‘Parents should create time to care for their children’



Adebowale Ayobade is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos. In this interview with GERALDINE AKUTU, she spoke on the high rate of child abuse in the country and proffers solutions to this nagging issue. THE rate at which children experience abuse in Nigeria is alarming, what is your take on this?

There is need to conceptualize child abuse in the Nigeria context, because training a child by emphasizing what is wrong or right through occasional spanking or scolding children should not be term as child abuse. It is a way of training such children to conform to the approved values and norms of the society, they also acquire native intelligence through this platform. Reverse is the case in some countries where this type of correction is seen as child abuse and some children derailed and are beyond parental control. Some parents had gone to jail for daring to correct their children in such societies. Reverse is the trend in Nigeria, where this is seen as moral training, good upbringing and instilling good conduct and introduction of our values into such children.

It is an unfortunate trend that children are now victims of various unbelievable abuses in our society. Sociologically speaking, parents are found wanting in their responsibilities towards these children. Previously, children used to be the source of joy to couples specifically and to the society at large.

The issue of household survival being at the forefront of struggles by parents makes children vulnerable to all odds in Nigeria society.

The engagement of strange house helps or nannies services to look after our children has its negative impact on these innocent ones. These hired hands had suddenly constitute nightmares and people of questionable characters to the children they were supposed to nurse to the couples that engaged their services. This is the learning point where some children are initiated to all bad manners they exhibit. Apart from seeing domestic helps in the form of human trafficking which on its own illegal and not acceptable under the law in Nigeria. They wreck more harm to the households than the good that was expected of them.

These services were usually rendered by grandmothers in traditional Nigeria, when professionalism was at its lowest ebb and career aspiration was not as demanding as we have it now. Contemporary grandmas are still neck deep into capacity building for themselves so have no such time to support in taking care of grandchildren as it was in the past. No couple would give preference to a complete stranger if grandmas are available to care for their children.

Contemporary times work challenges requests for the services of younger siblings or an extended family members to render helping hands and give support to parents that are professionals. Survival struggles and career advancement takes pre-eminence over the expected child care development in contemporary times. There are various types of abuses in our society but the prevalent ones are domestic violence and child sexual abuse. This is not good at all hence needs urgent attention.

What are the causes of child abuse in our society?
Poverty: Minimum wage is insufficient to take workers home in order to provide basic things of life for their children. Inflation has taken a chunk of parent’s salaries to the extent that such wages can only purchase few goods.

Laziness: Some parents are too lazy to adequately fend for these children, some of them would unconsciously turn the children to household’s bread winners through hawking of merchandise items in order to generate income for family upkeeps. Some parents usually threaten these children of no food for them, should they refuse to hawk.

Hostility: Transfer of aggression from frustrated parents who could not live up to expectations. Though, some were downsized from their offices and it’s difficult to secure another job.

Frivolities: Ostentatious life styles of adults in the society which is about yearning for excess material acquisitions and always having things to covet without drawing scale of preference, this sends negative signals to these children

Carelessness: Some parents takes the care of their children for granted and entrust them to anyone willing to help even if that person is a pedophile or ritualist. Also, is as a result of lack of value to human life.

What effect would it have on the child’s psychological and socio-cultural disposition?

It will lead to loss of self-esteem, lack of manners, stubbornness, rebellious activities, faulty peer influence and polluted family orientation.
How can this be controlled?
Workers should be well remunerated and not the current minimum of N18, 000 per month that does not take anyone home in order to provide for family basics. Parent should create time out of their busy schedules to care for these children. Government should create an enabling environment for unemployed parents to survive on small-scale businesses of their choice.

Employers should be children friendly by having crèche or Day Care Centers very close to offices where parents can drop, breastfeed and pick up their children. This will eradicate the services of house helps that had constitutes a source of insecurity to these children in contemporary times.

What advice would you give to parents who abuse children?

Give priority attention to these children by avoiding negligence. Parents should plan the children’s life the way they plan for their official responsibilities. Love the children and build their self esteem. It is important also that you ‘don’t spare the rod’ as the child can be corrected with love through this means.

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