Friday 8 June 2012

Thought Picnic: Under My Roof

Twitter exchanges
I maintain a very vibrant discussion network on Twitter under the handle of @forakin and it is no surprise that the inspiration for this blog has come from discussions I had on Twitter.
I find that it is nice to flesh out my thoughts in a blog because whilst I have somewhat mastered concision, precision and brevity to carry a thought within 140 characters with spare to allow for those thoughts to be redistributed by retweets, for posterity sake and completeness of purpose, a blog brings together everything I have said on Twitter.
The news story came up that Pastor Creflo Dollar has been arrested for simple battery charges with regards to his 15-year old daughter and then additional detail was published as how he choked her.
A clergyman’s dilemma
There is no need for me to dwell on the substantive parts of the story, those will be covered in extensive detail by the news wires and other low-hanging fruit commentary, but there is much to say to create interesting debate and discussion.
I can appreciate Pastor Dollar’s dilemma, he is the founder of a mega-church with all that it entails, the idea that any of his children might be found in some unconventional setting can be scandalous though nothing is said of why he refused to let his daughter attend the party she asked to attend.
One thing is certain, preacher kids are not genetically modified to be like their preacher parents, in fact, whilst any child will share the genetic makeup of its parents and might look like either or both of them, even adopt a few of their mannerisms, they are entirely different personalities.
Children are distinct persons
Living together, eating the same food and doing the same things will not turn the child into a clone of the parent, they will be distinctly and noticeably completely different people and for any parent regardless of desire, calling, occupation or authority to think that they can shoehorn their child into some compact will spell unmitigated disaster.
Parents have to be constantly reminded that much as they have aspirations for their kids, they cannot and must not try to live out their dreams through their kids; it would eventually cause conflict, resentment, rebellion and separation.
This case also shows that leaders of churches with their moniker of “man of God” tending sometimes to the expression of “god of men” are in their time revealed to be mere mortals, suffering the same pressures, issues, situations and circumstances of life as you and I, prone to error, fallible and imperfect.
Under my roof
Then let us deal with the elephantine monstrosity of “Under my roof.
When a child reaches the age of reckoning and responsibility is when parents seem to encounter the greatest difficulty to exerting their parental influence. More often than not you will end up hearing a sentence that contains the phrase, “Under my roof.”
Indeed, it is under the roof of the parents or guardians but really, when a child is brought into this world not of its own volition but by the chemistry of procreation and every other sentimental and complicated working of the mechanics, it is the responsibility of the parents or whoever assumes that responsibility to care for that child until the child approaching adulthood can fend for itself having enjoyed parental care and succour over a period that could last two decades or more.
“Under my roof,” is only part of the package as it deals with the matter of provision in terms of food, shelter, clothing, education and some protection of sorts. These elements are generally material and do not represent or fulfil the emotional needs of the parent-child relationship in terms of love and care which might help shape the core personality of the child in having self-esteem, confidence, drive, ambition and purpose.
Sadly, certain parents confuse their role of material responsibility for their children with that which demands their emotional investment in the child which usually does not show in tangible returns but are affairs of the heart, the soul and the bonds that hopefully will last a lifetime of communication, understanding, happiness and more.
It is important for a parent to know where the limits of “under my roof” are and what extra work they need to put into the relationship to make that phrase the last thing that will ever be referenced or inferred in communicating with their child.
Spare the rod
And now, sparing the rod. When the matter of child discipline comes up every parent has been so schooled in this that it is etched in their memories literally from before they were foetuses.
Proverbs 13:24 (NKJV) He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
In more contemporary English, the Message says: A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.
We normally hear people say, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” It in no way completes the context of the admonition, but we will get there. I will not argue the semantics of beating or hitting a child, there are broader issues at play than that.
Pastor Creflo Dollar by reason of his parental authority has inalienable and vested rights to discipline his child, which is non-negotiable. Maybe we should question how he goes about doing that, but we will be caught up in subjective analysis.
Discipline is function of love
However, reading the verses in full context, you cannot administer discipline without the purpose of correction through love and that love is not as I have clearly illustrated earlier by reason of mere parental provision.
Maybe there is a fine line between administering discipline that it crosses over into abuse and consequent brutalisation, the ability to wield discipline is under the control of the parent and the way it is administered is dependent on the maturity and character of the parent which hopefully has clear aims and purposes.
It is hoped the discipline is administered for corrective purposes such that the child in taking the pain of discipline might have learnt a lesson in understanding why the parent has been strident and corrective thus appreciating that such a situation should never have to arise again or rarely occur.
In that case, following the presumed guidelines, a rod, a cane, a whip or a belt might with a pre-determined number of applications to certain parts of the body without causing undue harm suffice; if and if the rod must be used. In other cases parents might institute authority based restrictions or activities that will cause temporary hardship as an instrument of corrective discipline.
Pertinently, I see no place where laying a hand on the child is sanctioned, in fact, the only place where that might have happened is where in the bible narrative God through an angel expressly told Abraham not to lay his hand on the child Isaac when he was about to sacrifice him. In essence, the slap, the smack, the punch or the whack is verboten.
Losing control
Somehow, Pastor Dollar in disciplining his daughter, matters appeared to have gotten out of hand, between he-said and she-said, she was smacked with a shoe, thrown to the ground and somewhat choked. You then wonder if the mother was there to observe, exacerbate or quell the situation.
It would be stretching the imagination to see where the rod, the discipline and the love sits in this setting, in fact, if anyone can fit any of those components into the context of correction, I’ll eat my hat.
It brings us to another element of parents momentarily losing control of a discipline process such that it is no more discipline but the parent acting out their frustration – everyone knows including the child that the event will never be corrective.
I remember an event with my father where he head-butted me, he was angry and probably frustrated and that was the discipline action that came to him at that moment in time, but as I got up from the daze of the head-butt, I looked at him as if he had gone mad. In fact, I just dusted off myself and basically walked out of his room because I thought if he laid another hand on me he might well go berserk.
No, that was not a discipline moment and at that particular point in time, I think we both realised that we would get nowhere and left the issue to another time.
Then there was another time when both my parents ganged up on me, from my perspective but the very interesting thing was my father stopped and my mother continued and then he said out of really grave concern. “Mind his eyes.” Maybe that was love, maybe it wasn’t but it was clear that he was not ready to see me brutalised regardless of how angry and frustrated my mother felt in taking it out on me.
Engaging the child
What am I getting at? The discipline process is not primarily a parental thing; the child can discern if discipline is out of love towards correction or anger towards more frustration. The former will yield the results intended, the later will just harden the child in its resolve to the point that it might just say the worst they can do is kill me – it should never get that far, in fact, the whole discipline regime is completely wrong-headed at the point and some things need to be fixed.
One admonition parents never seem to imbibe when they seek to command their children to obey their father and their mother is found in the three versions of Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (KJV). “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (NIV). “Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (The Message)
Believe it or not, you can exasperate your children, just as you think they exasperate you and to put that in context, I have provided definitions of exasperate.
  • To make very angry or impatient; annoy greatly.
  • To increase the gravity or intensity of.
  • To cause great irritation or anger to; infuriate.
  • To cause (an unpleasant feeling, condition, etc.) to worsen; aggravate.

Many a child has had a parent that seems to have freshly graduated from hell and ready to use every hellish skill on their child and then blame the child for making their lives a misery, have we ever asked ourselves if what we do makes the lives of our children a misery too?
Yes, children do test their parents, the real question is whether parents will pass or fail that test either proactively envisaging what to do correctly or reactively making a complete hash of the situation.
I have heard too many times that children do not come with parental manuals, thank God, they don’t. The manual of parenthood is borne of life and character built on strong principles, else children will be one fit like machines and clones of each other – we know by now, they are not.
Parenthood is a difficult vocation just as childhood experiences can form what a person will become. I speak from my having been a child and seeing others bring up their children. If I could have children, maybe I will see things differently. I have made peace with myself about the fact I could not have children and after chemotherapy life can be just as fulfilling vicariously watching children grow into amazing people all around me.

1 comment:

Nneoma Nwachuku said...

Thank Akin, for once again bringing thoughtful reasoned commentary to another case of corporal punishment gone wrong/child abuse. After reading the frankly violent responses to this case from both Nigerian and African American quarters, this post is a breath of fresh air.

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