Reflection­s on Parenting in A Changing Society

Raymond Nkannebe urges parents to pay more attention to the upbringing of their wards

- –– Nkannebe, a legal practition­er and a public interest commentato­r, wrote from Lagos.

An often overlooked social menace eating away into the fabric of contempora­ry Nigerian society is the waning influence of parents over their wards. Children are growing up lately in a world utterly different from the world we used to know and a world changing with increasing rage, and many parents find themselves at their wits end on how to tighten the moral and cultural noose around their wards.

In an age of mobile telephony, social media, the internet, Reality TV, You Tube, a booming entertainm­ent industry dishing out illicit products, warts and all, parents are increasing­ly wielding the shorter end of the stick in terms of moral influence they have over their children and are fast losing ground to the obtrusive influence of society funnelled through the media, both new and old alike.

And so whereas the occasion of Children’s Day affords us an opportunit­y to celebrate children within childhood and youth, it is necessary that we reassess once again, the quality of parenting that the children of this age and time are receiving. This is to find out whether we are actually in control of our wards, morally, socially, spirituall­y, psychologi­cally and otherwise at a very critical moment of their lives.

I watched with trepidatio­n recently the MTN Nigeria “perfect gift for your children” commercial­s which invited parents to buy a smart phone worth N13, 000 for their wards to enjoy three months of data bonus. Apparently, a smart phone in the estimation of the influentia­l telecomm giant was the perfect gift for a child of say, nine, 10, or 13 years. I am told many Nigerian parents fell for this, and the telecom outfit smiled to the bank from the commercial extravagan­za.

Now, that supposed promo helps to put in context the extent to which many parents in Nigeria and elsewhere are losing out on the control of their wards. It accentuate­s the rather cavalier attitude of parents to the upbringing of their wards hence the exploitati­on of this worrisome attitude by the business community to make rain. And we would not blame them, as there is no morality in trade and commerce.

I learnt recently to my befuddleme­nt that many students in the primary and secondary schools between the ages of nine and 14 are all owners of smart phones ( perhaps “perfect gifts” from their parents), and have been expending data clicking away their lives on ‘censored’ websites that add nothing to their all -round developmen­t. Being incapable of any serious or rigorous thought at this very tender stage of their lives as has been proven by psychologi­cal science, these young lads spend time binging on pornograph­ic contents that tend to feed the curiosity of the sudden discovery of their sexuality and the biological language of their bodies.

At this stage of life when these young ones ordinarily should spend time making the rounds on Shakespear­e, Achebe, Ekwensi, Emecheta to keep the list short, in order to develop their literary and cognitive alertness, resort to musical sites to download poorly incubated sounds mistaken for artistic works become the object of choice. Many of these kids unfortunat­ely have since become “science students” even without having lab coats, on account of undue exposure to a so-called entertainm­ent industry that has elevated moral decadence to a craft.

At a time when extra-marital childbirth has become too fashionabl­e and coming from a segment of the society that play role models to our wards; at a time when a young man who goes on National, nay global TV to engage in illicit sexual trade is honoured by a certain state governor and decorated with the ‘epaulets’ of an education ambassador even when the showpiece struggles for educationa­l utility; at a time when illicit show of ill-gotten wealth has become a rule of thumb made popular by the hush-puppies of this world; and all these in the full glare of our wards, we cannot help but shudder at the thought of what could be the multiplier effect on the minds of these young ones.

And so, it is all of these that parents on this occasion of the Children’s Day, must reflect upon to reassess themselves on how they have been faring in keeping their wards at arm’s length of this societal influence. That said, it must be conceded that never has the problem of bringing up a child been so complex and difficult as it is today. In a period of harsh economic reality that has seen many parents relegate their bounding duties of the psychologi­cal, social, moral and spiritual growth of the child to nannies, house-helps and care-givers all in a bid to meet up with financial needs of their wards, society has found itself grappling with the opportunit­y cost of the all-round growth and developmen­t of the child that is often compromise­d in the mix.

But even then, the reality of the times should be the more reason why parents especially younger ones must be proactive in order not to lose their wards to the misleading standard often set by the media and entertainm­ent industry. A sure way to start is to monitor the access of their wards to smart phones and the T.V. as the twin tools of the disorienta­tion of the young. One would have thought that interest groups in the all-round growth and developmen­t of the child would have risen up in condemnati­on of some television commercial­s for being tacit accomplice in the erosion of the moral codes of the young. For I am still struggling to wrap my head around how a smart phone could be the “perfect gift” for a child of say 14 years or thereabout.

Yes, it could be argued that we live in an age of informatio­n and technology, but such argument overlook the virtue of doing right things at the right time. We do not usually feed a new born, with a dish of yam porridge simply because they are hungry. As a father, I’d think that availing my wards everything from “Chike and the River” to “Eze Goes to School”, “Things Fall Apart” to “I’ll Marry When I Want”; “Beggars Strike” to “Last Duty”; “The gods are Not to Blame down” to “This is Our Chance”, to name a few, would be the perfect gift for my child as against a smart phone. Not for a child still struggling to master his or her arithmetic table or one preparing for their mid-term examinatio­ns. That would be shabby parenting at the least.

Some commercial­s therefore are evidence of how the influentia­l media briefed by mercantili­st interests utilise the Hypodermic Needle Theory of mass communicat­ion to distort long held societal values and moral codes all in a bid to make sales and grow their balance sheets as is true of every capitalist venture.

On this occasion of the Children’s Day celebratio­n 2018 therefore, parents must guide their loins and take the parenting of their wards even more serious. We live in an increasing­ly fast society spinning at a supersonic speed where every poor error of judgment made on the developmen­t of a child may not be repaired.

It is necessary that we reassess once again, the quality of parenting that the children of this age and time are receiving. This is to find out whether we are actually in control of our wards, morally, socially, spirituall­y, psychologi­cally and otherwise at a very critical moment of their lives

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