‘Strong, loving relationship between parents and children is essential’

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It has been widely acknowledged that the relationship between parents and their children, especially in the early years of the latter’s formation, is what determines how responsible and successful the child turns out to be later in life.

Although relatively small, the family unit is the bedrock of the society. It is, therefore, responsible for the quality of human beings that populate a society. So, not only are parents expected to be exemplary role models to their children, they are also saddled with the responsibility of supplying all the necessary spiritual, physical, psychological, sociological, mental and emotional support the child needs to grow into a balanced and well-equipped individual.

Sadly for sometime now, society has been experiencing a lot of chaos, occasioned by unwholesome behavioural and attitudinal inclinations of both young and old individuals. All the values, which formerly made society relatively stable, noble and productive seem to have been eroded, so much so that many people are wondering what went wrong. What are parents doing or not doing that is responsible for today’s mayhem?

Some experts gave useful tips on how parents can undertake their duties and help their children grow into responsible adults that are capable of contributing their quota to the society.

Aderonke Asiwaju, a professional counsellor and administrator at the University of Lagos, said a positive parent-child relationship is very essential to fostering unity and bonding.

She said: “When children are born, the first unit they know in the society is the family. Physically, the parents are the ones that nurture them, provide their needs, inculcating the right values and norms into them. When they are effective, these children grow up to fit into society as adjusted people, but when parents fail at the formative stage, they miss it for life, as the formulation is wrong.

“However, many parents are increasingly neglecting these unique roles these days. Societal expectation is that parents should be there to bring their children up, but many parents are not doing that now. It is either they are too busy with their careers, businesses or do not see anything wrong in nannies and drivers taking over their role. It is in higher institutions you would observe that students are not totally brought up. The role of parents is not just to bring their children up by meeting their needs, but they are supposed to be good role models and provide guidance for them. They are there to give them information and direction. Apart from that, parents should be able to meet their children’s needs in such a way that they don’t lack, because when this happens, they will be exposed to temptations.”

She explained that parents should teach and guide their children with love. And where both parents are united and undertake their parenting task, which is their God-given role seriously, the children will be forthright. They will excel, achieve their goals in life and there will be peace in the family.

“For instance, if parenting is effective, children will not be used as thugs. However, if parents don’t show love to their children, they will go out to look for love and may mingle with the wrong people,” she explained. “They can pick such wrong vices as drug addiction and so on. I, therefore, advise parents to improve relationship with their children by getting involved in their lives. They should be their children’s best friends and become friends with even their friend’s friends. They should counsel them and inculcate the fear of God in them, show them love in all ways, as well as spend quality time with and appreciate them. Let them cultivate a reading culture and as a parent, you have to know their teachers. Correct them and let teachers know the extent they can go in handling the children. The exposure to Western culture is making our children feel that our culture is outdated. So, we must teach them our culture and get them close to their root.”

Corroborating Asiwaju’s stand, Debo Ayobade, a sociology lecturer also at the University of Lagos, said most of today’s parents don’t have time for their children, as they are so engrossed with building their careers to their children’s detriment.

“When you are close to your children, there is nothing they cannot discuss with you. They won’t engage in the hanky-panky pranks played by children of the contemporary world. In most houses, there is a serious vacuum between children and parents to the extent that, when parents are back from work, you see children running helter-skelter trying to look good or conform with their parents’ expectations. Meanwhile, they are hiding a lot of things.

“I have been lecturing for years and in the course of my work, I have seen so many cases. Some children deceive their parents by collecting money for school fees and other things, but they are not in school. Some parents believe that giving the child money is enough, instead of being there for them. There is an erosion of family values. Technology has taken over. Children are exposed to so many things globally, so much so that as a parent, if you are not careful, you will never know. Children are vulnerable. We bring in strangers in the name of nannies and house-helps to look after the children.

“Recently, I had a case in my department of a child whose parent came to the school to see him when they suspected that something was wrong because of his behaviour at home. Immediately the child got admission, he let down his guard and became wayward. So, when the parent came to the campus, they went to his faculty and called his line, but he quickly switched off his phone. The father’s brother saw the boy from afar and went after him before discovering his true status. The child failed woefully and was expelled. The father felt very bitter and blamed the mother because she always took sides with him anytime he wanted to scold him.

“The father lamented that his son wrote JAMB three times before gaining admission into the university and that all his efforts had been wasted. Both parents were crying and very sad. The first semester exam he wrote, he was put on probation. Six of them were on probation then and I counseled them. Four of them managed to get a point that could keep them in the university, but he got 0.62. In the second semester, he maintained the status quo by scoring the same thing. He failed four courses and passed with a D and E in two courses. The weeping father told the weeping mother to take the child back to where she got him. That child is their first. I told the parents to get the child to learn a skill, if he is not cut out for academic studies.

“The Bible says, ‘Train a child in the way that he should go so that if he grows up, he won’t depart from it.’ They did not do good parenting on the child and now both parents are sad. A lot of parents need to be parented and scolded because they don’t know what it means to parent a child. You must devote time to your children at any age. Many parents don’t know what is happening in their children’s lives. Parents work round the clock and don’t pay attention to the child. Parents should create time for their child, be their children’s friends and guide them. Don’t let career or business take you away from your child or take your child away from you. Sure, you will succeed in that career, but you will look back and won’t find any home.”

On her part, child development clinician and CEO of Nobelova Gradani Psychoeducational Services, Helen Oshikoya, said it is very important for parents to bond with their children.

She said: “When you build a good relationship with your children, it builds stronger communication and you get to know and understand your child better. Parent-child relationship should start from the cradle. It doesn’t have to start when they are older. Interacting with your child is very important, as it makes the relationship stronger. It fosters self-esteem and better decision-making skills.

“If you don’t build a strong relationship with your children, they will find it hard to mingle with other people. Giving the child a religious foundation is very essential, whether it is Christianity or Islam. There is a lot of negativity from television, Internet, school and so on. Children need to be guided and parents must be watchful. Don’t just assume your child can’t do certain things. Children could pick vices when you neglect them. As parents, you have to talk more with your children. If parents fail to direct and guide the child, he/she will go astray and make bad decisions.

“I think what has changed between now and the past is work. Parents are leaving their children with nannies and house-helps. They go to work, come back and don’t bother to see their children. The next day, they are off to work again and continue with the same routine. They are too busy to spend time with their children. It is even worse with children with disabilities. The parents just want to do other things so that they don’t have to focus on children with disabilities.”

For effective parenting, she advised parents to build a good relationship with their children by talking to them more and getting involved in their lives.

“Parents shouldn’t shut them out when they want to discuss. Rather, they should know what they want, their likes and dislikes, as well as encourage, appreciate and love them. You need to know your children’s friends and encourage them to bring their friends home to enable you to meet their friends and know them. Also praise them for whatever good efforts they make.”

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