Dear Nigerian Immigrant Parent/Guardian,
So you migrated to a westernised society for a better life for you and your family. This letter is for you – I see you. I know your struggles, and I want you to understand a few things.
Teach your children to speak read and write in their mother tongue
This is a sad truth that even with the desire for your children to know their culture, you still prefer English above your own language. Maybe you are scared that if you teach your child another language, they will struggle to speak English.
Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity.
Actually, when you speak English to your child and mispronounce words – they will pick up the wrong way of pronouncing things and will later be corrected at school. So really, you have nothing to lose by teaching your child to speak their mother tongue.
So you can teach your children to speak their mother tongue when they are babies. Then, when they start nursery, they will learn English.
Don’t brand your children as lazy
Stop branding your children as lazy because you had a lot of responsibility when you were their age. Instead, remember that you grew up in a very different environment, and yes, it made you who you are today, but there were some things you missed out on too.
As great as you turned out, despite all the tough circumstances, you shouldn’t expect your children to behave like you did back then. The truth is they shouldn’t have the same level of responsibility that you had when were their age.
Having all that responsibility from such a young age made you grow up way too fast, so please allow your children to be children. Don’t expect them to behave like an adult because they are not. Things will be different for them – and maybe that’s okay.
Don’t compare your children with other kids
If your child misbehaves at any time, and you say something along the lines of… ‘why can’t you behave like (inserts another child’s name)?’ please try to stop yourself.
The truth is, you don’t know what the kid you are comparing your child to does when no one is watching.
When you start comparing your children to other kids, you are basically telling your child that they are not enough. When your child hears this all the time, it can do a lot of internal damage. For example, if they always feel like they are a constant disappointment, they may not want to be around you as much when they get older.
Never fat shame your child
It is never okay for you as a mother or father to tell your child that they are fat or that they need to lose weight. You are supposed to be their safe space and advocate. But, do you know that what you say about your child has a lasting impact on your child views themself?
For example, one blogger said on her website that:
‘When my father dubbed my sister and me “rhino rump” and “buffalo butt” when we were preteens, he thought it was clever and funny. However, we found it deeply humiliating. In the years and decades that followed, we stuggled with body image, weight, self-esteem, and our relationship with food.– We have kids
Do you want your child to look in the mirror and hate what they see? By calling your child fat, you are opening the doors of self-loathing and hate.
If you are concerned that your child is putting on too much weight and that it can affect their health, then why not try doing some of these things:
- Family exercises
- Organised park runs
- Swimming or biking
- Adjust the food you make at home to ensure that your child is getting their five-a-day fruits and vegetables and drinking enough water.
Teach your boys to respect women
If you are raising a boy, you have a big responsibility to make sure that you teach him to be respectful towards women. If you are a father and your son witnesses you treating your wife like a punching bag (literally and figuratively) – then you are basically sending the message to your son that it is okay to disrespect women.
‘You do indeed need to teach boys how not to rape. You need to teach them what consent means. ‘Free to be Kids
Teach your son about consent. Stop blaming girls who are victims of rape by saying it is their fault because they dressed in a certain way. Instead, what you should be doing is educating your sons so that they do not become rapists.
Teach your boys to cook
Some of you raise your daughters to be good wives, but you don’t do the same with your sons. So, unfortunately, some of them will grow up to be horrible husbands and fathers.
As much as you teach your girls to cook, teach your boys also to do the same. At the same time, as much as you prepare your girl child to become a good mother, teach your sons to be good fathers. Teach them to be empathetic, caring and loving. It is essential in today’s world.
Learn to apologise when you are in the wrong
Many of you find it so hard to apologise when you are in the wrong. But, unfortunately, it is so bad that this kind of behaviour has been normalised in our community.
It shouldn’t be so hard to apologise to your child when you are in the wrong. By doing so, you are teaching them to be accountable for their actions.
When you drag it out and never own up to your wrongs – it breeds contempt and resentment.
And do you know how many years of therapy your child will need to heal from resentment? Of course, we will all need therapy at some point in our lives, (yes even you that is reading and doubting), but you can reduce the damage by owning up when you are in the wrong as a parent. And no – making your child their favourite meal after an unjust scolding is not an apology.
You will need to say the actual words I A-M S-O-R-R-Y!
Befriend your children and tend to their emotional needs
Your job as parents go beyond ensuring your child has a roof over their head and enough food to eat. You can try to be a friend to your child and start from when they are very young.
Start by asking your child how their day at school went. Then, no matter how stressed or busy you are, make time for your child. No amount of toys or gifts should replace the quality time you spend with your child.
I understand that it gets hard when they become teenagers to keep the lines of communication open, but you should always try. Keep reminding them that you are there for them and that they can talk to you about any struggles they have.
If your child opens up to you and tells you that their friend at school has verbally abused them, don’t rubbish their plight. Don’t just brush it off and tell them that they shouldn’t listen to their tormentor. In addition to reporting incidents to the teacher, you should empathise with them. For example, you can tell them about when you were bullied at school and how it made you feel.
Practice Daily Affirmations
It would help if you always empowered your children before they go out to school. For in doing so, you will be training them to know their worth. You can do this by getting your child to repeat positive affirmations.
‘Affirmations with kids builds lifelong resilience. When your child intentionally replaces a negative thought with a more positive one, they’re actually strengthening their brain’Parents with confidence
It is never okay to call your child stupid or use words like ‘mumu’ when you are addressing them:
It is never okay for you as a parent to use words like ‘mumu’, ‘dull head’ or ‘stupid’ when you are addressing your child.
If your child is not getting good grades at school, it doesn’t mean they are stupid. Sometimes it means you may need to work out how your child learns best and then provide further support. Every child has a learning style that works for them. Your job as a parent is to cultivate their learning process. If you cannot teach them yourself, then you can get a tutor.
It so sad that some people’s spirits have been crushed because of the awful words that their parents had drilled into their heads from when they were little. So I have seen many of these children grow into insecure adults. I am sad when I hear their stories, and I think enough is enough; our community needs to do better.
Keep an open mind
Encourage your children to be open with you. You will miss a lot of things if you don’t keep an open mind.
It’s not going to be easy raising your child in a society where children are taught to speak their minds – but if you are not open-minded, your children will keep a lot of things from you, and you may never know them for who they really are.
So embrace your children in all their quirks and styles. Encourage them to be their true authentic selves and empower them to be the best that they can be.
Disclaimer: The number of the points I have raised here is not limited to Nigerian parents. I believe many of the issues addressed are also relevant to other communities as well. I just chose to mention Nigerian parents because it is the community I am a part of.