Many thanks to everyone who sent in comments and remarks on the Part 1 of this subject. I am greatly encouraged. The issues broached are indeed related as determinants of the outcome(s) of parenting. I hope we will eventually (as much as possible) touch all the aspects of parenting and child development before we conclude on this series. I have to seriously resist the temptation of digressing to address the mental health implication of watching grown up men (FATHERS!!!) transform the hallowed chambers of a state house of assembly (where laws are made!!!) into a “Shaolin Temple”. Yes, it happened in Nigeria!! Indeed, it’s on Facebook. I am sure if you’ve been allowing Junior, your ten year old son to browse the internet on your phone and view the pictures on your Facebook account (innocently), he would have seen that video and a lot of other videos “innocently”. To complicate issues, one of the Kung Fu masters was rewarded for his martial artistry by being crowned as the new speaker of the house of assembly of the state. I am not joking about this. Simply search for “Edo law makers fight” on Google.
My questions are: Are we trying to accept the fact that it is proper to use violence (in any form) to achieve our aims and objectives? How many children would have seen that video? How do you convince a child who have seen the video (and also noticed that one of the martial artists was rewarded with the topmost position in the House) that it is wrong to assault someone in order to communicate your intentions? I will address this issues later. Before then, share your thoughts with me. I might even publish your comments whenever I write the full article on “Talking fists”.
After last week’s article was published, I got some feedback which has necessitated the need for me to emphasize the role of “early assessment” in helping children who have “not so good” differences or deviations from what is considered to be ideal. In more developed parts of the world, placement in school is highly dependent on the results of a comprehensive assessment of the child’s developmental attainments. When that is done, it helps to determine children who will need more or less of specific intervention which is tailored towards meeting the child’s needs. The challenges we have (as documented by researchers) in developing countries like Nigeria include availability of specialists who can assess specific aspects of the child’s development and also the affordability of such assessments. Where these experts are available, it is important that parents should also be willing to seek their opinions. It is in order to ask for the qualification of the person who wants to do the assessment to help determine how reliable the assessment result will be.
After the assessment, the parent should also demand a report. Due to my personal experience, I believe strongly that you can’t know the child more than the parents; you can only help to better describe or explain what the parents have observed. The assessor’s role is not just to describe or explain but also to proffer ways of managing the peculiar differences towards reducing or preventing negative outcomes. If you have a child you want to have a better understanding of, send me a private message which should include your name and location and I will probably link you up with someone close to you.
Taking our discussion further, I will like to dwell a bit more on the external influences that could determine the outcomes of parenting irrespective of the desires of the parents. In practical terms, desire is not the same as intention. Intention is not also the same as action. Every parent must not just desire that their child must turn out well without transforming this desire into what they intend to do by mapping out action points which are then acted upon. That is the best way to influence our children. There is a need for parents to plan how to be in charge of what their children are exposed to because this external factors can influence the behaviour of the children. I grew up in Ile-Ife. I attended the Prestigious Staff School of the Obafemi Awolowo University. Then we used to run around the school, “playing police and thief” and remove our shirts, (I hope my mum isn’t reading this) leaving only the first button around the neck. This allows the shirt to flow down our back imitating “Superman”. We used to fold sheets of paper into pistols and run around, shooting ourselves during break time. Yes, we had fun! One day after the home-time bell had been rung, I continued my police activities (not thief) by shooting cars that were passing by. I mistakenly shot (not real gun!!) the car of one of the other lecturers in my Dad’s department! He recognized me!! I never knew until I met him in my Dad’s department and he said “Young man!? You were the one shooting my car!!”. I felt like having the power to disappear. For many years after this incident, he always reminded me (anytime he saw me) of what I did. I must say then that my Dad didn’t own or gun. I also had never probably seen a real gun up close. But I had seen all that on TV over and over again. What are your children watching on TV? Many parents leave their children for “Barney and friends”, “Tom and Jerry” and the housemaid to teach about how to be responsible. When parents allow their children unbridled access into the world of fiction and fantasy without anchoring them into reality of life and the factual reward systems that exist in the world, it rears a generation plagued with materialism. Parents must have complete control over what their children are watching on TV and how much time they spend watching TV.
In present times, it is not just the remote control that the parents need to take control of but the internet as well. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that Facebook is harmless. It is not!! All sorts of offensive and disgusting videos are regularly being posted on Facebook. Such videos are only taken down “when someone reports”. Hence, if no one reports an offensive video, it still remains. I don’t think it is safe to allow children to be viewing stuffs on Facebook or other sites on the internet unguarded. The way the mind of a child works, it might take some time before a child is able to mentally separate the experiences of what is visualized on the screen from what is seen in real life. A child who sees something scary on TV might not be able to sleep (this can even happen to adults). He/she might even run out of the room as if the scary thing can pop out of the screen. I tell parents, “If you cannot allow your child or young one to physically and innocently (without participating) go and sit in a “joint” where all sorts of drugs and criminal activities are being discussed and shared, where sexual orgies and other vices are freely going on, why do you allow them to watch all these on TV?
The good side of it all, controlled access to TV and the internet for a child, can be used as a means of conditioning the child to persistently engage in a productive behaviour. A typical example is the story of Ben Carson, the famous American Neurosurgeon. For those who haven’t read the story; his mother noticed that his grades were low and he and his brother were spending too much time watching TV. She then rearranged their schedule to include reading books during the week to be able to gain the reward of watching TV programs they like during weekends. That transformed his grades and his entire life academically. The point is, controlling your child’s access to TV or the internet can be a useful tool to make them behave appropriately.
I will end this week’s article by highlighting some of the tips I’ve learnt from my over eight years’ experience in bringing up three kids. I can tell you that in my house, the TV can be off for as long as possible without anybody having a meltdown. Secondly, the “remote control” can “only” be controlled by us, the parents while our children ask for permission when they want to watch specific channels (not specific programs). These tips include:
Never make the mistake of putting your babies in front of the TV to distract them or pacify them especially during the first year of life. Don’t substitute physical bonding and reassurance with the presence of a so called TV for babies. I made that mistake with my first son. But we’ve been able to correct that.
Never allow your children to get used to watching specific programs at specific times. It is a prelude to a meltdown when this is not possible “based on logistics”.
Don’t let them get used to changing the channels when you are around. Ensure that they recognize that your interest supersedes theirs when it comes to who should watch what. Let them learn this when they are still children because when they become adolescents, it might not be easy to check. A dual view decoder can only satisfy two people at once.
Exclusively, no screens in the children’s bedroom. Your children must always watch a screen where you also can watch with them what they are watching. Screens include, laptops, desktops, TVs, smartphones etc. I read a story recently (I don’t know if it’s fiction) of a woman whose son was always disappearing into the toilet to go and watch pornographic videos on his mum’s phone.
Spend time to watch TV with your children and do not ignore but take note of the rating of the program when this is available. My DSTV is permanently set to allow only programs for 13 years (lowest level available) and below. Every other program can only be watched under my guidance or that of my wife.
Never be too eager or desperate to renew your subscription once in a while. Allow the children to learn that some things can wait and some things are nonessential.
These are some of the tips I can remember now. I am sure that many of us have our own tips or experiences we will like to share. Feel free to do so and I can assure you that you might even be given some space or recognition to share on this platform.
I have to acknowledge a Nurse, Adebukola Ibigbami, (my teacher and partner in parenting) whose contributions towards the contents and the tips in this article have been extensive.
Kindly send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org whatsapp +2348030652116
Till next week, Stay safe and sane; help someone do the same!
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