This paper is an intellectual discourse on parenting and child safeguarding in our contemporary society. It is broadly categorized into four separate headings viz: the definitions of key terms that make up the topic, a vivid examination of the subject matter within the context of the Nigerian society today and finally the conclusion recommending ways to achieve good and effective parenting.
Parenting connotes the act of raising a child or the act of becoming a parent. A parent on the other hand, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, is a person who brings up and cares for another. From the above, it can be deduced that being a parent is not just limited to biologically passing a gene to the child at birth, but it also has an extend meaning that includes guardian, step-parent, and grandparent amongst others.
A child under Section 29 (4) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended) is any person under the age of 18 years. This definition also agrees with the definition of a child under the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Child which has been domesticated in Nigeria as the Child Rights Act, 2003.
The Four Prominent Parenting Styles
Styles of parenting according to the three proponents, Dr Dinna Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin (Stanford Researchers). Based on this theory, there are four broad categorization of parenting styles. These are:
- Permissive parenting: This is characterized by lack of rules by the parent(s) and lack of expectation from the child; letting the child decide for him/herself. There is a high responsiveness from the parents to meet the child’s need but low demands from the parents, overindulgence of the child to always have his/her way in order to avoid conflict, etc.
- Neglectful parenting: This style of parenting is the extreme case of permissive parenting. It is notable for always allowing the child fend for himself, low responsiveness and attention from the parent, offer little or no guidance to the child. It results in the child often struggling with self-esteem, and finds it difficult to form close relationship.
- Authoritarian parenting: This style of parenting enforces strict rules with little or no regards for how the child feels, one-way communication, high demanding, low responsiveness, parent-driven in nature.
- Authoritative parenting: This seems to be the best parenting style as it creates some balance. It is characterized by open communication and natural consequences, sets clear and moderate rules and expectations, staying attuned to the child’s needs and help the child to meet expectations. As such, the child clearly knows what is expected of him/her and feels confident for being able to meet those expectations, solving problems together with the child.
Parenting and Child Safeguarding in Our Contemporary Society (Nigeria in the Searchlight).
With reference to Nigeria where cases of child abuse and moral decadence are being reported daily, more emphasis will be placed on the first three listed above.
On child abuse; Child abuse is just another word for the neglect or violation of the rights of a child. Although there are several factors that may account for the violation of a child’s rights ranging from the individual propensity of the child, structure of the local community, socio-economic and cultural factors.
However, prominent amongst these is parenting style adopted in a home. Authoritarian parents can indulge in the violation of child rights via constant physical combats, verbal abuses, early and forced marriage. According to the UNICEF report (2017), Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls and women who were married as children, most of them from poor and rural communities.
Also, neglectful parenting may well account for sexual abuse (defilement) of children right under their parents’ roof by house help or a close relation staying in the same house. The child is bereft of the opportunities to discuss these cases of abuse with their parents either because the parents are “too busy” or that they are overly uninvolved in the child’s wellbeing. Therefore, the child cannot get the requisite help for good up-bringing. According to Chiluba Edo (Golden Gate University, School of Law), “Child abuse and neglect is prevalent in the everyday life of the child but it receives little or no attention by the society”.
On moral decadence, the importance of parenting in the life of a child cannot be overrated as parents are the first role models’ children have to interface with. Parenting, whether good or bad, will to a very large extent determine the child’s turn-out/outcome later in life. Therefore, every person on the street is a product of a home. While good parenting will groom the child’s good self-esteem, confidence, self-reliance, tactfulness and correct perception of issues amongst others, bad parenting such as permissive and neglectful parenting may more than likely result in moral decadence in the child. There are obvious cases of moral decadence everywhere in the society. This emanates more from poor or neglectful parenting than any other factor such as peer pressure, cultural and socio-economic factors. It is often said that children are the leaders of tomorrow. So, if most children are now products of poor parenting it simply means the leaders of tomorrow will invariably be bad.
According to John Creek (2015) on the ‘The Negative Impacts of Poor Parenting’, poor parenting can affect a child and invariably the society in the following ways:
1. Poor parenting can instigate hates among the children towards their parent and society.
2. Poor parenting affects a child psychologically which can be in two ways.
a) Inferiority complex: The child seems to be affected in this way whereby he feels so inferior among his peer groups
b) Intellectual Being: once a child is affected psychologically his or her intellectual being is also affected to a great extent.
3. Poor parenting leads a child to destruction by means of joining wrong companies just to seek for attention and protection
4. Poor parenting is responsible for the increase in crime rate across the globe, and this has not brought any meaningful development to the society.
5. Poor parenting eliminates some source of happiness in a child’s life by making ordinary things look so different and difficult to them.
6. Trust will have no light in any child experiencing poor parenting, which means it becomes difficult for them to trust the right people in their life.
From the above, it can be inferred that parenting and child’s safeguarding directly shape and mold the behavior of every child either positively or negatively. However, as important as this may seem, most parents just watch on while their children decide what to do with their lives, whether good or bad and them adopt the children behavior with the mantra ‘it is their time’. Such behavior from parents is largely responsible for the festering sexual immorality among teenagers, smoking, drinking, stealing, teenage cult groups, piercing/perforation of ears and noses by the male folks etc. amongst other prevalent decadence commonly seen is the society today especially amidst teenagers. Some of them do not know their lefts from rights so wallow on while the on-looking parents negligently adopt these despicable behaviors openly or passively.
In conclusion, having established that a child’s behavior is directly linked to parenting, it is pertinent to cursorily point out some effective ways of achieving good parenting and child’s safeguarding that can enhance the worth of every child in our today’s society. Although it cannot be asserted that one out of the parenting styles discussed above is the hard and fast rule of good parenting, the authoritative parenting seems to be the most viable option and a cutting-edge method in a bid to accomplish good child’s upbringing. This parenting style as noted above, maintains some level of balance between parents’ expectations and those of the child. It enhances the self-image of the child as a result of the mild expectations they are able to live up to with the help of their parents. Research has consistently established that children of authoritative parents are more likely to enjoy positive relationships with their peers, to do well in school, and to become independent and self-sufficient than children whose parents are permissive, neglectful, or authoritarian.
Finally, with due diligence on the parts of parents providing good and proper up-bringing, the society will be a better place as it was Mother Teresa who once said ‘what can you do to promote the world peace? Go home and love your family’. And we so conclude.
Rose N. Adima ESQ.
This article was first published in Sacred Heart Nursery /Primary School Apapa GRA Lagos Year Book 2022.