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Safe & Sane With Dr Ola Ibigbami

The societal challenges of the time we currently live in is a true reflection of the turmoil that pervades families within societies all over the world. The overall influence of the family (which happens to be the basic unit of every society) within any society on how the entire humanity is perceived cannot be overemphasized. When the basic units of every civilization (the family) are dysfunctional, then there is little that can be done towards liberating such societies from all forms of social vices. The current menaces which have constituted serious nuisance to the entire continent of Africa are “militancy and terrorism”. What we know is that there is a relationship between these societal vices and disruptions of the normal family configuration. Lots of children are born and left to survive outside their homes due to various dispositions. These dispositions could be ethnic, cultural or religious in nature. This trend is completely unacceptable! Such children are potential subjects for radicalization and recruitment into religious or cultural extremism.

The duty of all parents is to nurture their children towards attaining overall optimal growth and development. Certainly, not only the physical growth (that we can see with our eyes) needs monitoring by the parents, but the child’s psychological development as well. A parent is a caregiver of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is the caretaker of a child (where “child” refers to offspring).

A biological parent is a person whose seeds or eggs resulted in a child, a male through the sperm, and a female through the ovum. A parent in the context of the prevailing cultures in specific parts of the world has his or her ascribed roles. It is expected that the parent serves specific purposes or meet specific needs of their children. These roles can also be fulfilled by individuals who don’t have a direct or indirect biological relationship with the child. These roles include:

The parent as a protector– From infancy through late adolescence and sometimes beyond, the primary duty of the parent is to ensure that the child is safe from all forms of danger and exploitation. As soon as a child is bor, the mother immediately longs to cuddle the child and protect the child from all forms of hazards from the environment and other dangers around. The father also plays a crucial role in ensuring that the entire family is safe from all forms of risks.

The parent as a nurse– The parents especially the mother is the first nurse to cater for the child as soon as the child is born. She has the duty to nurse the child’s umbilical cord until it heals and also ensures that the child is fed appropriately. When the child is ill, the mother ensures that the child takes medications when necessary and also makes sure that she gives a full account to the health professionals when necessary. She keeps the child’s health records and immunization information ensures that all is adhered to. The father also helps out in this regard.

The parent as a teacher- The first teachers any child will ever have are the parents. They teach the child everything indeed everything. Even when children go to school, the parents still have to assist with the home work and provide additional educational support for the child at home. This goes a long way to help the child in school.

The parent as a friend- The parents need to understand that they have to be their children’s best friend. Your children will never share serious information unless you can befriend them. The ideal parents will spend time to play and be free with their children.
The parent as a benefactor- The parent has to be the sole benefactor of the child. The parent has duty to sponsor the child’s education, upkeep and make provisions for all the child’s needs (not wants) as much as the resources are available.

The parent as a fan- The parent has to be the greatest cheer leader of their children. The parents need to praise the child for doing well and celebrate the child’s achievements reinforcing every good behaviour so that the child can do more.

A child is a young human before the age of puberty. Childhood is synonymous with immaturity, inexperience, infantile desires, inquisitiveness, naivety, timidity and innocence among other qualities. A child is very vulnerable and can be easily exploited by others who are more experienced. The child is in constant need of protection and guidance by his or her parents. Child development entails the biological, psychological and emotional changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence, as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy. It has been described by some authors as a continuous process with a predictable sequence, yet having a unique course for every child. Every child has his/her own unique personality and temperament.

Recognizing the significance of the early childhood period, the United Nations Children Education Funds (UNICEF) acknowledged that this period as an incomparable window of opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life. They noted that the right interventions at the right time can counter disadvantage and boost a child’s development. Across the world, UNICEF’s early childhood development programs offer interventions that combine nutrition, protection and stimulation with support for parents and others to help vulnerable children get a fair start in life. They also promote the view that a parent is the main factor towards making all provisions available for the holistic nurturing of the child towards becoming a successful and responsible adult.

What is ideal parenting?
All animal species engage in some form of parenting or the other. The only major difference is in how the parent is able to meet the needs of the developing child. According to some scholars, human parenting or child rearing is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Specific types of parent styles include:

Authoritative Parents: They show respect for the opinion of their children by allowing them to be different. These parents establish rules in the household but allow discussion if the children do not understand or agree the rules. This style of parenting often results in children who have high self-esteem and are independent, inquisitive, happy, assertive and interactive.

Authoritarian Parents: Authoritarian parents are firm in their rules. They demand for absolute obedience from the child. Children raised with this parenting style are often moody, unhappy, fearful and irritable.

Permissive Parents: These are parents who exert very little or no control over the behavior of their children. If there are any rules in the house, the children are not under any compulsion to follow the rules. These parents also do not have any reward system instituted for conditioning the good or bad behaviour of their children. These children may be carefree, disrespectful, disobedient, aggressive, irresponsible and defiant.

Disengaged Parents: These parents are neither responsive nor demanding. They show some degree of careless lack of awareness about the child’s need for affection and discipline. These children may grow as detached and can have higher number of psychological and behavioral issues than rest.

What are the effects of parenting on the outcomes of early childhood care?
Researchers have been able to compare children across the different styles of parenting measured in their parents. They have been able to demonstrate that the style of parenting actually determines the characteristic attributes that the children eventually begin to manifest. When children are raised with mixed parenting styles, the children tend to show delayed development compared to those whose parents used authoritarian parenting style. Therefore, it is advocated that the parents should rear their children by using this parenting style that has the best potential of leading to the age-appropriate development in their children. Every parent who desires to nurture his/her child must endeavor to acquire the right skills of parenting.

Asides the parenting style, when parents are able to fulfill their role of meeting the needs of their children which include protection, nutrition, love, affection and guidance, they firmly position themselves towards staying relevant in the life of their children especially during the formative years. This is why it is important that parents maintain a constant relationship with their children. When one of the parents for any reason is not able to maintain their own relationship with their children, it eventually leads to the children becoming more dependent on the ever present parent which most of the time happens to be the mother. This could happen in families that are required to live apart mostly due to the nature or the location of the job of one or both parents. Both parents need to consciously ensure that they spend time as much as possible with their children. The parent who has to be away most times can maintain a close relationship with the children even on phone. The family should have schedules for conversations on phone which will allow the parent who is not available physically to continue to bond with the children. These schedules should be prioritized and strictly adhered to. It gives the children something to look forward to and conditions them towards keeping their parent who needs to be away in their hearts and a relevant part of their formative years.

How do we develop sound parenting skills?

Learning – (Classical learning, operant learning, observational learning, social learning) Learning is change in behavior that is gotten from experience. The experience could be ours or that of others. The style adopted by the parent determines the development of the child and also influences the personality and in essence the nature of parenting the child will adopt when he/she becomes an adult. For instance, children who are products of abusive relationships are most likely to carry on the impact of their parent’s relationship on their psyche into their own relationships. The overall impact could be negative or positive depending on how the parents manage their relationship. Children tend to do what they see their parents doing.
Intuition/instinct- Parenting is also instinctive. All animal species are able to exhibit parenting skills that are aimed towards ensuring that their offspring are nurtured appropriately. The mother instinct is completely different from the father instinct. If a child falls down, most fathers’ first instinct will be to probably rant at the child for not being careful enough while the mother’s instinct will be to provide care for the child. It’s just natural because that’s how we are emotionally primed.

Divine Inspiration– Some aspects of parenting can be divinely inspired by spiritual experiences. It could also be interpreted as learning. However, this form indeed doesn’t conform to all the basic learning modalities due to the fact that it occurs in the context of spiritual experiences. (This is another big discussion for some other time)

Cultural norms and values- Our culture also has a way of dictating how we will practice our parenting. I am sure some of us have seen some short films depicting the contrast between the African cultural values and parenting in the western world. One classical example is that corporal punishment is accepted in our culture but considered inhumane in the western world. It could even attract severe punishments on the parent.

When do we begin to practice parenting?
Parenting begins before conception. This is why we cannot overemphasize the concept of Planned Parenthood. When God gives you the grace, you should plan when, how, where, how many and with whom you should have a child. Studies have shown that the emotional state of a mother has a lot to do with the development of a child in the womb. The relationship between the father and the mother when the mother is pregnant also goes a long way to influence the emotional state of the mother. Hence negative interactions between the father and mother inducing stress in the mother will lead to excess stress hormones in the mother interfering with the growth and development of the child.

After the child is born, the father and the mother must work together to take decisions and show love to them in a manner that allows the child to see himself/herself growing in a loving environment. This lays the foundation for the child’s development in adolescence and also later in life. The studies have shown that children who grow up from single or dysfunctional homes have poorer outcomes than children who grow in a home where both parents are available and are cooperative in their interactions. Also, the quality of parental interactions cannot be the same when we compare large sized families with families who have smaller sizes. However, the size of the family does not directly infer that outcomes will either be good or bad. This is because lots of variables tend to determine the outcome of parenting on the children.

Factors that can affect parenting
Culture and tradition
Illness in the parent
Illness in the Child
Economic situation
Acculturation or assimilation of other cultures

The home environment must be consciously modified to influence the overall development of the child. Parents must be available at all times to guide the child. You must be willing to praise when the child is right and also correct in love when the child is wrong. The parents need to understand that the influences of these times are much different from what it used to be in those days and we must also do everything possible to learn how to nurture our children towards becoming persons of value to the home and the society at large.

This is the expanded transcript of a lecture I delivered to parents and teachers at the end of year program of a school recently. Many parents wanted the text and I just thought that the information might be useful for many more people. Don’t forget to like and/share this with all your contacts. Until I come your way next week; Stay Safe and Sane!!!

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