It is a popularly held notion that, regardless of whatever the circumstances are, parents have the utmost duty to love their children. However, in recent times, more and more incidents of parental aggression towards their children are making news headlines, with a large percentage of such cases kept under wraps. KEHINDE OYETIMI examines causes of parental offensives towards their children and recommendations for realigning such hostilities towards positive development.
He gave a ridiculously cocky smile; there was nothing remorseful about his temperament. He was slim but not pleasantly or well-proportioned. As he was interviewed by the reporter, he was proudly contemptuous. Perhaps he was not aware of the gravity of the charges leveled against him. He was a self-professed cleric; his hair was unkempt, displaying much of a personality that was undesirable. He was a father but many would argue that he lacked the needed milk of paternal affection.
The public approval that greeted the arrest of Mr Francis Taiwo, a cleric with the order of the Celestial Church of Christ was in itself a pointer to the growing condemnation of awful parental practices across the country. Francis Taiwo had come under severe public denunciation following the discovery of his alleged inhuman treatment meted out on his son, nine-year-old Korede Taiwo. Korede, who had been incarcerated in chains for months without food, cut a disturbing sight of barbarity and violent cruelty. While speaking to the press, Korede’s father defended his action saying he did it in an attempt to ‘cast out the evil spirit which made Korede steal.’
A maltreated Korede, after his rescue, stated that “It is true that I stole a pot of soup and a bowl of eba in our house. My father’s inability to give money to my stepmother for the upkeep of the family caused it. When I was chained, my father and stepmother fed me twice a day. Some days, I was not given any food. I want to go back to school because I want to be a doctor in future. I do not want to go back to my father’s house.” Korede’s father’s police statement smirked of one who was unperturbed by his action when he wrote that “I chained Korede because he is possessed. An evil spirit makes him to steal. He needs deliverance.”
How I helped my son lose his eye –Mr Umoh
Mr Eric Umoh’s demeanor exuded regret. He held his first son close, but he kept averting his eyes from the reporter. Eventually, his son got up and went into the house. Speaking with our correspondent, while refusing to have his photograph or that of his son, Michael, taken, Mr Umoh stated that the evening of the life-altering incident for the family had begun as usual, but by nightfall, his son had lost one eye, all due to his recklessness and the attempt to be a parent.
His father, a driver, had come home earlier than usual and met him playing, still in his school uniform. Already angry that his day had gone badly, because his boss had reprimanded him for late delivery, he called Michael to beat some sense into his head, but Michael wouldn’t budge.
“I was really angry with him, His mother said she had just returned from the market and had shouted at him for not changing out of his uniform on time, but Michael had ignored her. That only made me feel worse. In my blind anger, I had forgotten I was holding the big padlock we used for the main gate. I just knew I was holding something and I threw it at him. Next thing I knew, he was holding one side of his face, bleeding profusely. And that was how he lost that eye. I look at him every day and I wonder if he will ever forgive me,” Mr Umoh stated.
Last week, the Ogun State Police Command arrested a housewife, Fatimoh Olanrewaju, for allegedly breaking the arms and legs of her 5-year-old stepson, Iyanu. The biological mother of the victim was said to have divorced the father about two years ago, and the victim had been living with his stepmother and his father.
The alarming discovery of such actions, signposts an ominous trend of poor parenting and its many implications. Child abuse, female genital mutilation, child labour, child trafficking and other allied infractions have been described as the numerous manifestations of poor parenting.
The overall wellbeing of a child has always remained an immense outcome of the type of parenting that the child gets. The Economist Intelligence Unit carried out a global survey in 2012 after which it gave Nigeria a rather horrid rating by concluding that Nigeria was one of the worst countries in the world to raise children or for a child to be born.
Early this year, Anja RinggrenLoven, a Danish humanitarian worker, saved the life of a child whose name was Hope, in Akwa Ibom. Hope who could not have been more two years old was abandoned by his parents and left to die. Hope’s only offence was his parents’ perception that he was possessed by evil spirits. Left on the streets to die, Hope had to feed on the benevolence of passersby who threw crumbs at him to stay alive. The Danish worker, shocked by the pitiful spectacle that Hope had been reduced to, picked him up and took him to a nearby hospital where he was treated and given blood transfusion.
Why parents may be hostile to their children –Psychologist
Professor of Psychology and head of the Psychology Department, University of Ibadan, Benjamin O. Ehigie, in a chat with Nigerian Tribune, noted the factors that contribute to parental aggression, especially as it concerns children.
In his opinion, “The environment plays a major role. Many families are facing harsh economic situations and maintenance of these children requires some finance. When the parents have the intention of really caring for these children and financial requirements are lacking, it leads to a state of approach avoidance conflict. Approach in the sense that the father is willing to cater to his children but is now incapacitated by the state of the economy, where salaries are not paid regularly, or a situation in which the salary paid is not even enough to take care of the children. This could lead to what we refer to as displacement of aggression. When the parents cannot fight the source of these barriers, which can be the government or the employer, they then shift the aggression to the nearest person, which can be the wife or the children. And as such, they can become victims of these situations.
“We also have high levels of inclination towards religion and beliefs, whereby people tend to heed to what their spiritual godfathers tell them and some say they hear voices from God and as such subject their children or other loved ones to undue threat and hardship. Like the example of the cleric, Francis Taiwo, they may take such as punishment, under the guise of driving out demons. Apart from the environmental factors of the economy and religion, there is also the effect of negative association. Unfortunately too, the media contribute because the more of these negative occurrences they relate to the public, more people tend to be open to ideas on how punishment can be meted out on loved ones.”
Is parenting becoming less attractive?
Speaking on if parenting was becoming less attractive, compared to what obtained in earlier times, Professor Ehigie noted that it was possible.
According to him, “Before, there used to be social gratification in having children, but now, with the acceptance of the concept of family planning, the cost of maintaining children is getting higher. Unfortunately, one of the joys of having children before was that when these children grow up, they start working and they reciprocate, by giving attention to their parents, but these days, one spends a lot of money bringing up children. Some parents sponsor their children through Master’s and even PhD degrees, and parenting with such factors can be discouraging. Before, parenting was an investment and one would reap the benefits later, but now, one just invests and invests and some parents die investing, without even getting any benefit from the children.”
In his assessment, Biodun Bello, lecturer at the Department of Linguistics, African and Asian Studies, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, opined that “From a cultural perspective, where parenting is concerned in the traditional African setting, bearing a child is one thing and an individual factor at that, but rearing a child is a communal affair, which often attracts the input of everyone and anyone who has social access to the child’s upbringing. But, looking at the spate of harsh treatment meted out to children and wards growing up under the watch of parents in our time, and what the news reports have shown, I am of the opinion that, perhaps the changing economic condition is playing a critical role on this level of harsh treatments which we now see from parents to their own children, needless to say their wards.
“And we are yet only talking about the examples of cases reported in the news. How many more are the examples that have passed us by unnoticed? The times are really changing in such a way that the economics of survival in a place like Nigeria is now having negative toll and putting great pressure on the psychology, moral standing and level of mindfulness of parents and their idea of parenting. I think this really cannot be far removed from the economic pressures of our time, especially as they affect the low-income parents and households. This is not to say that this practice cannot be found also among the economic middle- and upper-class parents who adopt under-aged children as housekeepers. Some parents even try to justify their untoward and evil actions from a religious point of view, putting all the blame on the moral challenge of the child-victim of this kind of bad or harsh parenting.”
‘Immaturity, financial insecurity are also responsible for parental aggression’
Jude Nwabuokei, Peace and Conflict analyst stated that “Several factors could be responsible for parental aggression towards children. However, I’ll like to emphasise immaturity and financial insecurity. More often than not, you will discover that so many people get married without realising that marriage comes with responsibilities like raising children. Children will always be associated with pranks, dirt, untidiness, drooling, a runny nose with thick catarrh dripping from the nostrils, poo poo (faeces) and of course, night cries, especially during the first three months of birth. These are the most common occurrences; there are peculiar cases. So, anyone who cringes at the mere thought of these inconveniences should probably do a rethink before baring children.
“On the issue of financial insecurity, I have come to discover that there are parents who vent their spleen on their children due to unemployment, under-employment or the inability to make enough money to cater for basic needs or certain wants.”
For Mrs Bola Ojo, a parent, the sad realities of the economy are not enough reasons for children to be maltreated by parents or guardians. “It is wrong to say that the harsh economic realities of our time are enough to justify the treatments meted out to children. As a parent, I know what it implies to be in need. Parenting is a huge responsibility. Unfortunately, many people are losing it and this is disturbing.”
Elderly Pa Rotimi Ojalatan berated parents for such practices. “Things are so terrible now that many of the things that we hear now were never in existence in our time. We had more children but we also had patience and we had longsuffering. These virtues are important and should be imbibed by parents,” he said.
As sad as the forgoing is, the Child Rights Act should indeed to take its rightful place in safeguarding the interests of children. While the challenges of the modern times could be crippling in themselves, parenting should still hold its enviable position in the order of the human existence.