Adolescents have their personal issues all together as documented in the article “Adolescents and Their Challenges“. These problems could be elevated or for lack of a better word “softened” if these adolescents have been guided through life with certain parental guiding principles. As the good Book says “Train up a child the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Therefore I present to you a few of the principles either used by my parents, the parents of a few friends, researched online or read in books.
Remember there is no set-in-stone rules/tactics/techniques/formula to raising a child but at least these could be used as pointers in the right direction.
1. Be your child’s best friend: Your children should be free enough to tell you anything and everything. Your kids get back from school, you should be like “my love, come tell me what happened in school today” and she should be free enough to tell you how Stella in class fought with Bimpe over Steve or how Kennedy is asking her out or how Rose doesn’t want to be his girlfriend. Everything under the sun should be freely discussed.
2. Allow visitors: Allow friends visit your children especially girls and be nice. Its almost an abomination in many African homes for boys to visit girls while its a normal thing abroad. Limiting female visitors for your girls will make them go out to see her “male visitors” and that’s looking for trouble. Allow your kids entertain visitors at home where you can monitor them secretly of course.
3. Deep up their talents: Education is inferior to talent, make their talents work for them. If Tiger Wood’s father was a Nigerian, he would probably have become a Doctor or even an Engineer, and the World would have lost an amazing golfer. Tiger’s father saw his interest in golf at the age of 3 and helped him nurture his talent and now, he’s arguably the greatest golfer of all time. Enough of the go-to-school-get-a-degree-get-a-job mentality, nurture your kid’s talent, even if its dancing, he might be one of the World’s amazing dancers.
4. Make your kids start earning wages very early: Free gotten money is not appreciated. If you give your kids money anything they ask for it and they won’t value money but you make them work for it and they will value it more. Teach your kids hard work and diligence by making them earn. Make them wash the car, clean the house, baby sit their younger ones, make dinner and pay them for it. You will have entrepreneurs in the making living under your roof.
5. Don’t be a beater, be a teacher: Instead of beating your kids, use other methods. I remember growing up, my parent’s disciplinary methods were polar opposites. Where my father used words, my mum used her hands. Where my father scolded, my mum spanked. My mother was who you would term a flogger, she had all types of canes from thin to fat canes in all corners of the house. You misbehave and before you say Jack Robinson, she’ll beat sense into your head. My siblings and I called her a witch behind her back and even doubted we were her children a times. Her disciplinary methods had their benefits but when your kids become afraid of you, it is not worth it. We were afraid of her but we love her to death. Be more diplomatic with your kids, flog only once in a blue moon, scold and deprive them of their freedom to teach them a lesson.
6. Don’t compare your kids: So your first son Ikechukwu is the most brilliant child in his class while your last son Emeka is not doing so well in class. Instead of encouraging Emeka to be better, you keep nagging at him, comparing him to Ikechukwu. Remember every human on earth including identical twins are different. Learn to recognize the difference in your kids and quit using comparison to dampen their self esteems.
7. Don’t have a favorite child: The truth about having more than one child is the fact that it is almost impossible to love each equally. Every parent has a favorite child or children. Never ever make the mistake of making your favorite obvious. Treat them equally.
8. Appreciate and reward hard-work: One of the needs of humans is the desire to be recognized. Your kids need to be recognized and rewarded accordingly. Don’t take your child’s efforts for granted. Be courteous with your kids. A parent should never be too big to say thank you to their kids, use words like “you did a good job” and buy them their favorite ice cream when they behave.
9. Teach them survival skills: In most homes especially African homes, we have what I’ll term “gender responsibilities”. The girl cooks, cleans, washes and takes care of the home while the guy does the manly stuff like wash cars, repair broken stuff and watch football. Enough of this archaic type of upbringing that makes grown up men unable to cook for themselves and girls unable to fend for themselves. Bring your children up equally, everyone cooks, everyone cleans, everyone washes cars, everyone sews, everyone repairs broken stuff and your kids would adore you for these life lessons in the future. As Chimamanda Adichie once said, “I have never taught it made sense, the ability to nourish one’s self (cook) in the hands of others”.
10. Teach your children respect for elders: I was greeting a friend when her children were starring at me, she then proceeded to tapping the kids with the words “greet Uncle”. “Good Afternoon Sir” they replied. Commendable as this may seem, your kids should never be reminded to greet elders (older folks). Even in their sleep, they should be greeting elders they see in their dreams.