Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Thought Picnic: Nurturing the fear of consequence

Child suicides are horrible
I read the news story of two 12-year old girls jumping to their deaths in Russia and I was quite saddened by the fact that such young children will take such a drastic action because of their fear of consequence. [The Moscow Times]
Apparently, the girls had skipped school for two weeks and were fearful of being punished that they clasped hands and jumped from the top of a 16-storey building.
There is cause for much speculation on reading this as to why they were skipping school and what the circumstances at their homes could be that they were so afraid of punishment that the only recourse they had was to take their lives.
There are aspects of this that I can relate to and that is why I have decided to write this blog because there are complexities in maturation of a child that depend very much on the reaction of their parents or guardians to prevent such drastic actions.
Not knowing what
I remember when in secondary school whilst staying with my guardian we made a draught board the only singular playful thing we ever had opportunity to have because the compelling drive and primary purpose for living at that stage of life in the setting we found ourselves in was to study and succeed, nothing else could suffice.
Many of my Nigerian peers could attest to this, though I must say in my home, my parents allowed quite a lot of play as long as work was not left undone.
When my guardian learnt that we had become playful, the message was clear, the board was to be destroyed and when he got back from work we were to be dealt with seriously. No one had any idea of what would happen but there was enough fear, terror and trepidation around us that we were as subdued as to be auto-asphyxiated.
I could not contemplate what to expect that what I did was to drink a cup of kerosene that made me violently sick in the hope that I would be mercifully spared. In the end, all that was required for us to buckle up was the threat but I could have done myself some serious harm because I did not know what to expect.
Was naughty, a lot
Now, for all the airs and graces I might exude today, I cannot say I was the best child; I did play truant a lot but I was in the library, some classes in secondary school were boring; when I was at the polytechnic there was one class I did not attend for the whole year after the first few classes because the lecturer’s command of English was atrocious, in fact, it was unbelievably bad, I could not stand him at all.
There were consequences, from the telling off through the shame to the possibility of failing the subject or the course and then the reports that got back home where my quite respectable parents would have been utterly mortified about my behaviour and performance.
It was important that I knew there were consequences, in some cases the discipline was quite brutal from the loss of privileges that included floggings and even sleeping on the floor – a kind of use of humiliation for attitude adjustment – some were tolerable and others were just par for the course, there were things you could not control.
Trying to be reasonable parents
However, I can remember that when I was at my worst behaviour was when my parents were at their most merciful – that was for me and is still today the biggest lesson I have learnt of parenthood.
I am thankful that my parents never carried out the threat of having me locked up just to bring me to my senses.
In all, it is important for a child to know the limits and extents to which they might suffer the consequences of their actions when they realise they have been wrong. I have seen children unnecessarily brutalised that I have vicariously offered to take anything they were being given because it was just unbearable.
Now, parents mean well, they probably do in most cases and their fears for their kids turning out wrong might dictate the way they treat and discipline their child but when they introduce levels of terror and consequence that lead the child to consider harmful actions either by reason of not knowing what their parents will do or in the full knowledge of how nasty their parents can become, there is great sorrow in store for many.
I still remember that there were issues I should have been able to approach my parents about and they might have been very helpful and there are others where they have been dismissive when in fact the issue was very serious – parenthood does not come with manuals but there is a need to know that children have voices, they need to be heard and they need to know the extents of rebuke and sometimes expect a warm embrace.