Remember where we stopped in CAN THAT CHILD LEAD HIMSELF/HERSELF I. Let us continue.

Count down to school resumption. ‘Holiday is over’ my last child shouted once at a time like this and we all burst into laughter. That is the reality. Back to the grind!

Help that your young child/children pack from a distance, with their list in their hands. It is part of making them lead themselves. Let them know if they forget anything, they did not need it. That works so well for me. Before I put that in place, I used to run across town delivering forgotten items. Have a nice time putting your children together for resumption.

Now, look at or back at the children when they are age two. That age that some choose to call “the terrible twos.” I rather call it “the trying twos.” What do they try? They try everything in sight: exploring their surroundings, how things work and questioning you until you are forced to think about the answer you want to give, as opposed to blurting it out. That curiosity is a problem solving skill that we kill by shouting ‘No, stop that’. Don’t do this!; Don’t touch that! Shutting down their inquisitive, creative minds. So they also try our patience. Meanwhile, Dr.Tai Solarin, the owner of May Flower Ikenne, in the blessed memory, said, all those who did not resume schooling between the ages of 2-6 yrs, missed a key developmental period of the brain. Thank God, there is a way out with God. Some of us missed that, however we tried to make something out of school and life. And the type of school he meant was the exploratory, problem solving type of schooling which we call Montessori today. Not the time-table cramming type most of us went through.
By the time the children need the active problem solving skills, parents had stifled their brains and the next thing they look for is lesson teachers to help them out. A child that was probably born to be a whiz child has had his/her brain pummeled into a numb skull and so a need for someone to help him think through his math problems. A maid to help him with plates and clothes washing at an age when he/she should be cooking light meals for himself/herself. Yet these parents are preparing them to school in a country where there are no maids that serve children nor lesson teachers to wake up their thinking faculties. Let me expatiate on this.

I once read a column in an American children’s magazine where the writer-an educationist, said children do not need extra lessons after school hours. What they need is a shift of the brain away from academics to other things and a return back there some hours later when the brain would have been renewed and reinvigorated for academic activity again IF NEED BE. If need be? Yes, if the child has to prepare for test/exam. And that means, the child just browses through his/her notebook for remembrance only. She said a lesson teacher is hired only if a child has serious learning/academic problems, hence needs help. After school hours is dedicated to developing other aspects of the individual child. No class after class. That’s how American school system operates.

What about maids? They charge per hour abroad and well regulated like every other job, so no such consideration for a child. That gives room for the child to learn to pour his own milk, mess up the table, try to clean the table, further messing up everywhere and exclaiming ‘oh oh’, wondering why both the mug and milk are misbehaving. The next time he wants to pour the milk, he will try to steady the mug. Learning to serve himself rather than being served. This is how they raise children in the country most people desire to send their children to for schooling. However, we are in Nigeria where we need maids. Besides, relatives are all around and can sometimes stay with us, they will want to help out. By all means get a maid if you need one. Accommodate a relative if you have to. However, let the maid or relative know your child has got to use his/her brains so the child can develop and be able to lead himself/herself. If children are consistently being led by maids/relatives and lesson teachers to do what they should naturally do for themselves, when you drop them off in US, Canada, Uk, Finland etc, who will lead them to study like the lesson teacher did in Nigeria? Who will wake them up, cook and ensure they eat like the maid/relative did? Take a minute to run your mind through your child’s life, can he/she lead himself/herself to do something or go where he/she wants to when left alone? Or the child will need someone around to lead him/her? Have you allowed the child to explore and navigate around assignments within your home (a safe, controlled environment) under your watchful eyes? Mistakes made, corrected and reassigned, ensuring the work is completed, preparing him/her for the world outside your safe haven.

Coming back from school, resting and getting up to study by himself/herself without the prodding of a lesson teacher. That is called ‘Personal leadership’. Start it while the child is still with you and be ready to be called names. They usually do not like it, however that is what they really need. Do not try to be your children’s friend. Be a parent first, you will be friends later.

Raise your children locally for the global village. They will eventually thank you. Our children will school and work in diversified environments. Prepare them for that. Whist preparing them, look less at their faces, they will squeeze a lot and throw tantrums. Be observant enough though so you do not alienate them from yourself. Talk to them to make them understand and be in agreement with you on where both of you are headed. Earn their trust enough so you can hear when they are about to go off course with that bad adolescent decision.
Finally, being parents means God trusted you enough to make you one. Do not disappoint Him. Use the whip when you need to. Also know when the season of the whip is over and the ‘what’ starts. That time you will rather ask the young adult ‘What is wrong with you?’ and you quickly add ‘I am here for you, can we talk?’ instead of using the whip. Gently bring him/her out, remembering that foolishness dwells in the bones of a child. Find a way to drive it out with gentleness interspersed with firmness.

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Have a restful night!

Mercy Itama (FNIM)

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