Dos and don’ts in nurturing affection

Tenderly call his name:

Parents are to bear in mind that to little children only little things matter. How parents address their children is very important to them. I recall someone saying he was stubborn as a child but could never refuse anything to the mother whenever she tenderly addresses him as “Nna”. This is a very important point. But because of the prevalent disregard of the internal needs of children, most parents are accustomed to abusing them even in very little things, where they could try to be friendlier with them. Every word from the parents becomes to the children an occasion for fear.

Down here in this part of Nigeria, we are very used to hearing parents call their children Ewu (goat), fool, etc. Some parents even go as far as labelling their children “failures”. Children learn, yes, but the speed differ by nature, environment, mode of teaching, and the lesson taught, for instance, it is very hard when such lessons are contrary to the child’s strong habits. Children learn faster when there is fun in the lesson when they are taught within a joke or song. Otherwise, they need time and patience to swallow the harder ones, especially things that demand a change of habit from them. It is because of the serious effect of this that I have repeated it.

Seek their opinion/advice:

Parents who seek their children’s advice, consent, and opinion are sowing good seeds in them. It makes children feel valued and esteemed, It also causes them to think. Parents will have little trouble in instructing them because the children will see the humility in their parents and consequently be almost compelled to follow their words wholeheartedly.

Never tell lies or make empty promises:

Parents must never lie to their children or make promises they cannot keep, even when they fail in their promise, as is wont to happen, they must sincerely apologize. Children should be filled with a sense of commitment, which sense is adversely affected by lies from their parents.  People often complain of having bad leaders, of having “heartbreakers” in general, this is the source of all that. When parents do not have this quality to pass on to their children, the effect will likely be revealed in them upon maturity. You cannot always tell whether or not this or that child has this problem until an occasion of unfaithfulness presents itself.

Avoid Comparing Your Children with others:

There are some parents who just love to make their children see how backward they are, “don’t you see Mr A” “don’t you see Mrs B”. Though sometimes this is done to help motivate the children to do better, but most of the time it ends up killing their passion for improvement, this is because it makes them feel they can never be better; it makes them form certain wrong conceptions about themselves or about life that could damage their lives.

Avoid too much self-centred complaints:

Some parents are in the habit of telling their children how much they suffer from people, (not excluding their children). This could have very negative effects on the children. Once a child begins to feel that his parents nag a lot he will hardly be affected by the words they speak because he would have gotten used to it by then. Again, parents who do this often selfishly remain in the cocoon they have made for themselves, refusing to come out of it to see the needs and pains of others. Such parents are unable to raise selfless children. Everyone begins to look out for himself, no one rises to consider the troubles of the other, or to once in a while place the others’ needs above his when it is needed. Can such a family be worthy of the name?

Learn to Apologize and Appreciate Little Things:

Good-mannered people are beauties to behold. We have previously treated the ‘apology’ part, lets simply delve into appreciation.

Those little good things children do are sometimes accompanied by a covert desire to be thanked or commended. This desire may be overt or covert, but it is usually there in them. When parents fail to appreciate those little good things accomplished by these little ones, they cannot possibly correct them when they do the wrong ones for in the mind of the children “he never appreciates anything”. However, when a parent learns to appreciate, he could effectively correct a child, for the child will recognize that he (the parent) is appreciative and so knows what is good and what is not.

Parents fail when they set themselves up as perfect. Some parents never apologize to their children when they wrong them. Few of them rather buy them things or find ways to make them happy, while others just walk away. I tell you, even if you give him the whole world and succeed in making him happy, you have already given scandal. This is a display of pride, which the child may imbibe in no time. This kills sensitivity in children.

Granted, you may succeed in cheering him up without saying the word “sorry”, however, even with all those alternative gestures, the absence of those words still have a remarkable impact.

To the humble belong the true spirit of the statement “I am sorry”, they apologize and reasonable people can’t help but accept. The proud on the contrary only has those words stored up in their heads, and when an occasion demands it, they simply squeeze it out from beneath piles and piles of venomous words and serve it cold ” I am sorry”.

A humble apology doesn’t belittle you, on the contrary, it shows how great you are; it doesn’t enslave you, rather it shows how noble a heart you have.

“Sorry” should spring from a remorseful feeling, it is not just an empty word. Even the most sincere can misplace the true meaning of this word and fail to apologize effectively.

There is no way to be sorry than be sorry. Being sorry is better than saying sorry, but it is even more perfect to be sorry and say sorry rather than pick one of them. Being and saying sorry must remain married because it is equally useless to be sorry and not sufficiently express it and saying it and not being sorry.

Chatting (Communication) and paying close attention:

Though I have said this before, I still wish to belabour the point because of its importance. We often love to paint a picture of an ideal family in our minds. Gathered around the table for supper after the day’s struggle. The parents listen lovingly to their children as they air their experiences at school.

It is important to stress the role of listening. Listening has a serious effect on people in general, especially those that are hurt or heartbroken. When parents learn to chat with their children; to joke with them, they could establish a good and lasting friendship with them. For it is not enough to be just a father or mother, it is very important also to be a friend. You cannot do this if you do not come down to the level of the child in question; think like him; play and chat with him.

What do you tell your child when he complains of being pained by something or hurt by someone? Do you simply say “sorry dear” or do you hurl his own wrongs at his face? The best thing to do to him at that moment is never to recount his wrongs to him (that can come later when it is something serious) rather you are meant to hold him, and listen with attentiveness (allowing one to tearfully complain could be therapeutic sometimes, as it is capable of easing off pain). You are meant to understand the nature of your child and what he needs at that time.

Where did he learn that? This is the question often asked by an observant parent when he sees something new (especially bad ones) in the child. To the less observant parent, any new habit perceived in the child is nothing to worry about, be they good or bad. Parents must be serious with the upbringing of the child, welcoming only those good things, which the child learns from outside the house, and quickly discarding anything immoral or contrary to the family tradition and ethos.


Little is achieved by being too strict towards children. When they have need of answers, they never approach parents because they have already made themselves unapproachable. This makes a child ask friends in school who often, though mostly out of ignorance, lead the child to many dangerous mistakes. When a mother discovers that her premature daughter is having an illicit affair, the best approach is not to shout and threaten. The best is to approach with gentility and love knowing that only love has the power to transform people. No one should speak in such an occasion without first praying for words from the Word, for formators work in vain if the Eternal Word is absent. I know a mother who, while trying to stop the daughter from dating a boy, took away her phone and stopped her from attending evening masses (as this was where they usually met) and other church activities. Prior to these punishments, she was only seeing the boy in Church, but with the punishments, she started going to his house. The reason for this is that she had no phone then and always wanted to hear from him, this was when the young girl defiled herself. Now in the mind of the mother, “she had succeeded” but in reality, she has failed the young girl who needed nothing but more love and understanding to keep herself from such harm. This is what many parents succeed in doing: hiding the evil of their children from their own eyes, but never stopping the evil itself. This is because many parents have not risen above the dangerous clutch of passion and emotion, which often weaken patience and self-control. This leads children towards leading secret lives; pretending they are still good before their parents and showing their true character outside their homes.

Distrusting them:

Some parents show little trust for their children, making them feel there is no good in them. As I said earlier, trust comes with a sense of responsibility. Now when this is missing, the child learns to do just anything he finds pleasant; with little or no consideration of his duties, commitments and goals. It is true that young people tell a lot of lies and may not always be trusted as they usually have a lot of things to hide. This is true, but as a wise parent, there are ways to help a child cultivate sincerity. There are ways also of discovering if a child speaks the truth without showing distrust. Even when we discover the truth, we use discretion to caution them because children could be irritated by the fact that their parents “read their minds”, for no one really loves being caught doing something bad and probably shameful. Two possible attitudes are to either break down in tears or be hardened; either the person is brought down to embrace change or the person locks himself in, throwing away the opportunity of self-realization.

Know dear parent, that whenever you say, “my child is bad” this might also imply “I am a bad parent”. I believe that juvenile delinquency is in some way, a fault of parents and juvenile delinquency is synonymous with what I call parental delinquency or more suitably, “carelessness” on the part of parents. At times a child may deviate from the lifestyle they have been living from childhood because of a number of factors (though this is not a justification of the action of delinquents), let us take a few examples.

Emotional Needs:

One of the main things that make parents “lose” their children is emotion. Like every other part of man, emotion grows; it develops and passes different stages. Parents fail to realize that it is most delicate when it is still developing and consequently needs extra care to help its proper growth and maturity. A little girl can go out of the house to seek a boy to befriend; to give her whole heart to. Sometimes this is because the girl “feels” unloved in the home; she feels she’s not noticed; that she’s not listened to, she then goes out in search of one who would have all these qualities (though they NEVER find any). Though even without this feeling, some still seek to explore life. This could also be because she has come to realize the wholeness there is in self-sacrifice. She has discovered the hidden joy in true love. In both cases, they face great risks, especially when they are without real information on how things work in reality, as mostly opposed to the wrong stereotyped image of love-relationship, encouraged by pop culture and further distorted by the media and pop arts. They fail to realize that having boyfriends can neither solve those problems nor remedy the yearnings from within; that it is only God that can satisfy the heart of man. We are rewarded with satisfaction when we wait for the right time to give ourselves to full dedicated lover of this sort in all its exclusivity and secure possessiveness. Here it does not matter what the case has been between children and parents, what matters is how they see their parents. Can your child say that you are really a loving parent?

A child needs great attention, once they believe they have everything; that they have love in their parent, that they are cared for, listened to etc. Granted they may still go astray at some point in their teenage life, however even in the midst of all the emotional fires. the child still considers the more stable love he has in his family and struggles not to make the parents unhappy by indulging in acts contrary to his upbringing. They most of the times confide in their parents for direction, some children even go as far as opening up completely to the more attentive parent, in whom he enjoys confidence and security.

I have once heard a child tearfully complain to me about the mother’s lack of trust in him. To him, she listens and believes outsiders more than him. He gets beaten over other people’s misrepresentation of his actions; actions which sometimes are prompted by childish fear. This child is always bitter about this, crying so much he is beaten over what he has not done. What do you think his relationship with his mother will be like when he is older? The mother faces the risk of losing the ability to wield the power of love over the child because of the many times she had cursed him, beaten him, doubted him etc. she was busy killing every love in the heart of the child.

Material Need:

When a child demands some expensive thing from parents (maybe because his mates have them), they must never be shouted at, even though it is perceived by the parent that the child knows they cannot afford such things. This could make them go out of their way to seek means to “belong”. All these problems find their roots in the orientations they have received from parents. Most times when parents are materialistic, this may be the case with the children, but when they are simple people, their children are likely to take after them. There are many other reasons why children go astray, I have given these two for I feel that all other reasons can be traced back to the above-given.

Just before we conclude

Nurturing children means employing all necessary means to bring him health in all aspects of life. For instance, when a parent loves and cares for a child, but does not direct him in the path of God there cannot possibly be a healthy foundation for all moral instructions. How do you want to tell your child to be just? Why would he adhere to certain natural laws? Why must he even obey you?

Such disproportion hinders the holistic development of the child. No matter where this disproportion lies, this void cannot be filled with anything else. Even if you bring up your child in the path of religion, but still fill him with lies, he still will face developmental problems.

Parents are meant to lead their kids along the right path; instructing them to value God above all things, and to value the world and care for it. They are meant to be realistic and intuitive at the same time, striking that balance which makes us human.

Many people, for instance, think that the concept “Faith” is contrary to the nature of man, and may even hinder the full development of man. However, how can a human being survive without having faith in his fellows for instance? How can you live without having a positive presumption in the goodness of your fellows? If this faith is not in place then one will doubt everyone and everything, insofar as one cannot get proof, one can no longer have faith. Faith in the unseen or unprovable is not wrong. We believe in the love of our parents, and in our mother’s pain in bearing us, yet we see no scars in her body. We trust that someone loves and cares for us even without any proof and this indeed is very healthy; it is an essential part of man.

Parents’ efforts must involve learning and teaching the truth. Unselfishly divulging all that is reasonable and true. This is their second task after bonding them with love.

Sometimes, however, even with all the efforts of parents to help their children’s holistic development, they still go wrong at one time or the other, they seem to be resisting the efforts, or unable to take in everything. This becomes almost natural. It is clear that such is not always the fault of parents. Because most times it happens that the emotional and psychological development of the children come with an outburst of strength and enthusiasm. Consequent upon which they are usually at risk of making some mistakes; they hurry to try out new things as they are driven by great passion. This is entirely distinct from the cases we have looked into earlier as this is usually something like a necessary but transient stage. There must come in a person’s life when he gets things wrong when he thinks life as a novel or a movie when he experiments to achieve ridiculously impossible results. For the good kids, they are sometimes torn between the love of their parents and their own passions. Most times their passions get a greater hold on them, and they begin to go the wrong way. It is not the end of all the efforts, every parent must prepare for this period. For what the child needs might not be too much pressure, as this might even harden him the more, rather what he needs is friendship, and more love to steer his youthful passion to a more positive direction. Insofar as there exists a healthy love-relationship between the child and the parents, there is little or nothing to be afraid of. The parent only needs to patiently help the child, seeking ways to penetrate more and more into his heart to win it back wholly. Too much pressure might tire him out or put him in a difficult situation where he might be forced to “choose one master and despise the other”. And one cannot always be sure the outcome of such an election.

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