On a serious note, parenting and taking care of children is no joke, not always fun but never will it be found in the list of worst jobs ever. Comparing the past and present trends of child upbringing in Africa, each dispensation had its own ups and downs. But generally speaking, I think there are things that are unhealthy for efficient parenting in Africa. Things that have exceeded the borders of discipline, care and concern to something else. Sometimes it’s not just the disciplinary aspect but the pressure and confusion of not knowing what to do and how to address a certain situation.
For as long as parenting is concerned, there will be different strokes for different folks, there’s no formula, you just try studying and understanding the people you are working with, their temperaments and hopefully devise a means of communicating with them. For the 21st century, it will be nice to acknowledge and accept that time has changed and as such, there is the need to make adjustments in the method of bringing children up, rigidity might not go down well all the time while laxity in the guise of flexibility(convention) might even do more harm. More than giving them names they will be forced to change when they grow, there are things that you don’t want to do to an African child. Here are some parenting tips for free:
1. Public Embarrassments
No one likes to be embarrassed, how much more in the public; and just because they are children doesn’t make it okay to publicly ridicule them. When parents call their children some mushy names in front of their friends, it doesn’t always go down well; imagine what the feeling now is when you call them derogatory names in front of their school mates, friends, family friends, external relatives or even core strangers. I don’t know what you heard but African children do have ego and emotions.
2. Cursing Your Children
Verbally abusing and cursing your children is one of the worst things you can do to your children. People have different temperaments, and as your children, you owe it to them to know what each of them is, that will help you know how best to relate with them. What a sanguine takes lightly might not be the same for the choleric, therefore, it’s safer not to take up the habit in the first place. I mean if you consider it, there’s hardly any good that comes out of it. In extreme cases, these children grow to be the exact same way their parents were. With some sort of psychological bruise, they do not only become abusive, they battle with low self-esteem and struggle with the confidence to face life. Try not to curse your kids, bless them instead, tell them good stuff, it helps beyond compare.
3. Punishing Without A Reason
When children misbehave, they definitely need to be reprimanded and penalized for it. However, punishing them without a prior or later explanation is not a good pattern. You don’t want to be the breeder of angry children or your children seeing you as wicked; so just explain to them what it is they have done wrong. Tell them, they need to know before you met out disciplinary measures on them, that way the education is complete.
Expecting children to be more mature than nature permits, makes them grow diversely faster than you want them to; the outcome is not always so cool. Life takes time to complete its purpose on people. You don’t get perfect in just a day, it takes time, so when you are dealing with children of different ages, it is safe to do that with a lot of patience and love. They will make mistakes, they will fall and get it wrong more often than not, but it’s all a healthy part and parcel of the process of growing up. You know what they say, Patience is key.
4. Not Listening
Even the rule of law, permits a fair hearing for everyone. Children have a voice and even if you know what they are going to say, don’t shut them up indiscriminately, listen anyway, you might find a pattern that needs to be addressed. Life is so ironical that we assume we know people and all of a sudden all we really know about them are the things we assumed we knew about them. As the day goes by, change is taking place whether we know it or not. If you really love your kids, then you must know that it is unkind not to give them a listening ear; a chance to relay some things to you, no matter how trivial or nonsensical. You might not believe it but sometimes children just want to talk to you and if they can’t have your audience, then they are just going to find it somewhere else.
5. Giving Up On Your Child
To trust means to believe and respect your children and all they represent. In cases of doubt, why not let the first option be to give them the benefit of the doubt. Having belief in your children makes them feel great and unstoppable. Literally tell them you believe in them and act like you mean it and see if they would not want to do you proud. Your trust and belief in them is capable of pulling them back from the temptations of straying away from the good path. Even if they are not turning out as you wished, never stop believing and telling them they’ve got potentials, because in truth, they do, we all do, it’s only taking a longer time for things to fall into place. Never give up on your children or any one for that matter.
7. Fighting Before Them
Take your issues away from their presence, it is super wrong and in fact a crime of the highest order to fight, argue harshly and attack each other in the presence of the children. Early exposure to violence will do a lot of harm in their psyche, and just because the other party isn’t your spouse does not equally make it okay. Fighting is bad, let’s teach them that in practical terms.
9. Spare The Rod Syndrome
“Spare the rod…” expression is one of the most violated and misunderstood scripture that I have come across. Indiscipline is not negotiable at all, never should be spared. Nonetheless, it is not wise to flog children like wild animals because they are not. Parenting comes with a lot of bright sides and crazily dull sides. Sometimes you literally want to kill them but can you? Will you? Never throw the baby away with the bath water. Take your time, if you react more spontaneously to their misdeeds, maybe this is the time to first go into your room, shut your door, say a little prayer and plan a long-term punishment that will definitely show them the other side of being a smiling bugs bunny.
8. Not Celebrating Their Success
Every inch of their success could and should be celebrated; by this I don’t mean throwing a billion dollar party each time something good happens. It could be small, like super small as long as you show them that it is worth recognizing. Such practices are enough to encourage them to do more for the future. Please celebrate their birthdays as much as your pocket can carry. You must not pay a fortune to throw a mini party; with the knowledge of some food skills (which either saves or earns you money on the larger scale), you can have an affordable and memorable occasion. Improvisation meets love and wonders begin to happen.
10. Not Being Supportive
You have no idea how it hurts to have the title of being the last to leave the school premises on daily basis. It’s bad enough school fees might be delayed by unforeseen factors but when it extends into other similar occasions like missing their PTA meetings, school functions and worse of all missing out on their school performances, it becomes an issue to be taken seriously. Actually some children do better when they know mum and dad are in the audience clapping and cheering for them, or at least taking pictures and making videos of them. Showing regular support for your children in terms of talent discovery and development; and other activities of interest to them will only make them confident to pursue their goals with all confidence and proud to have you as a parent or a guardian. That’s a win-win situation if you ask me.
11. Over Shielding Them
When they grow to a certain age, you just have to learn to respect their decisions even if you don’t understand it. Constant decision-making for them – like choice of school and study among others will only make them confused longer than they should. You are not always going to be there for them, so the earlier they face up to the reality of making decisions for themselves the better. There are times when caution turns into cowardice, as scary as the circumstance may be, let them face it anyway, It’s all part of being a grown adult. Constantly shielding them from normal life situations as rough as they come will not benefit anyone in the long run. Let them feel free to make decisions and suggestions. Over shielding their lives and decisions which automatically alienates them from socio-cultural realities, makes it difficult for them to trust themselves enough to make serious decisions; and what is life, if not the decisions you make and abide by.
12. Comparing Them To Others
This never feels good – ”Why can’t you be like the neighbor’s kids?” The answer is simple, because they are not the neighbor’s kids, they are your kids. Since they can’t obviously mistake you for the neighbor I wonder why you wish that your children who should logically be like you would take after anybody but you. Every human being has a distinguishing trait, features and personality; no one, not even the identical twins that you know are exactly alike, something must differentiate one from the other. Individuality is a gift not a crime. We can’t all be good in same things, it is the variety of individuals that makes life beautiful. Don’t compare your child to anyone- peers or strangers- it makes them feel they are not good enough.
13. Having Child Favorites
The Jacob’s story in the Bible does not excuse this ill. When you make it obvious that a particular child is your favorite for whatever reason, you must know that you are rubbing off a negative energy on the rest of the children. It could create life long animosity between siblings. Sibling rivalry is a natural thing but when you give them a hurtful reason to intensify the heat, the result is bad. The most commonly seen in Africa is when parents and teachers make the intelligent of the children their pets, they are made the school prefects, in fact they automatically become everybody’s sweetheart, so what now happens to the rest of the children? As much as we hope the idea motivates them to do better, we must also bear in mind that just as we stressed on the variation of personalities, our IQ also differs from one person to the other. What someone gets in a minute might take another a while longer to assimilate, that is just life. Imagine this, these children have to find a way around favoritism in the home and they go to school to find a no different scenario? That’s utterly destructive for the child.
In the same vein of favoritism, it is not nice when you make your children take sides or forced into choosing a favorite parent or guardian, the same way it erupts strife between children, so it does to the adults. No one likes rejection or playing second fiddle to anyone.
14. Avoiding Sex Education
Things have evolved beyond wonders; if we didn’t talk about it in the past, we are obliged to do so now. Gone are the days when you hope it gets mentioned in school so that you will put a finishing touch to it; school helps, but in our time, you’ve got to initiate the talk once your instincts and obvious physical features set it in your face that you have to prepare your adolescents for the next critical stage of their lives, what they don’t learn at puberty they might be lured to experiment with and possibly make one of those common but grievous mistakes that teens make. Never ever assume that they will figure it out or learn it in school or maybe their spirituality is so grounding that they can never err in that regard. It’s not magic, you have to give it a motherly/fatherly touch, make it your words of wisdom to them, it goes a long way.
15. You’re Unapproachable
If the children in your care do not have you in their list of options to approach about certain matters, then you are probably not doing a good job. Children are the freest set of human beings and if they can’t talk to you at that age, it will take a volcanic outburst to do so in the future. Be an approachable parent and model.
Scaring away their friends is not the deal, employ dialogue and reason to explain why you think their association with a certain person might not be for their own interest. If their friends don’t come around and you do not know them, how will you know where to trace irregularities when you find one. It’s healthy to have friends, don’t make them feel other wise.
16. Failure to Impact The Value Of Hardwork
Walking past a school premises one morning, and a parent is scribbling down answers in her child’s homework book; some even get creative by altering their hand-writings so that their class teachers will not know who really did the work. I know the society is not making it easy for parents to give quality time to their children, but still this should not be so. Under your tutorial/supervision, you can guide them to do it. Deep down in your heart, there’s no way that you’ll truly ever trade your child for your work, why not make that truth count and make first things have their rightful place in your life. Already we have been stereotyped as the race who are not literate enough to take on the ever advancing world. If you keep sorting out their school works and probably other higher academic tasks, you are seriously crippling their potentials in the academic field. Let them do it, supervise and teach them further.
Africans value hard work, so it is only fair to our origin and life in general that you make them realize that everything that we enjoy in life today was born out of someone else’s hard work in the past. Alienation from doing house chores, might also be another interpretation of stifling their capabilities as able-bodied human beings.
17. Hurting The Fetus
I am forced to conclude that the postmodernist concept of breaking norms is not really going the way that will sanely sustain posterity. Babies do not get invites to be born neither do they write applications to be born; so when you work for one, better get ready to attend to him/her for as long as it takes. In remote parts of Africa, mothers will do anything in their reach to ensure that they give birth to healthy babies; whereas on the reverse, some ladies in the urban who are privileged to know better willingly trade their pregnancies for fashion. The California Pacific Medical Center’s Women & Infants Center points out that wearing tight-fitting clothes, especially at the waist, can lead to intense heartburn, vaginal yeast infections, pain and reduced blood circulation. Finally the trend of tight clothes during pregnancy jeopardizes the health and comfort of both mother and child. It’s time to tone down the Kim Kardashian pregnancy influence, a trend that is successfully taking away the concept of sacrifice which is synonymous to motherhood.
Malnutrition during pregnancy is another factor that affects African children. Fate has made this an inevitable trait in some rural areas, but if you can help it, it would be nice to put away the diet plan till the baby is born, else, there might be inhibition in the fetal growth.
The worst of all in this category is abortion, as long as they are living, growing and moving in the womb, they have a right to experience life in its fullness and beauty. You don’t want to distort the health or practically kill a beautiful growing African child.
18. Early Introduction To Skin Lighteners
Using skin lighteners in Africa is growing in an alarming rate but the saddest part of this trend is that funny young mothers introduce the use of lighteners to their children at a very tender age. The racist mental disorder seems to have no bounds. The psychological message here is that you do not appreciate your child’s skin tone, and I ask, how possible is it that you love your child but not the skin tone? Are you indirectly saying the opposite? Regardless of the health implications on adult, these toxic substances are used on children too? I believe Africans are probably getting so fickle minded by the kinds of movies we see. If you are not comfortable with who you are, at least give your child the time to grow and make a choice. Hearing of the ban put on lighteners in Ivory Coast and South Africa is a partial relief.
19. Don’t Pressure Your Children
Africa is not so famous for ready employments and so long as this is a major problem, many other things might be delayed as well. Most ladies who are doing desperate things to get husbands are basically doing so because of pressure, especially from families. We will have to understand that as much as it is not fair, the focal point of the society is money and on the other hand, African young men who are tired of the tossing and turning of the economy are chasing their greener pastures from all angles. You’ll have to be comfortable first before willing doubling the burden. Some parents and elders make this harsh reality hard for the youths; constantly they pressure them to “be like their mates”. The reverse should be the case, you should be their source of strength and motivation, encourage them , not pressure them, that way they don’t fall into the wrong path with the wrong people. The society as it is puts a lot of pressure on the youth already, it’s rather callous to add to that. We work with existing reality not theories, suppositions or media fantasies.
20. Exposing Them To Abuse
We could do a thesis on this one. First of, children are not tools, toys or inanimate creatures that we use to satisfy our own gratifications. They are human beings who have a right to a dignified life and not instruments manipulated to obtain favors and nail targets. There are quite a number of things that the African parent and guardians should be aware of in order not to expose African children to abuse of any kind:
– Whether within or outside the home, never fight your battles with your children. This is seen a lot in polygamous families, where the competition rate is crazily high. Already they have to battle with the issue of validation, that natural tendency is enough, don’t deliberately use your children as agents to disintegrate their own family.
– When you have an unresolved issue with your spouse, never ever use them to get to the other person. You reduce them to puppets when you do that, and when they grow, they might not like you for it. Attach a measure of sanctity to the psychological growth of the child.
– For baby mamas, potential baby mamas, and desperate ‘wifey’ wanna be, children are not your investments. It will be nice if you don’t involve them in your chase for whatever goal, because they will suffer the most in the long run when things don’t turn out well.
– Times are hard but teach your children that it’s not okay to beg for alms, no matter what. This bounces back to the realization and development of talents and skills that can at least sustain the basic needs of the family. It’s not fair when able-bodied people resort to begging and take up their own children as apprentices in the business of begging. It will be rather insensitive not to acknowledge that some people have it rougher than the others, but a decision and attempt to create a less self-dependent mindset will go a long way.
– Don’t abandon your children to nannies and helps. Strange things have happened in recent times with house-helps and nannies in Africa. Legitimate agencies are coming up in that regard, but in any case, don’t take chances. Your children could be kidnapped, killed, molested and introduced to things you never imagined they would, at least not at that age. The perversity rate is annoyingly high, do whatever you can to spend the most time with them and be about their day-to-day happenings. Your work or whatever takes your attention away will instantly make no sense the moment it dawns on you that an irreversible damage have been done to your babies.