Raising a child to become what the parents desire of such a child has always been a herculean task from time immemorial. Parenting, it has been asserted, has over the years remained a very dynamic duty.
The girl-child is more vulnerable to unhealthy manipulations by the opposite sex. She also easily succumbs to peer pressure. Due to wrong influence, a large number of girls end up becoming miserable, without fulfilling their dreams.
Counsellors and other experts have said that the girl-child needs more attention, guidance and counselling in order not to fall prey to those lurking around in a bid to lead them astray. Young girls also need close monitoring so they wouldn’t make uninformed decisions that might haunt them for long or for the rest of their lives. Youthful exuberances have dealt many people a devastating blow and shattered their bright future beyond redemption.
And these days when technology is embraced by many children and young adults, taming the young ones becomes much more difficult. Their quest to explore the world is unimaginable. Even at a tender age, these kids are far ahead of their parents. One is often left in complete bewilderment at the level of information that the children are exposed to. The parents cannot but wonder where, when and how the kids learnt what they knew.
However, a few parents could be lucky to have things turn out exactly as they planned them for their children. One might not also be wrong to say that there is no general rule developed so far to successfully train a child.
These and some other issues bordering on empowering the girl-child were extensively discussed recently at a webinar hosted by the Every Girl Empowered Foundation in Lagos. The theme of the interactive programme, which attracted no fewer than 150 participants from all over the world, was ‘Empowering the girl-child: Raising self-confident girls.’
The founder of the foundation, Bolajoko Bayo-Ajayi, explained that the non-government organisation (NGO) was passionate about empowering young girls, building their confidence and giving them a voice that would aid them in becoming effective global leaders.
She said the foundation was also concerned with empowering parents with requisite skills so that they could become effective role models for their children, especially the girls.
In her words, when a girl is imbued with low self-confidence, she would develop doubts in her own ability, and consequently undervalue her achievements.
“A girl with low self-confidence looks for validation but often at the wrong places. These categories of girls think low of their own opinions and would prefer others’ opinions above theirs. Some of these issues are not visible to parents.
“The decline in self-confidence of a young girl starts at age nine. Statistics confirm that 75 per cent of young girls that suffer low self-confidence engages in negative activities, such as bullying, smoking and drinking. Seven out of ten young girls feel inadequate about themselves. They begin to look at their physical looks or performances in their studies. It is possible to have children who had strong confidence when they were young but grew up to become teenagers who are struggling with self-confidence,” Ajayi said.
One of the panellists, an author and human resource specialist, Mrs. Charity Babatunde, admitted that she and perhaps other speakers were not necessarily experts in the act of parenting, but just enthusiastic about promoting good parenting.
She said proactive parenting wasn’t difficult, noting that the parent should simply remember how he or she behaved as a kid.
“We were once children and had been where our children are at the moment,” she stated. “We don’t need to wait for them to get into trouble before we intervene and guide them to become successful in life. Some people just have plans of getting a job, get married and have children. They always fail to plan how to develop themselves to raise the children, especially the girls. We need to anticipate some of the issues these children will go through, then prepare ahead for them.
“We all want our children to turn out to be responsible in any society, but there is a price to pay. As parents, we need to realise that the arena has changed compared to our times as children. Therefore, a parent needs to keep learning, un-learning and re-learning.
“Saying that this is not how my mother brought me up might not work in raising the 21st century child. The arena has changed. Parents need to listen more to their children so that they can conquer.
“The reality is that everything is telling the girl-child that she is not fit enough. So, we should be focusing on psychological empowerment for her. The social media or their teachers in schools are also telling them they’re not good enough. And this puts a pressure on the child.
“A parent should be aware of what is going on. We have to live in the world of our children. Unlike in the past, our parents knew the addresses of our friends in the neighbourhoods. But today, everything has gone digital, and our children are navigating the space very well.
“A parent needs to instil in children the values they need to safely navigate life. Children should be taught the power of choices in life and their consequences. These are what they will forever live with when the parents are not with them.”
On her part, a transformational strategist, etiquette coach and a radio cum television presenter, Mrs Janet Adetu said self-confidence is built over a period of time, while self-esteem is an innate quality. She explained that there has to be a balance between the two features, and added that one could have high self-confidence with a low-self esteem or vice versa.
She averred that since women were more economically disadvantaged, it was important to catch them young and nurture them on the right path.
Should a child always exhibit the parents’ traits? She said: “Your daughter cannot mirror you 100 per cent because the child has her own personality and character. Many environmental factors affect the growth of every child and we must take this seriously. It is not just us that have impact on our daughters’ confidence; there are so many things.
“There is no perfect parent out there; we are only trying to bring out the best in our children. What mainly affects the confidence of the girl is her childhood. Many girls are now mirroring beyond family members to their friends. They could be physical or virtual friends. Some of these friends are telling them the wrong things while others are saying the wrong things.
“If you want your child or children to mirror you, you should ask yourself if you are doing the right thing. When you, as a mother, shout back at the father in the presence of your girls; could this be what you want them to copy from you? Your mental state as a parent will impact your children. A lot of parents are going through different psychological issues.
“COVID-19 has come with its own pressure. People’s salaries and other sources of income are suddenly shrinking. There are complete job losses in some cases. These are telling on the parents and by extension on their children. Yes, we all want to give our children a good foundation but so many things happening around us are changing our character. Most times, we don’t know these are impacting the girl-child. You need to be friendlier to your female children. Don’t always impose yourself on them.
“Parenting has changed so much today that none of us has the exact answer. Your three or five-year-old child can operate an android or ipad more than the parent.”
Again, Babatunde said that children were now being more influenced by things happening in the social media as a result of constant exposure to the internet. She argued that social media influencers were not the problem, insisting that the problems were the parents who have refused to improve their own influence games. She said that a child would listen to the parents when the child’s trust had been earned.
She said it was unfortunate that many parents were just too spiritual, always claiming ‘God forbid;’ ‘it is not your portion;’ even before the child expresses herself. She said some parents were also too strict and always intimidate their children into constant fear.
Others areas dwelt on by other speakers were the need to keep children confident as well as letting them know that whatever they reveal stays with you as the parent, and that such would not be used to hunt them.
It was also advised that parents should identify “non-school” distractions that might be positive skills, and help nurture them. But distractions that are detrimental to the child’s overall wellbeing should be investigated and addressed.
Parents were counselled to make underage girls realise that they could have male friends with no strings attached and with clearly defined boundaries as well as the consequences of certain actions. In such cases, parents were advised to get to know her friends and encourage positive friendship.
It was also advised that a girl who had been a victim of sexual abuse might need the support of a psychotherapist who could help work her through her trauma.
It was also agreed that children should have an understanding of what they have done wrong and why they were disciplined. And discipline, it was advised, should be the collective responsibility of both parents. Both parents should also have an alignment on how to raise and discipline their children, the speakers further counselled.