Health: Parenting can make or mar your child’s psychology - BLUE VOICE RADIO

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Health: Parenting can make or mar your child’s psychology

Health: Parenting can make or mar your child’s psychology

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Adeoye Oyewole
Consultant Psychiatrist

adeoyewole2000@yahoo.com

It is common to find a teenager or young adult seeking help in a psychiatric clinic. He or she may possibly come from a good family, parents are well respected and considered to be responsible citizens.



Although a harmonious family life has been identified as a protective factor against the occurrence of mental illness, this has not always proved to be true in real life. Even mental health experts are puzzled by this.

That is why parents are worried or throw blames at the school authorities when they are called to pick their children caught using drugs or manifesting behavioural problems.

Such parents protest because they believe their parenting philosophy should have been protective enough to protect their kids from mental illness, especially when they are religious people.

However, more questions than answers arise. Is there a particular way children can be raised that will guarantee and protect them from drug addiction and other dangerous lifestyles that could predispose them to developing behavioural problems?

For those who thought they had a great parenting philosophy, what did they really miss out? I am tempted not to get into scientific jargons in trying to answer some of these questions. Children get into families with empty slates that psychologists call “tabula rasa” where we write certain standards on the tablets of their minds, which will invariably modify their behaviour and result in mental distress.

A good number of parents have not extricated themselves from the abuse they suffered from their own parents, which they have unconsciously incorporated into their parenting pattern. Some were brought up by dictatorial and authoritarian fathers who carved the image of being larger than life despite many flaws. The gap between what the parents espoused and the reality of their lives are very eloquent but conflicting.

Some modern parents grew up knowing that their father was frankly selfish and  were frustrated because certain tradition made it impossible for them to confront him.  This obviously creates some cognitive dissonance, which remains with them forever.

Our children are definitely more expressive than most of us were at their age. They are so engaging that the traditional repressive parenting modalities of our parents may not work in their context. Some of us may even leverage religious tenets to mask and unleash wickedness, pride and selfishness, which they will naturally resist. They watch our budgeting and how we apportion limited resources to service our own needs rather than the larger issues in the family. Also, they watch how we acquire wealth illegitimately and scrutinise our core values, irrespective of the cultural and religious embellishments.

Some of our children are living in suppressed anger and bitterness against us. And we should not forget that anger and bitterness are breeding grounds for addiction and other mental illnesses.

A healthy marriage is another great substitute for good parenting philosophy that could ensure the stability of the mental wellbeing of children. Unfortunately most marriages are scripted: there is no spontaneity, vitality and connection. In most cases, one of the spouses is mentally and emotionally dead, while the other is dominating and running the show in an unbalanced and skewed manner, especially when the man has the upper hand in our patriarchal society.

The children receive these discordant commands and this may set them up early for mental illness. The marriage may look harmonious on the surface, but discordant.  children want to grow up with real human beings not masquerades. They detest parents leveraging age or culture or social advantage when there are issues to deal with in the family.

The African cultural philosophy of hegemony, which does not allow some measure of expression from children, may be one of the factors responsible for the increase in the incidence of mental illness among our children who are being exposed to a more dynamic culture.

Some of our marital situations are getting skewed where the man may have relinquished absolute authority to the wife, who administers the children and who may take decisions according to social norms and sentiments.

Some parents have completely outsourced the training of their children to the television, schools and society on the premise of personal ambition.

 Parenting is more than a science; it is an embodiment of what the parents values, communication styles and the principles that govern their lives. Make no mistake, this will definitely mar or make the mental health of the children.

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