lasting lifestyle adjustment is to study the word of God and pattern your life after it. The book is not just called the word of life for the sake of it; the scripture is profitable for learning, for reproof, for correction, and for training in the right way of life, so that you may be complete and well equipped for a better lifestyle.
And determine to be a person worthy of emulation in all that you do because, most importantly, living by example has a greater impact on the lives of children than using the rod of correction or harsh words to bring them up.
(firstname.lastname@example.org; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)