So I was in a mall last week, trying to decide which affordable toy to get for my neighbour’s child (whom I had promised to get a toy for if he recorded high scores in his school tests), when I noticed a child and his mother walk into the same toy section where I was. They moved behind me, next to another woman with her daughter standing opposite me, choosing items from the shelf.
I was still trying to choose between a plastic ball and an inflated bear when I heard noises behind me; the boy –who had just walked in with his mother—was protesting and throwing tantrums that he wanted a blue toy obviously already picked by the girl who had been standing close to the shelf with her mother. There were many toys on the shelf, clearly, but the boy (about five years or so) apparently wanted the one already chosen by the girl. I was going to shake my head at the hilarious childish outburst and then proceed to the counter when I got the shock of my life.
“Please my sister, let my son have the toy; I will pay for any other one your daughter chooses. I don’t have strength for his wahala.” It was the petulant boy’s mother.
To my disappointment, the girl’s mother agreed and asked her daughter to hand the toy to the boy. I stood there in disbelief. The girl protested, of course, but not as loudly as the boy who stopped crying immediately the toy was handed to him.
As I drove home from the mall, I couldn’t get the event out of my mind.
The petulant boy had almost certainly being raised so far to believe he could get anything he wanted, so he threw tantrums when he couldn’t get the toy he wanted; it didn’t matter that the toy had been chosen by another person.
I was worried. At around five years of age, the boy was at the stage where children learn very fast, and most of what he learned at that age would shape his formative years.
This is a growing parenting gaffe.
Parents are naturally in love with their children, especially in cases where a parent has an only child or an only gender. And one of the commonest ways parents express this love to their children is through providing what the children need. At times, however, they provide so much that their children cannot deal with not having things provided for them.
But there’s a clear difference between loving a child and over pampering a child. To love a child is to raise him or her to be a better person. And raising a child in this way will involve occasional refusal to let the child win, occasional scolding or in, some cases, mild physical punishment. Anything contrary is over pampering.
There are also some other parents who love to avoid wahala. For instance, a parent who wants to watch an interesting television programme, will likely let their child have almost anything to avoid being disturbed. A parent who doesn’t want to create a scene in public will also likely let their child have almost anything.
Unknown to many parents, however, children are smart; they quickly learn that they can have their way in such circumstances and they take full advantage. Children raised this way will very likely grow up to blackmail others into doing their bidding because it’s the only way they know they can get what they want. And we wonder how there are so many entitled men and women in society.
Child raising is a tough task, and to be blunt, there is no easy way of raising a child. The decision to have a child is one to be taken with all sense of sobriety and in acceptance of full responsibility, knowing full well that a failure on a parent’s part –even if unintentional—could affect the child and society negatively