–The maxim, “Do what I say, not what I do,” does not work with kids.
Rather kids would do what you do, and not just what you say.–
Parents and guardians are the first mirrors of what the world looks like. When a child is born, the mind of that child is like a blank slate, waiting to be written upon. As time progresses, something begins to stay on that blank slate; language, culture, environmental factors, copied habits and tendencies and the likes.
Growing up kids are very good at imitating the adults they find around them. They quite often become a replica of what they have grown up into. Hence, as parents and guardians, we are in a fragile position of being the first persons to write on the child’s blank mind. Natural as this process may seem, it usually would include both positive and negative influences.
For this reason, parents and guardians have this dire responsibility of protecting their kids/wards from all forms of negative influences. A common source of negative influences is child abuse. Child abuse could be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological. Negative early experiences can have very strong impact on a person’s life, later on as an adult.
Parents and guardians must therefore ensure that the uncles, aunties, house assistants, friends, visitors and neighbours do not inject negative influences into the lives of these innocent kids. Take time to check out how their free time is spent. Observing their behavior helps to monitor our kids. Change of behavior should not be flimsily overlooked. Some kind of abuse or negative influence may possibly be behind it.
Kids need the best of environment in which to grow up. This does not necessarily mean living in affluence, having rich parents, going to an expensive school, having expensive clothes, and having maids serve them. These are the things that money can buy. What about those things that money cannot buy, yet we can easily exemplify them to our children and become more positive influence to them in life? These include showing our children that we love and care for them.
Though, the words “love and care” would mean different things to different people, however, it basically means spending quality time with the kids, listening to them as they process the world around them, reaching out to the child out of genuine concern and care, giving the child the needed attention and physical guidance, attending to and providing their daily needs, accepting the child as he/she is, teaching the child positive values with which to face the future, and letting them be the persons they are.
Adults can possibly make certain links between positive and/or negative influences during their childhood viz-a-viz certain choices they make today and/or ways of thinking/processing the world today. If they had the chance to change something in their childhood, some of them may want to make some changes, while others may say they would not change anything. The latter, not because there were no negative issues at the time, but time may have helped them get over the negative influences and they as adults, decided to make the most of their lives, despite certain limitations experienced during childhood.
As we get educated, enlightened and hopefully develop character as adults, we learn that we need to create a less chaotic world around our own kids, first by treating them well ourselves. Particularly, when the kids do things that upset us, we are often faced with deciding on how best to deal with the situation without further humiliating the child. Every parent would agree that making this judgement on how to handle our growing kids when they do mischief, can often be a challenge, particularly for parents who are aware that their actions have very direct consequences on the child.
As parents/guardians, we may have an idea of how or what we want the child to be like, but we cannot physically “beat” the child into shape. Rather, our excessive beating and smacking affects the child’s self-esteem. Some of us grew up in such circumstances in which smacking was just normal and expected, and so that is one way we know of putting a child in shape. This has its dire consequences.
Admittedly, there are parents/guardians who are less aware of how their actions directly impact the kids in their care. Are you a parent, guardian, a teacher or anyone in direct and constant touch with kids? Then you have a grave responsibility.
Specifically, in this regard, a lot of credit must go to mothers. Why? This is because a mother has this natural instinct to protect a child from all harm. She may not be doing this perfectly though. Nonetheless, many of us may indeed admit that our lives would have been far worse off if our mothers did not have this natural tendency to protect us in every way, provide our very basic needs and go out of her way to keep us safe.
This may or may not be your story, but if you doubt this, then think of a mother who is possibly not herself, which may be due to factors and challenges in her own life. It could be that she is so stressed and is not able to put herself together, and carry out her motherly role. The children/child in her care became the first victims of neglect. This is certainly not the wish of any mother, but then, she too need to be cared for so as to be able to care for another human being.
A mother with a mental problem or who is down in health, for example, will not be able to provide the much-needed motherly love and care to a child. When another mother intervenes and fills this vacuum to an extent, then it becomes a salvaged situation. Some of us who at some point had some experience of being cared for by someone besides our biological mothers, can indeed attest to this truth.
No one is an expert in parenting, not even those who had the best of positive environments while growing up. Though a more positive experience is a plus for any person. We all try. Already it is a good thing if as a parent, guardian or a teacher, you are already in a position where you can make this kind of reflection. Parents, guardians and teachers who completely lack this awareness bring up kids who may be far more distorted in mind.
With lots of personal reading and self-motivation, as adults we become more aware of what has happened to us in our foundations, and we begin our journey towards righting the wrongs of our lives. As adults, despite all that may have transpired in your life as a kid, we begin realizing that our lives have not gone out of hand. Face the truth; you have no excuse; your life is still in your hand. All’s not lost!
You continue replicating your world even as an adult. A woman may wonder how come she gets attracted to a man who so resembles her father in certain ways. So too, a young man may marry a lady who acts or looks like his mother or sister in certain ways. This could be physical looks, behaviours, habits and/or tendencies. The good thing with adulthood is that, reflection and awareness helps one make conscious choices that could help change an old or learned pattern of life.
In a normal family setting, Fathers, you best replicate to your sons how to treat a lady. If you love and take care of the needs of your wife, their mother, she would be able to better take care of the needs of the children. By so doing, your sons learn from you that a woman is also a human being who should not be taken for granted, but who needs love, care and attention. In this way, fathers and mothers together create a more positive world for their children.
The struggle to replicate a positive world for our kids is a continuous journey. It begins at birth and continues through life. This also include taking proper care of our bodies and minds, as parents and guardians. You cannot give what you do not have. Have a healthy body and a sane mind and anything else that will keep you positive, whole and strong. This would help you to better replicate a positive world to your child/ward.
“As adults, we owe kids all the good examples we can muster.
Yes, that child is watching you.”
- By Linda Asimole Ellah