This is a series I intend to write as God gives me utterance. It may be once in a month. It may be once in 3 months. I do not know yet. I am pushing this out today as God laid it on my heart. I felt a burden to write it when I finished speaking to very receptive and attentive parents at the end of the year party of old boys of EKOBA 83, held at Chevron Guest House, Gbagada, Lagos.
Childhood is not as simple at the child it studies. It is crucial as it’s a decider of the future of a child, his family, his community and his nation. Childhood is a phenomenon that has arrested my attention in the last 15 years. I began to study it when I received deliverance from the impact of my abused childhood through the saving grace of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to who I am eternally grateful.
I began by studying the wretchedness of my abused childhood. I wanted to see its impact on my today’s adulthood. I must tell you it is seemingly indelible. I juxtaposed my negative experiences with that of those who had blissful childhood and the impact of same on their today’s adulthood also. I gleaned from the experiences of men like Billy Graham, who testified, testified of his childhood thus, ‘in all the strictness of my upbringing, there was no hint of child abuse.’ I read the story of Jack Welch, who eulogises his mother for building in him lasting confidence. I studied many others, which space will not permit me to review.
Having studied myself and others in the last 15 years, I have come to the irresistible and firm conclusion that if a child must be helped to maximise his life, childhood has mystery that must be carefully unravelled through keen study and observation by custodians. To unravel this mystery, we must learn from the child and also learn of the child. It is important to note that you cannot learn from a child, except you learn of him. What you have learnt of him will become the tool or compass to help you learn from him. Learning of him is objective. It means learning the general rules about him and his behaviour. Learning from him is both personal and subjective. It opens you up to the peculiarity of his individuality. I have also concluded that any attempt to analyse manhood without linking it to foundational childhood will result in a woeful exercise in futility. I am yet to meet a man or woman, whose foundation of his or her life was not laid in childhood. From the president in Aso Rock to the bus conductor in Mushin, they are the kind of men they are today, heroes or villains by the kind of children they were yesterday. I guess the point I am trying to make is that the foundation of manhood is laid in childhood.
Another scary fact I found is that once childhood is damaged, it is irreparable by the men and institutions, which damaged it. It can only be redeemed by divine intervention. Ted Bundy had troubled childhood. His paternity was uncertain. There were speculations that it was his grandfather, who impregnated his mother. At age 17, he stumbled on phonographic materials. He grew up to become one of the most notorious serial killers the world has ever seen. It is important to note that Ted Bundy had his first degree in Psychology at University of Washington. It was said of him, ‘he became an honour student, well-regarded by his professors.’ His second degree was in law before he abandoned it. He was also a young and dynamic politician and social worker, who worked as a counsellor of suicide victims and was described by one of his colleagues as ‘kind, solicitous, and empathetic.’ It is instructive that his degree in psychology, his knowledge of the law, politics and social work did not help him to undo the impact of a complicated childhood. He became a ruthless law breaker. He was a serial killer, rapist, kidnapper and necrophile.
Childhood is delicate. On it is this inscription, ‘fragile, handle with care.’ This is an inscription carefully inscribed by God. A child is not born blank. He is born with natural intelligence to manage his affairs and enjoy life at his state. He is also born responsible. That is why I continue to quarrel with those who say children are leaders of tomorrow. Leadership simply means responsibility. He takes his first step at responsibility at birth. He cries out. Godly installed instinct tells him that the only way to assure the people in whose hand he is born that he is alive is to cry out.
At his early days, he calls attention to his needs by crying out. As matter of fact the Holy Writ recognised the cry of the child as his way of calling attention of the mother. A child has five basic needs. To prepare the child for a glorious adulthood these basic needs must not only be identified but must be carefully met. Custodians must ensure that these needs are consistently met in the life of the child. What are these needs? 1. Someone to believe- a role model; 2. Something to believe-values; 3. Somewhere to belong-first a family and community; 4. Something to become- affirmation of his human ingenuity; and 5. The child needs his sense of freedom and responsibility affirmed.
It is the responsibility of the custodians to ensure that only one voice speaks to instruct the the child. This one voice may be in different people and institutions but they must have just one voice and one message. What I mean is that we must be people of godly values and virtues to raise glorious children. It not enough to be people of godly values and virtues, we must ensure that as husband and wife, we communicate this godly values and virtues to our children with one voice. We must only keep company with those who share same values and virtues with us. We must send our children to schools, which promote and are doggedly committed to same values and virtues that we establish for our children at home. We must only expose them to the print and electronic media, which are committed to our values and virtues.
To do otherwise is to raise confused children, who are not able to identify the values to abide by in their daily interaction with life. Mother and father live and preach certain values; the school (that mother and father laboured to pay for) teaches the child something else; the place of worship (where we send the child) comes strongly with another set of values. Here you have one child, one mind, and many voices. Since the ability of the child to screen information is limited and he tends to seek the approval of those who have influence on him, sadly he becomes all things to all men and institutions. He goes by the philosophy that when you in Rome, you behave like a Roman citizen, even if you are not a Roman and you do not believe in what Romans do. He joins the unacceptable school of thought that there is no absolute truth in this world and adaptation is only the first law of survival in any environment you find yourself, but it is also the law of acceptance. The child develops multiple personality.
As he grows older, he begins to witness within him clashes of interests. He suffers internal conflicts. As he suffers this, parents begin to make demands on the basis of the values and virtues they promote at home. The child finds it difficult to cope since there have been infiltration of others values, which are not in conformity with the ones being promoted at home. As far as the child is concerned the infiltration of values is tactically approved by the parents as they are the one, who connected him with the source of the infiltration, sometimes with a lot of passion and financial commitments. The parents do not understand, why their child, who has been brought up at the family front with godly values is finding it difficult to cope. At this point confusion sets in for the parents and in most cases; they do not seek the support of an expert, they resort to spiritual exercise life prayer and fasting. Please note that prayer and fasting are critical but like in every circumstance, they must be governed by knowledge. In most cases their confusion leads to anger and they waste no time to vent their anger on their child, claiming they did not know where the child, particularly at the tween and teen ages got his manners of life from. The child in most cases responds with acute rebellious acts. The cycle continues until God helps both parents and child to see the loophole. At this point the proliferation of multiple and conflicting values have almost formed the personality of the child. Maria Montessori has told us that 80% of the personality of the child is formed between ages 2 and 6. The only thing the parents could do at this point is to sign up for a damage control program.
Please note that it is impossible to help the child to maximise his childhood except as the custodians shows him love. Love may mean many things to many people according to their state in life. To the child, love means first, attention and second, acceptance. I have dwelt on the foregoing in past treatises.
I think I will like to end this discussion; I have titled the Mystery of Childhood here. I am beginning to run out of passion in discussing it. Over the years, when I run out of passion, it is a sign that I am being instructed to stop before I begin to write out of point. These things are not by power, might or brilliance. It is by the Grace of He who magnanimously mandated me to champion the crude of child protection enlightenment. I urge you friends, Think the Child, Think Today, Think the Future. Do have an INSPIRED Day