Many years ago, a very young man slipped badly in a major examination, his Dad was thousands of miles away at the time hence his mother wrote a letter, lamenting that she wished he were around to help support and console their son.
The father’s response, I am saddened that he did not do well because I know he put a lot into his preparation, but am happy I am far away because, he must learn to deal with disappointment and adversity, I will not always be around and when I am gone, if he has not learnt to handle adversity, how will he manage the difficulties and disappointments that are an inescapable part of life?
This story comes to mind in view of recent deeply distressing events in Nigeria.
Our sustained serial attempts to make ourselves and our society a cultural clone of the West has taken a newer and deadlier dimension, it is becoming painfully obvious that suicide is slowly but steadily becoming the new normal among Nigerians especially the younger generation .
Yes suicide is not new, it has always been a part of the human story, however what used to be a Nigerian cultural aberration is becoming disconcertingly common. And when one considers the fact that these incidents are under reported, we get the sense that we might very soon be dealing with an epidemic.
I have read different takes on the probable causes of this deeply troubling trend, as is the case with such situations, it is difficult to nail down a specific cause, it’s a multifaceted issue where a number of factors are at play, but what most seem to agree on is the increasingly worrying trait of emotional fragility among our youth, hardly mentioned, however, is the role we as parents and guardians have played in raising persons with ego as thin and brittle as a wafer, unable or unwilling to put up with adversity in any way, shape or form.
It’s an interesting paradox that the average Nigerian parent today had a strict no nonsense up bringing, but many of us probably because we perceived our parents, especially our fathers as being overbearing or even cruel, have gone to the other extreme and pitched our parenting tent there, resolute in our refusal to budge even a fraction of an inch, we unapologetically pet and pamper our children, indulging their every whim and caprice.
Anyone, who makes the slightest attempt to correct or find fault with our children’s conduct or character, receives the verbal equivalent of a bazooka shell from us, the full fire of our ire is directed at the individual.
Parents are ready to charge to school, to verbally or even physically confront teachers whom they are quick to conclude, are harassing their children, some even take law enforcement agents along to school to get said teachers arrested. Even within the home, discipline or its glaring lack, has caused friction between spouses, when one of them always shields the children, defending their transgressions no matter how brazen thus portraying the other parent as being unduly harsh and hard hearted.
We allow these children do as they want, when they want, raising them with an incredible sense of entitlement, they are brought up to firmly believe, at least by the actions of their parents, if not their words, that they deserve whatever they desire. In the name of love and care, and not allowing them suffer the way we did, we shield them from every trial and every test life throws at them, put them in schools where teachers are not allowed to as much as raise their voices at them or even administer the mildest corporal punishment, instead of allowing them scale their academic hurdles, we look for short cuts, even paying people to assume their identity and write exams for them . For the rich and influential, they get them jobs, buy cars and homes for them, even pay for their marriage ceremonies….. the list is endless, and the items on it are grouped under the sociocultural term of hyper parenting .
Hyper parenting is a spectrum and many parents do not get to its extreme , but it s rare to find a contemporary parent that has not indulged in it , or continues to indulge in it one way or the other .
In an attempt to show purported love and care to our offspring in the short term , we are doing them irreparable damage in the long run. Our obsession to protect our children from life’s adversities ultimately leaves them with little or no resistance against such adversities when they inevitably occur, there is little or no point in raising a human being inside a bubble , because life will sooner or later, burst that bubble and there would be the rudest of reality checks, when this occurs to the ill prepared or unprepared individual, the story usually does not end pleasantly.
Children must be raised to understand that they cannot enjoy the comfort of mummy’s bosom forever, they must be made to understand that life is not always fair and it can be downright cruel but it still has to be lived . They must also learn that they would suffer rejection and a lot of negativity from others but they should not allow these define who they are because these are some of the lessons in the learning curve of the school of life.
Just as in school, some lessons are pleasant some are not so pleasant, but all have to be learnt, for one to make the grade, the student does not get to pick and choose , in the same way, in life, we may not always be able to choose what happens to us but what we can control is how we react to it. We as parents are failing catastrophically in how we nurture our children to react to adversity.
Physical illness develops and strengthens one’s immunity, in the same way,adversity , develops and strengthens one’s psychological resilience and emotional immunity, we are doing little or nothing to strengthen the emotional immunity of these children and an unquantifiable price is increasingly being paid as a result.
We are at best complicit and at worst responsible for raising a generation of emotionally immuno compromised individuals, adults with the emotional maturity and psychological resilience of kindergarten children and this is sheer dereliction and disservice on our part , we need to take a major step back , we were raised in such a way that our children and wards could stand on our shoulders, and we have an obligation to raise our children in a similar manner can we as parents, take a long hard look at ourselves and say we are fulfilling that obligation?
A child’s mind is an open book with blank pages, and parental inscriptions on those pages are virtually indelible, what are we writing on those precious pages ? Are we preparing our children for the long , windy road of life ?
What we write on those pages is vital, playing a monumental role in their ultimate success and as we have seen possibly their survival also.
We must make them understand that life would never adjust itself for the individual, rather the individual has to adjust to life .
Loss of life is sad, loss of young life, doubly so, dying by suicide is an avoidable social plague that must be confronted and defeated.
It is one’s fervent hope that our society would , for once, come to grips with this sad phenomenon before the growing tidal wave becomes a tsunami !!
By Dr Jude Ebedi