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Affection is a feeling, which one has towards someone he is fond of; someone he/she likes. Affection for parents is like a compelling force, which internally propels the children towards the pursuance of the will of the parents even without the words or presence of the latter. Affection is synonymous with love but here we make a little distinction between the two since love is not primarily a feeling but an ability seated primarily in the will (and not in the appetites). Like love and trust, affection is not what one may easily have for everyone. It is usually felt for certain people who have made themselves loveable through their goodness and gentility. Therefore, if a child is to maintain affection for parents, they must struggle not to annoy them unnecessarily and frequently or show them distrust in things they shouldn’t. They should be listened to, petted (as much as is healthy) and mildly corrected.

Trust is synonymous with confidence and faith: it is that belief that one has in the abilities of another especially in things yet to happen. Trust is born of love and identical to it. It is the contrary quality of doubt and distrust. Trust breeds confidence and hope while the contrary breeds insecurity.

“A young girl was once trapped in a burning house. The girl cried and wailed as she saw death looking her in the face. The whole place was darkened with smoke. Her father called her from outside the big building, “Mary, jump out of the window”. She complained “I cannot, for I can’t see anything”, to which her father replied, “TRUST ME, just jump for I am here to get you”. Mary jumped and was saved by the father who caught her in his arms”

Mary was saved because she blindly trusted; she depended wholly on her father’s strength, wisdom and love. She trusted in his strength that he could save her, in his wisdom that he knew how to save her and in his love that he ardently wished to save her. Such is trust. But are all these only to the credit of Mary? Of course not. Behind such heights of faith is her Father’s efforts to earn it; had laboured to consider her failings as a child and understand her; he had captured her heart by his many cuddles and jokes, by his little gifts, time and attention. This is what a parent must aim at: capturing the heart of the child in all things and at every slight opportunity.

Trust has some effect both on subject and object. The subject enjoys freedom from doubt, fear and all like disturbances. The object acquires a sense of responsibility, which contributes to the shaping of the life of the person. It is always very touching when one discovers just how much trust is given him, he pledges in his heart not to let anyone down. This is what I mean by a sense of responsibility.

For trust to survive there must be understanding and sincerity. Misunderstandings may weaken trust while insincerity may kill it entirely. Parents must never lie to or lie before their children. For this may contribute to the killing of the child’s sense of sacredness. Every child must be taught the nobility and beauty of truthfulness. By the examples of their parents, they grow to be lovers and seekers of truth and justice. But when they have not been trained by sincere people they face the great danger of losing this gift entirely. Losing this also affects the entire moral life of the child. For if he loses this sense of sacredness, sin becomes normal or even fun to him.

In nurturing affection, there is a great need to slow down to the pace of a little child; to take one step at a time.  Most parents are impatient, have little or no time for their children and presume that their children see things in the same light as they do. We’ll take these one after another.

Impatience:

this means that parents fail to realize that children learn with play and often with many repetitions. Psychologists agree that children memorize things faster and recall them when they’re learnt with the aid of a song or anything enjoyed by children. A child needs time. He needs his parents to be strong. Parents do not need to yell at the child simply because he forgets how to do a particular thing well; they only need to cheerfully teach it again. The child grows but with slow steady steps.  With patience, parents can impart lessons to the child, lessons that will form the true character of the child in future. But those who teach forcefully make the child learn to fear. There is no limit to the negative effect of this. The child is led to serious disorientation which could in time turn into either neurosis or psychosis.  This is the reason for the coldness in many people today, many have been seriously damaged by lack of adequate nurturing.

Poor prioritization:

When a parent values his money, car, business or any other material thing more than the wellbeing of his child, the ill effect may be inconspicuous but it is usually serious. This child may not develop well. What can a parent be pursuing in his life? What can ever be more valuable and heart-warming than a child who is healthy in all things? The Igbo Name “Nwakego” (transliteration: a child is more precious than money) explains everything. Having little or no time for the child could result in adverse consequences. For instance, There are homes where both parents work in banks; which in this part of the world means leaving early in the morning and returning at night. How will they expect the children to grow? Any serious parent must try hard to stay close to his child. I personally am against the idea of leaving a little child to board in a school. Although this may come with good results, the chances are very slim. It is always better to watch a child grow daily, monitoring changes in acts and uprooting the bad ones before they become habits, but when a child boards, how many teachers would be so pious as to monitor these changes in the child? Who will correct him in time? Before this child is seen again by his parents, he might have changed; with many habits, including bad ones.

Presumption:

As said earlier, many parents presume that their children already see things in the same light as they do. What they fail to recall is how slow it was for them to develop in their own time. All of us want to be understood, yet we hardly try to understand others. This is bad when exhibited by parents to their children as this could affect the psychological development of children. To children nothing matters but their personal views. Therefore parents are meant to slow down to their pace, patiently teaching and instructing them. Should parents lose their temper, and say things they shouldn’t say to their children, they must struggle to make peace with them and to make up for whatever damage they may have caused to that delicate mind. It is a pity that some of the parents do not really think their kids are human beings with equal rights and dignity as they; that they have emotions and that they hurt sometimes; that their opinions are to be respected and not always harshly rejected. It is healthy to agree with kids from time to time in irrelevant subjects at least. When for instance a Child returns home to announce with all pleasure that his teacher is a thousand years old, he just has to be agreed with, what will be the use of telling him a human being cannot live that long when its very obvious he says such out of his childish conception of numbers. “Wow, are you serious? that’s very big, he must be really old” with a tap in the back might be better. Definitely, his conception of numbers will one day improve, your relationship with him should also improve as he grows. Many parents abuse their children in words and action. It is dangerous to call your child names; it is dangerous to hit a child when he makes mistakes. These things tempt children to hate their parents, they keep obeying (out of fear) in their childhood, but upon growing up they begin to misbehave; they may even learn to hit their own parents. So I repeat: every act performed by the parents means a lot to the children, they either contribute to their growth or their detriment.

Judging by appearances:

when children make mistakes, they expect their parent to understand them. This is not too much to ask. Many parents judge their children from what they see them do and not what a child really intends doing; not the love and good intentions of the innocent child. I know a mother whose child helped (without being told) to tidy up her bedroom and in the process misplaced one of her clothes. All this woman could do was to shout at the child when she returned, for misplacing the cloth. Today this woman complains that her child is stubborn and hates work, but how would such not be the case when his onetime good intention bought him a dressing down. We must try to read positive meanings into the actions our children take (as long as they are not done with obvious wicked intentions). Even when a child mistakenly hurts others, he must be calmly corrected in order to get his heart to accept the truth he hears.

Forgetting a child learns more by examples than words:

many bits of advice we give our children often fall on deaf ears not because they are stubborn but they sometimes consider them impractical. When a parent acts, a child learns. This is a natural law. If a mother teaches her child that violence and misunderstanding are bad, but hits the child even when the child makes mistakes with good intentions, that parent is preaching a different but stronger gospel (that violence is, in fact, good) than that which they may have taught this child before. This applies to every other thing that we do. We can never teach children morality when we try to get around laws. A child must see that he has parents that obey to be able to learn the beauty of obedience.

Selfishness:

some parents are selfish; sometimes forgetting they are the ones who are meant to care for the children and not vice versa. Some mothers complain a lot about being ill-treated by her children and sometimes call them wicked. How can a child give the care that he has not received from anyone? Even the Lord says that no one can give what he doesn’t have. The secret of this type of happiness/satisfaction is giving it. Care is reciprocal for it is born of love, and no one loves those who hate them more than those that show them love. In His Summa, St Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth. He said that we are to love our friends more than our enemies (for a friend shows us love and therefore deserves our love in some way, while we give our love to our enemies out of sheer charity). The love the children show to their parents is often proportional to the love they have felt from them. It doesn’t matter how much a parent loves, what matters is how much they show it. That love is useless which is not translated into action: and true love is patient. This and similar qualities are what the children look out for much more than any material thing.

Value for family members:

the problem is not always if a mother values the child, for it is unnatural for a mother to hate her own child. But the case is rather if the mother shows it to the child. Some parents implicitly tell their children they are less valued than other material things. For instance, a child mistakenly breaks a plate, the mother and child knows that this could cause injury to the child, but the woman, out of either annoyance or any other reason begins to complain of the plate (and its worth) instead of finding out if the child is hurt. The child, who is often prone to misinterpretation, would then begin to think that the mother values a plate more than him. This point may be overlooked but it is because of my encounter with a particular child that I deem it very important to add it, for as I said earlier “only little things matter to little children”.

When we show our children how much we value them, they will always consider us in the major decisions of their lives, for instance, a child who is so valued by the parents cannot become a drug addict, and even if such a one falls into such, there are chances of saving the person. But when a child becomes an addict and has lost all trust in family and friends, the only way out is an extraordinary miracle of God’s grace (which is rarely utilized when it comes).

This article is part of a series under a similar topic.  Read previous here.

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