Common Parenting Mistakes In An African Home
Common Parenting Mistakes In An African Home
Parenting/guardianship is one of, if not the most important influence in human development. A lot of who we are as adults and what we do, is determined by the impact of our upbringing. Because of this, I believe it is important for us to be mindful of healthy parenting/guardianship. Part of accomplishing this is to examine what we knew and try to do better. Here are 5 common parenting mistakes in our African homes we should avoid repeating.
Treating Your Children Like Villains
This is the most comedic parenting mistake we see acted out on social media, in the depiction of African parents. Most of us heard statements like, “You will not kill me.” “You want to kill me!” “These children will not kill me.” “This child just wants me to get angry.” “Why are you so wicked?” “You’re making me angry/sad/mad.” While these sound like snippets from an African movie, many of us heard such statements growing up.
We must be avoid repeating such statements to children. Children do not come from a league of villains whose plot is to destroy your life. A child does not sit and plan ways of making your life miserable. Most of the time, a child is merely acting out for various reasons such as, they need attention, something is really bothering them, they feel unhappy or frustrated, or maybe they are reflecting back the energy that you already have, etc.
Taking Life’s Frustrations out on Your Children
Personally, this is at the top of my list of common parenting mistakes. For some of us, we can recall receiving insults and beatings that very often, did not match the offense committed. It is through my practice and in my adult years, as well as experience with my own little human that I realize what the issue is. Most adults do not have healthy ways of coping with stress, anger, disappointment, relationship issues, etc. So we unknowingly take our frustrations out on less threatening people like children. So a father or mother who is upset at their partner, a coworker or boss, comes home and yells unnecessarily at their child.
It is very crucial that we learn how to identify what our triggers are, who exactly we are upset with, and learn how to navigate this in a healthy way. Children are little humans who are just trying to figure out how to live in this world. So taking your frustrations out on them, only teaches them to fear you and it also breaks their spirits.
Parents often look back at their lives and wish some things had turned out differently. However, because they don’t get a do-over, they look to their children to do that (“I want you to have the life I didn’t have growing up.”) Other times they believe their paths are the best, and force their children to “follow in their footsteps”. Another situation is when a parent does nothing to help their child because they struggled as children. They often use the exucse, “I don’t want them to become spoiled/entitled.” As a result of all these, many kids who grow up to be mini versions of their parents, have no true identity of their own and end up in miserable relationships and professions.
Don’t get me wrong, children need guidance. It is important to provide them with opportunities we didn’t have. It is important to teach important life lessons like handwork and perseverance. However, the problem is when it becomes so obsessive that we don’t even listen to them or consider how they feel. It is then clear that this is more an issue of control than guidance.
Comparing Your Children with Others
“Look at your mates.” Be it a sibling, cousin, classmate, neighbor’s kid, or our own parents when they were our age, we were compared to someone else as a standard to live up to. Comparison was a motivational tool. So naturally, we learned to judge whatever was happening in our lives, in comparison to others. One of my favorite quotes is by Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” So now how much you’re making, where you live, how many children you have, how flat your tummy is a few months after birth, in comparison to someone else, determines your happiness. Of the common parenting mistakes, this one causes us quite a bit of misery even as adults.
Let’s be mindful to not do the same with children. A child is special, unique, gifted, worthy, smart, capable regardless. Motivate children with kind words of affirmation, encouragement and love. Teach children to accept themselves as they are, and become the best versions of themselves, not someone else.
Repeating Unhealthy Traditions in the Name of “That’s how I grew up.”
In Ghana, where I’m from, we often hear a phrase in the akan language that goes, “Saa na yɛ yɛ no.” This translates to, “That’s how we do it.” Many people have just continued traditions not knowing why they are done, or the whether they make sense in our current era. For example, for so long, many left handed children in Africa were forced to become right-handed. Very few parents stop to question why this is the case and what impact it may have on a child. Being left-handed is not a bad thing. No one ever failed in life because they were left-handed.
Let’s remember to be intentional about challenging the status quo. Don’t box children into traditions that are no longer practical or that have a negative effect on their mental and emotional health. Just because “Saa na yɛ yɛ no,” doesn’t mean that the right way of doing things.