After reading last week’s column titled, is your parenting style hypocritical, my friend Kaylan sent me a WhatsApp message to tell me that she shares the same parenting values. She emphasized that she too apologises to her son, Lance, whenever she is in the wrong.
Kaylan then jokingly said, “My mother said that she liked my brother and me the least when we were teenagers.” We both agreed that we will only find out when our children are grown whether the freedom of expression we have awarded them will come back and bite us.
Children are like a construction site. Builders do the best they can, hoping that the housing structure will remain intact for decades to come. Similarly, when raising a child, you are never really sure if what you are doing is building a child who will stand tall in civility when they are older.
There is always a thin line between doing too much or too little. I think back to my first semester of psychology class and learning about Sigmund Freud and his four stages of psychoanalysis theory. Freud says that, when a child is between the ages of 1 to 3, they are at the anal stage and he/she derives great pleasure from defecating. Freud says that sometimes during potty training, adults tend to impose rules on when and where the child can defecate.
When parents are too harsh during this training, the child develops an anal personality. This toddler may at times hold his/her faeces in when an adult forcefully demands that he/she poops and may derive pleasure from holding on to their faeces. The personality traits likely to develop include: being obsessively neat, punctual and respectful to authority and tight-fisted with their cash and possession – in other words stingy.
On the other hand, a child whose potty training was liberal and not forced develops a giving, messy, disorganized and rebellious personality. (Okay, I see here that I had quite a liberal potty-training regimen.)
As parents, we are constantly caught between whether we are being too strict or too lenient. Naneni, whom I have awarded the freedom of expressing her opinions (respectfully) may grow into a rebellious teenager who believes that she knows it all and will not be told what to do. Or maybe the child who is given no freedom of expression grows into a teenager who is incapable of making his/her own choices, is not competitive and determined in the classroom and is always wary of how his/her actions will affect others even at the expense of his/her own advancement.
I am pointing out what Freud theorized in an effort to understand our parenting choices and how these choices affect the life-long personalities of our children. Something as simple as how we potty train our children can have lasting effects on their personalities. What is ironic is that most times as parents, we distance ourselves from the not-so-good behaviors of our children. I can almost hear an Oshiwambo mother saying, “Atje, Tauno omukukutu nayi! Kandi shi shi ashike nande kutya okwe shi kufa peni!”
This is not an attempt to blame parents for every mistake their adult children have made but just to open parents to the possibility of how our choices have influence over our children’s personalities.
Freud stressed that the first five years of life are crucial to the formation of adult personality. And because of this I have tried my utmost best to ensure that I am not only physically present but also mentally and emotionally there for Naneni over the past four years. I have had to walk away from a potential promotion at work, as well as dropping out of post-graduate school because juggling books, work and a baby meant that I would not be fully present as a mother. I am not at all hoping to raise a perfect child and whatever the outcome may be, what matters is that when I am 80 years old, I do not want to look back at my parenting choices with regret.
*My name is Paulina N. Moses, mother to a four year old daughter, Naneni. This column hopes to create momentum for positive parenting by candidly discussing everything about parenting, while creating a network of millennial parents who support and cheer each other on.
2020-03-06 08:34:42 | 6 months ago