James is a toddler who is very adventurous. He loves to play and most times takes things for granted. Everyday as he explores his environment and from his interactions with others coupled with their various reactions, he is learning to distinguish right from wrong.
One day, he is at school and his teacher asks “After letter E comes what?”
James lifts up his finger enthusiastically to answer the question. His teacher gives him a cue to answer.
He stands up and answers “G”.
His teacher begins to laugh and shouts “Shame? Shame? Shame?”
The entire class responds “Shame!!!!” throwing their hands in James’ direction.
James seats down shamefully. His enthusiasm is killed.
After school, the driver comes to pick James up. As he carries him up, he notices that James has peed on his trousers.
He immediately dumps him on the ground singing “Pee pee pee pee baby. How are you? Shame!!!!” He bends down low to shout the ‘shame’ loudly into James’ ears.
James bursts out crying. His self-esteem is reduced.
At home, the nanny is helping James with his homework. She tries to hold his hand to help him grip the pencil properly. He refuses to allow her hold his hand. She gives him a knock on his head. He begins to cry.
She yells at him and tells him “If you cry now, I’ll call ‘ojuju’ to come and bite you”. She makes a scary sound in James’ face. He gets frightened and wants to cry, but he remembers what the nanny just said and keeps quiet, sobbing instead. He feels scared and insecure.
What do you think is happening to James? He’s being emotionally abused.
Emotional abuse is very common with children and anyone can be the abuser, knowingly or unknowingly. We need to ensure that as parents, grand parents, siblings, aunties, uncles, teachers or caregivers our children experience healthy emotional growths.
A child is a holistic being therefore all aspects of development should be looked out for. Unfortunately, this aspect tends to be overlooked in child upbringing. In as much as we are interested in nuturing our children’s cognitive (reasoning and calculating skills), physical (movement), language (speech) , spiritual (relationship with God) and social developments (interactions with people, learning to greet adults etc), we should not overlook their emotional developments.
Some tips to help support healthy emotional child growth:
Play with your children. It drives positive energy into them. This helps shape their perception. It also helps them build better relationships with others. Hug your children several times in a day, even for no reason at all. It gives them a sense of belonging. You can give a kiss too. Constantly tell your children words like “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, “I believe in you”. It’s never too much. It makes them know that they are valued and boosts their self-esteem.
Don’t compare your children with others, even their siblings. If you do this, you are silently teaching them that they can only be validated by other people’s opinion of them. They will always measure their progress by that of others. They will never appreciate their uniqueness and will always want to copy others. This breeds attitudes like envy, jealousy and strive.
Keep your children’s secret secret. Children are human beings and are entitled to private lives too. Don’t pubicise their private life. In a case whereby the opinion of a third party is required, let them know why and encourage them that you’ll be with them every step of the way.
Be open to your children. Tell them real life stories about how you made mistakes and learnt from them. It helps them to know that no one is perfect.
Don’t scold, insult or talk your children down in public. Don’t try to correct them in a humiliating manner or by way of ridicule. It makes them loose their self-confidence and self-worth. No matter how your children perform, let them know that you are proud of them and you are their number one cheerleader. This will push them to perform better next time.
Listen to your children. Maintain eye-contact when they talk to you. This makes them open and helps you know when they are experiencing any problems.
Make your children understand that their problems are important and not irrelevant. Sometimes children make obnoxious demands but if you pay attention when they come with a ‘foolish’ demand, they’ll still come running when there’s something more serious.
Don’t tell your children off. Instead, explain to them in a calm manner why they cannot always have their way.
Do not terrorize or threaten your children with police, soldiers, ‘ojuju calabar’ etc. It instils fear and insecurities in them.
When you make a promise to your children, no matter how insignificant, ensure that you keep it. This helps them develop trust and integrity.
Be the biggest fan of your children. Applaud and affirm them when they do what is right. Encourage them to keep on doing what they know how to do best. It boosts their self-confidence.
Give your children some space. Give them opportunities to make some decisions on their own. Even if you think they’ll make mistakes, give them some benefits of doubt. And when they fail, show them that there’s a better way to do it. You’ll be raising independent and self-reliant children.
Let your children know that their opinions count. Once a while, get into their minds by throwing questions back at them using words like “what do you think?”, “what’s your opinion about this?” When you don’t take their suggestions, let them know why. You’ll be raising children that can think critically through problems and make intelligent decisions.
Let them know it’s okay to fail and when they fail, it’s not because they are incompetent but because they need to try other ways until they get it. You are silently teaching them perseverance and never to give up.
Control your own emotions as a parent. Children learn by mimicking and modeling what they see. The list is inexhaustible. May God help us as we raise balanced children.