Parenting is a wonderful responsibility albeit a tad bit challenging. The challenging part we all try to deal with privately and as best as we can. However, the popularity and ease of social media bring these private moments to our knowledge every now and again and everyone reclines comfortably in their chamber as the judge and jury over these private issues. Some of the comments are extremely outrageous and infuriating but eh, it’s the world wide web, everyone has an opinion!
The desire of every parent is to have well-behaved, confident and successful children, unfortunately, this is not always the case. When children act-out who takes the blame, the child or the parent?
A few months ago, a video of a Nigerian teenager throwing things around in his mother’s kitchen got the Nigerian social media buzzing. Everybody had an opinion – especially women and a lot of them opined that the boy was wrong, they raved about how mothers are more or less extraordinary beings who should be idolised whether rightly or not 🙄.
If you haven’t seen it here’s a link. (I chose to put a link as the video had no business on the internet in the first place, that was a private moment, no one would like their business aired in such manner.)
I was really disappointed at the comments of most of the ‘perfect judges’ who castigated the boy in very strong words not caring to know the genesis of his actions. As far as they were concerned, nothing could justify his behaviour . The backlash was so much that the boy had to respond in a series of twits.
Whilst pondering on the case, I saw a post my friend, Oyin, put up on the issue and it made me very happy. May I point out that Oyin is an experienced parenting coach and she wrote this before the boy responded to the outrage from the video.
This is what she had to say about the matter:
I thought long and hard before reaching the decision to share my observations and thoughts about this video.
This video has been trending for a few days and a lot has been said already however I’ve been so upset and frustrated with the majority of the comments I have seen made by mainly Nigerians on social media that I thought it may be useful to share my thoughts as a professional who has worked with and supported parents/carers and families for years, and also as a Nigerian/British Mum of 3 boys living in the UK.
In my line of work, I meet with parents/carers that are genuinely at the end of their tether and are convinced they have tried everything to help their difficult, rebellious, ungrateful, unruly and absolutely unreasonable child, so they need me to help ‘fix the child’. My response is always the same – I say in ‘fixing the child’, they have to be open to the idea of ‘fixing the parent’ too; some parents/carers find my response offensive, some find it confusing and a few ‘get it’ instantly (it’s a light bulb moment for them).
Why am I sharing this? Because a lot of the comments I have read on social media regarding this video have been so disheartening and heartbreaking- on the instablog9ja Instagram page lot of the comments totally demonised this child, they talked about him like he was a lesser human being, he shouldn’t have emotions/feelings, they totally judged him harshly and dismissed whatever it is that led to the build up of what we see in this
The adults making these judgemental comments will probably do worse to another adult if they felt offended or aggrieved enough. These are adults who are so quick to forget what it feels like to be truly overwhelmed with frustration, disappointment and anger that you literally feel like you’re going to explode.
These are adults who continue to hold children to a higher moral and emotional standard than they hold themselves to.
There’s also this belief that the child should and must take any behaviour directed towards them by their parents/carers regardless of how abusive or unreasonable it is because parents/carers can do no wrong. They are your parents/carers so they can bully, manipulate and totally strip you of everything but the child MUST STILL RESPECT THEM.
Some of the commenters were convinced that the ultimate and possibly most effective solution was to send the boy back to Nigeria so that he can receive a ‘brain reset’😳 This actually made me laugh because they are obviously convinced that Nigeria is filled with well behaved children and adults!😄😄 Yea… right! Ridiculous!😒
Anyway in this video, I see a boy who is actually looking quite ‘calm’ and ‘collected’ for someone in rage, so this tells me he is intentional – he knows what he is doing and wants to do it because he is deeply hurt and frustrated, he needs an outlet, he desperately wants to be heard and for his feelings to be validated.
Considering his state, he actually engages well with the man (uncle) who walks up to him persuading him to stop, he wasn’t violently resisting the man, he carries on with what he is doing and is determined that the uncle’s intervention isn’t going to stop him. This tells me that one, the boy isn’t violent (believe me, I have seen and worked with violent children) and two, this isn’t the first time the ‘uncle’ is intervening, it also tells me that although he ‘respects’ the ‘uncle’, he doesn’t trust that his intervention is going to make any positive difference – this may be due to the fact that previous interventions haven’t resulted in any positive long term impact.
The child actually said something in the video about not being listened to… at this point, I will ask you to please pause reading and consider how you’ve felt or how you feel when you’re not being listened to by important/significant people in your life or how you feel when your feelings are not being validated especially over a long period of time? Think about it and then maybe you can truly empathise with this child.
What I see in the video is a breakdown in communication which has led to a combination of endless parent/child power struggles, abuse, trauma and a desperate cry for help.
The whole thing is being video recorded which may seem strange however it’s usually because the adults need evidence to prove to professionals like me that it’s not their parenting that is the problem but it’s the child (I can’t tell you how many similar videos I’ve watched because a parent/carer is trying to prove to me that their child is ‘the problem’ 😒)
So please understand that the adults including the Mum are all ‘calm’ in the video and not engaging in their normal way because that will probably interfere with ‘useful’ evidence.
One thing parents/carers may not realise is that when professionals watch videos like these, we’re looking beyond what we see and considering so many other factors that parents/carers are not willing to share which lead to a line of questioning that most parents/carers find frustrating because they just want us to accept this ‘evidence’ as proof beyond any reasonable doubt that this child is ‘evil’.
My heart goes out to both the child and Mum to be honest because the parent/child relationship has clearly suffered so much and is in serious crisis. It has probably reached breaking point or has broken down because the child’s needs are still not being met.
You might be thinking, ‘Oyin, why make this about the child?’ It’s because parenting is a huge responsibility so it is ‘always about the child’ – to thrive in parenting we must get over our egos and accept that parenting is a learning experience for parent and child. Every child is a whole human being that deserves to be heard, accepted wholly, their feelings validated and respected in order for him/her to bound with and engage positively with the parent.
Nigerian parents, there’s a lot we need to learn and there’s a lot we need to unlearn if we want to successfully raise our children – we need to be more intentional and practise a lot of conscious parenting because the way we were raised may not necessarily work for our children.
There are comments about the child’s siblings are still with the Mum and doing ‘well’ why is it only this child? There are a lot of assumptions in this statement but I’ll say this – I’m actually quite surprised that in this day and age people will use this against a child. Can I ask you to please consider why some people cope well with one manager/employer and other people struggle? Why do some people stay friends with a particular person and other people struggle to the point that they choose to end the friendship? Why do some people struggle in certain relationships and thrive in others?
The parent/child relationship is like any other relationship, every child has a different personality, needs, etc… which create different dynamics, it is up to the parent to know, love and accept each child individually; nurture your unique relationship with each child so that each child feels valued and accepted wholly.
I can run a whole workshop on this video and the comments it has generated but I will end now by saying this – let’s stop the demonising of children, let’s do better please. Children are not lesser human beings, their feelings/emotions aren’t less important, let’s stop glamorising the bullying, manipulation and abuse of children. There’s a lot of help out there for parents/carers if they want to learn how to parent better and develop positive, healthy long term relationship with their children – parenting is hard work so accept help if you need it, don’t be ashamed of it… you’re being an intentional parent, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
As parents/carers let’s do better please, we’re dealing with people’s lives here… it’s no joke, it’s not worth the gamble.
I really hope this Mum and son get the help and support that they need – I really hope and pray that they can still turn their relationship around for good. Amen.Oyin Kalejaiye
I was excited about Oyin’s write-up as it voiced out my thoughts on the matter. It perfectly sums my feelings about the young man and his mum.
I also reached out to my niece and nephew – Tyah and Othniel. They are both teenagers/young adults and I wanted to get the perspective of someone in the young boy’s age range. My nephew was curious as to why he acted like that, he didn’t judge him. Even though he admitted that the behaviour was out of place, he wanted to know what led to his tantrum. This is unlike most of the adults who condemned the boy instantly not caring what caused his actions.
After reading the boy’s response this is what he said: “I don’t blame him. It’s even amazing that he was that patient”. My niece said pretty much the same thing, she was also concerned about his behaviour but after reading his response she said it put a different perspective to it and gives it a bit of context.
There are always 3 sides to every story and I do not know what really went wrong in this instance. However, can people please get this belief that parents, especially mothers can do no wrong out of our minds. Truth is some parents are abusive or aggressive. Parents sometimes act irrationally too and some need counselling. Some parents struggle to deal with teenagers and the hormonal, social and development changes they are going through.
The other viral story is that of Kellyanne Conway‘s daughter who took to social media to express her desire to be emancipated from her parents. This led to both parents resigning from their respective jobs to focus more on their children. Did it have to get to this to see that their daughter needed help? Did it have to get to the point where family business was made public to realize they were needed at home?
Day in day out we see this same pattern, these are real issues people face every day. I read something similar about Lauryn Hill’s daughter, it’s a problem faced by a lot of parents – black, red, white, pink, rich or poor. How do you prevent this? How do you deal with it?
There is no blueprint on parenting, it is a responsibility that each parent has to undertake personally – with great care, love and attention. In the desire to ensure children are a better version of themselves and are the best they can be, a lot of parents put too much on the child and in so doing they lose connection with the child. It’s a case of imperfect parents expecting perfection from these younglings, I struggle with this as do a lot of parents all over the world.
There is no perfect child neither is there a perfect parent, every parent should bear this in mind along with the fact that all children are different. You have to understand a child to know the best way to relate with them, what works for one child may not necessarily work for the other.
Connecting with a child requires time, patience and a lot of understanding. Every child wants to be heard and understood, sometimes parents need to calm down, rather than lash out at that child. Hear them out, try to understand the reason behind every action. Spend time with your child/ren, talk to them, do things they like with them, get to know them and understand them. It also helps to have good support. A supportive tribe helps as you can share your frustrations and challenges thereby releasing a bit of the stress and you get good advise and support from them. This could be friends, family, religious group etc. Please choose your tribe wisely as the wrong advice could be catastrophic.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to get help. There are so many useful resources on-line and there are parenting coaches like my friend Oyin that can help parents who are struggling. The problem is a lot of parents who are overwhelmed try to hide it. This could be because they don’t want to be tagged as a bad parent or they just don’t want someone telling them how to raise their children. If you’re struggling with parenting, please ask for help. With everything in life, you have to know when to ask for help.
Remember we are all learning, no one was born a parent we all just learn as we go. Every new day is a chance to do better, to try again, to be a better parent. Never be too hard on yourself.
Within every unruly child is a soul longing to be heard and understood.Aunty Lulu