Why We Turn Out The Way We Are

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It is common practice in Africa for people to  blame parents and fault their parenting skills as reasons for the misdemeanors of their children. Children are believed to mirror the skills/values/principles/convictions instilled in them by their parents.

As a consequence, well behaved and successful kids owe their “success” to their parents. For example, someone allegedly claimed (on twitter) that a man was “overjoyed” by his nouveau wife’s virginity that he bought his mother-in-law a Range Rover Jeep for raising an explemary lady.

This made me to ask, why does the mother of the lady have to be the one to take the credit for her daughter’s virginity? Yes! She must have played a part but there are other factors worth considering – like the daughter herself and her immediate environment.

I sincerely believe the environment plays a major role in a child’s upbringing more than the parents and the individual in a ratio of 4:3:3. Using percentage, the environment takes up 40% of the effort that goes into a child’s upbringing whilst the parents’ and individual equally share the remaining 60%.

Think about it, throughout a child’s developmental period, s/he spends more time out there in school/church etc (environment) mixing up with friends, neighbours, teachers, peers, house helps and strangers. According to Elliott Bisnow, “You are a reflection of the twenty or thirty people who give you advice.”

Most kids are farmed out to boarding school between 8-12 years old which means the only time they really spend with their parents and families is the long holidays. And in most cases, parents are carried away with happiness/joy when they return for the holidays that they forget to keep a close eye on them during these periods. Instead, they pay attention to their physicality and most importantly, their grades/results. It would surprise you how a good result can cloud parents’ judgment of their child’s character.

One may argue that parents can afford to influence the child’s immediate environment hence their contribution soars to an unassailable 50%. However, no matter how good an environment may seem, it is complemented by the bad and the ugly, and in the end, the child is left with the unenviable task of choosing his or her own path. This is because children learn a great deal by direct teaching; they learn much more by watching others. The peer pressure on kids is enormous; they are confronted by drugs, alcohol, sex and foul language wherever they turn.

Another may argue that even the “little 30%” parents contribute is the fulcrum of the child’s developmental process because it is the foundation. After all, a solid foundation is the key to a well-built home. It is adjudged that a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development depend on family dynamics.  However, how often have we seen children with solid foundation from good homes turn out differently after much water has flowed under the bridge since those foundation days?

No matter one’s side in this argument, one thing is certain – parents, environment and the child play distinct roles in the development of an individual. Luck plays an integral part too. After all, luck and chance determine the family we are born into and thence our immediate environment.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

My Child Must Be A…

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Growing up as a Nigerian child can be mentally hard. Pardon me for generalising; Yes! I know Nigeria is enormous with over 250 ethnic groups and I cannot speak for everyone but I have found out that Nigerian children, no matter where they grow up, are raised in similar ways.

I was in South London sometime ago and a Nigerian woman complained bitterly about the academic capabilities of her 6-year old daughter (Yes! You read that right). She feels the daughter isn’t as smart as her peers and this makes her worry. She had already planned that the little girl would be a doctor in future and as a result, she hired a private tutor to teach the child after school hours which means the little girl arrives home at about 5pm every weekday.

Many Nigerian parents, just like the aforementioned lady, put pressure on their children, especially the oldest child, to do well in academics. Infact, they have unrealistic expectations that you must be the best at everything; it is not debatable. Even if you get an A and finish as the second best student, they will probably still ask, “The person that came first, does he/she have three heads?” Thereby making their children too result-oriented.

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It is absolutely of great importance that parents support their kids’ academic pursuit but there is growing concern that Nigerian parents put too much pressure on their kids beyond their capabilities and abilities. Whilst some parents want their kids to study 24 hours of the day (TDB) with minimal or no play time, in hope they will grow to become the next Albert Einstein, others favour and praise the academically sound ones over the poorly academic ones.

Putting children under intense pressure can be devastating to their psychological development. Consequently, they develop a certain type of mentality that makes them believe they are worthless without academic success thus cultivating sibling rivalry.

Some children may also develop perfectionistic traits as they put too much pressure on themselves to please their parents and other family members. In my little experience so far, many believe they are only studying for their parents, not for themselves, but are afraid to voice their opinions. Many struggle to establish autonomy and often succumb to depression, sickness, alcohol and drug abuse, psychosis, emotional trauma, low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.

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Parenting is hard work; it must be said that parents who put too much pressure on their children never do it with the intention to harm them. Naturally, everyone expects a profitable return on the investments they make and parents are no different. They want to see a return on the investment of money/time that goes into raising their children (school fees are not easy to come by).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting high targets for your children however when these expectations seem to overhelm them, there is need for us to re-evaluate and soft pedal a little bit. Nigerian parents need to realise that every child is different; some are early developers whilst others are late developers. Also, not all children will be academically sound and the best you can do is to encourage them to be better whilst exploring other talents/skills your kids possess.

Some parents do this because they want their children to achieve more than they did. Recently, psychology experts revealed that parents who put extreme pressure on their children are only trying to live/achieve their failed dreams through their children. This gives them great fulfillment and pride, as some see it as a “straightforward validation of their parenting skills.” Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State Univerisity, who coauthored the research said, “Parents then may bask in the reflected glory of their children, and lose some of the feelings of regret and disappointment that they couldn’t achieve these same goals.”

Furthermore, the emergence of social media (Facebook, BBM, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram etc) have unintentionally heaped pressure on many to achieve and some extend this pressure to their children. We are always notified about the events in everyone’s lives – especially their achievements so there’s increased pressure on kids to excel academically so parents can secretly boast that they have the best children ever.

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A child should be allowed to follow his/her own path in life, not the path of his or her parents. All he/she needs is parental guidance and support!

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.