Akinola Akinropo, consultant and a child rights Ambassador.

Akinola Akinropo is a consultant and a child rights Ambassador. He is the lead researcher of ParenMark School of parenting. In this interview with Yusuf Mohammed, the author of “Daddy where are you?” and “Mummy no excuse” who has been a motivational coach for over a decade spoke about the challenges of the Nigerian child and the role of parents.

 Tell us about your background. How as growing up like?

My father was from Ibadan while my mother is from Ife so I had my experiences in those two major cities. And I belonged to a stark polygamous family. My dad died in 2004 with close to 25 children. My childhood was very turbulent. Perhaps that is why the lord gave me this assignment of parenting.

While I was growing up, I didn’t have the normal parental care so to say. My mum was a teacher and my dad was a police officer. And we lived in an environment whereby my mum didn’t have any final say concerning my life. It was either my dad, uncle or some people around me.

A lot of things I knew I was endowed with while growing up but there was no proper mentoring. No father figure. My dad was not always around but my uncle was always around.

You grew up with your mother?

Akin: I grew up with both parents to the point when they separated. My uncle that was around was not interested in discipline. But was always interested in punishing any wrongdoing. He was always happy to hear a report of wrongdoing. I don’t know why he derived joy in beating. That was the only thing he could do.

By design or default I should have read either journalism or law because while I was growing up, I had this innate ability to write. I was always writing even from age 10. I had a small exercise book where I would draw a family have conversations with themselves through a bubble speech. My uncle saw it and tore it. He felt that I was playing and that I should be reading. He would tell me to shut up and call me a bastard. He beat me and tore it. He killed that capacity to write. Along the line, my parents separated. My mum left. I was with my dad. My dad raised us with a tough stance or Iron hand. At the slightest provocation, he would beat you just the way my uncle did. While I was 13-years -old, I was so obedient because I hated being bullied and tongue lashed. I hated being beaten. If there was any noise in our compound then, people around knew it could never be me. You would be in trouble if my dad woke up before you. He was a Muslim. I used to be one before I got to the Polytechnic.

I make sure I wake as early as 4:30 or 5 am just to do some house chores. If my dad asked me to sweep once, I would sweep like 10 times just to make sure there is no dust because my dad would his feet on the floor. That was how we were raised. We never had a voice of our own. No input. Even when I was writing my first WAEC, I wrote it with a barren mind. I was troubled. When the result came out, I only had about four papers which were Ps. I left late 80’s for my mum. From there I went back to form 4. Having done that two years after my first WAEC, I wrote another one and passed very well. I wanted to study History. Something related to art. But my mum insisted that I should study accounting. That made me to stay longer at home. I wrote jamb like four times. People advised my mum to allow me study a course that did not require calculation, but my mum didn’t agree. Eventually I gained admission into Federal Polytechnic to study accounting. And I wasn’t still doing well. I wasn’t good with calculations. But as for writing, I was very good. In my ND level I joined Press Club. I was a political correspondent and I was doing well. I had to go to the library to study anything that had to do with history. That was when I had time to study more about the opposition parties. When we were growing up, the only saint in Nigerian politics was Obafemi Awolowo. People like Akintol and Olunloyo were “evil.” That was how they were portrayed. But I had time to study them separately.

I left school, went for service and stayed at Mobil before I ventured into banking. I did that till 2005. During the period of consolidation, banks had to merge so they laid us off.

I used to call during radio shows to make my contributions. I also used to write letters to newspaper editors for my opinion to be published, especially, Punch and Nigerian Tribune. I would send them my views. The first time my letter appeared I was excited. I was also involved in youth activities in church. Then I was in Redeem Christian Church of God counseling people. By 2011 a revelation came clearly. That was when I saw my former pastor’s wife and Sam Adeyemi. They opened bible to me and talking about how to parent children in this 21st century. So when I woke up I knew it was my calling.

I said I want to be identified with a certain assignment.  I became a motivational speaker. Whenever I was in church speaking, I was always happy to speak with people. If you want to engage me for hours. Just say I should teach people. I am always happy to do that. When that thing came I said this is it. As soon as I woke up I went to the book shop to get some materials. I registered for business consulting. I registered for public speaking academy. All these things, I had them I computed. Everything with four years.

When did you start your school for parenting?

In 2005, I started my life classes on parenting.

Are you talking of Parenmark?

No, it was last year (2018) we incorporated that. We have to have a structure for it. Not just seminar. We want a structure that people will have and record. Everything could be detailed. We have faculty, we have facilitators, everything detailed. We have about eight different courses.

Why is it necessary to teach parenting?

I have heard some questions. People have challenged me. People have abused me. What is the problem? Are you jobless? Why do you need to teach people how to parent? They say parenting is by instincts. And that even got me angry. I said parenting can’t be instinct because we are not a being of instincts. Animals are being of instincts. Humans are beings of reasoning.

Prophet Moses, when the Lord told him to take over seven mountains Deuteronomy chapter 7. Canaan and all. Those mountains represent a sphere of influence in the world today. Part of those mountains, Legal system is there. Business and economy media is there, politics and government. Then parenting and family is one of the nations that the Lord told Moses to govern. All the spheres of influence in the world today, parenting is one of them. But it is only parenting and family that people think they don’t need to go to school to study to know how to do it better. For you to become an accomplished banker, you know the training they go through. For you to excel in business even though you have the natural wisdom like Dangote, you have to go to some schools. That is why we have Havard Business school. Lagos business school, school of economics and so on. For you to become a good lawyer, after university, you still have to go to law school. Same thing with medicine. People think parenting is just natural. Ordinary hair dressing, you have to go and learn it.

I told some of my friends abroad to do a survey for me and I discovered that in the UK today, you cannot be a cleaner unless you have certificate in cleaning, ordinary cleaning. That is how important cleaning job is. The guy was telling me that a lot of people will still come to terms with what I am doing. About 10 to 15 years ago, nobody was talking about parenting. What we saw was marriage counseling and mostly in the church. But we are now hearing about parenting.

What are some of the challenges you face in doing this job?

We have a lot of challenges. It is one of them I explained. For us to have about 2000 people in a gathering, it is either we run that programe through a church and it has to be on a Sunday service. The pastor will just share the podium with us. Even my friend who I spoke with recently is trying to speak with the chief missioner of NASFAT, he wants to invite me to come and talk to them. I can be anywhere. That is one challenge.

Another challenge we face is the attitude of government. I really pity parents. This is not the best time to be a parent. You can see what happened recently. You saw the Babcock leaked video, you saw that Queen’s College. Things like that.

You know why they say they don’t beat in the developed world? Government knows why they warned parents not to beat. Most things that cause emotional problems have been taken care of by the government. They have the basic amenities like 24hours power supply and water.

You are saying do don’t believe in beating of children when they err?

No. It is not a matter of whether I believe or not. It depends on what you want to achieve. If you want quick compliance you can coerce your children. When you beat a child he won’t do it temporarily. But when he leaves you, he may become worse because you have not taught the child on how to self correct himself or herself. I was victim like that. For five years, my dad terrorized me. I had no voice of my own. My mind was barren. It was when I got to the polytechnic I knew the bad job my dad did. Ordinarily I couldn’t hear my voice even in the midst of my colleagues. I was not bold enough to speak in public because of home my dad treated me at home. When people were discussing topics like football or politics which I knew very well, would be quiet.

Whenever I got home I would speak loud and my friend would say why didn’t I talk when we were in school? As a result of my lack of boldness, my friend forced me to register for press club on campus. Just for me to gain confidence. When you talk about discipline, discipline is not beating. It is teaching the child so that as the child grows, he would learn by himself to do the right things. When a child steals, stealing is just the outcome. What led the child to do that, you have to address that. A lot of things you must know. You know why we beat in this part of the world? It is because we are the ones the whole world will blame if a child turns out bad, so that’s why we take it personally forgetting that it is about the child and not you. So we need to learn to be calm and have inner peace so that we put the child through. And people are so quick to quote bible. Spare the child and spoil the rod. I don’t like it that’s why I don cram it. They forget that King Solomon that said that didn’t start from beat your child. When you look at proverbs 1 – 10, he said “My son when sinners entice thee consent thou not.”

Rod of correction Solomon talked about means teaching. The way Bishop Ajayi Crowder translated it is why people thing that way.

Like I said earlier, it depends on what you want. If you want a quiet obedient child or fake obedience, beat him or her.

In your view what do you think is the right way to correct a child?

The right way to correct a child is through discipline. When you are talking about discipline, you have stick and carrot. But not using it together. Let me put it this way: you need to let your children know that when you do this, you get this. If you don’t do it, you don’t get it. That is why when I engage young parents. I say don’t let your children believe you can correct them through flogging. Some parents show stick to a child as young as 1-year-old. See smell it. You have introduced coercion into that child’s life. It means if that child doesn’t see it, the next day, he or she disobeys you. That is why I encourage every family to have a constitution, a workable constitution. And that constitution should not be cast in stone. As every child in the family begin to grow up and begin to talk, they must have a say in the constitution. Some of us it is the script that we inherited from our parents that we take into marriage. Let them know this is how to behave. What causes problems for parents the most is children’s tantrum. When a child is seven months to one year, they begin to throw tantrums. There is no remedy. There is no drug or therapy. No template to curb a child’s tantrum. Just ignore. Because at that particularly time, psychologists say everyone has entitlement mentality. If you want to disagree, when a child is just one year old, give that child biscuit. The child has one and you have one. You are both eating. And you tell that child give me out of your own, he won’t give you. You see him hiding it. Meanwhile you gave it to him. On the other hand, a child has his own and he has not opened it, you see him trying to eat from your own. Who taught him? It is just natural.

When a child begins to throw tantrums like that, maybe you tell him to leave a particular place and he doesn’t listen, next word most parents here are likely to say is “I will beat you o.” You don’t say that. Tell the child that he or she should not behave like that. The next time that child does it, remind the child what you said before.  You are in a super market and the child says he wants to buy something that you didn’t not budget for. What you should do is leave the child. Ignore. By the time you get the car, don’t beat. Don’t buy what they want at that particular time. The reason why they behave like that is because there is what we have in front of our brains called PSC. Everybody has it. It is not fully developed until a child becomes an adult. At that particular time, what happens that period is that it senses those things you crave for. It is the first contact. That thing is not fully developed to regulate what they want. That is what many parents don’t understand. How come as adults, you have a family but when you set your eyes on a particular car. What happens, it is that car you see every day. Until you buy that car you won’t give up. It is the same thing that is happening to that baby. But if you don’t have the money, are you going to steal t buy the car? You will say I can’t kill myself, let me just allow this thing go. It is because your brain has developed.

The best way to correct children is through reward. When you have two children, you may not need to treat them equally in discipline because it is possible one may obey you without coercing him or her. Always let them know there will be rewards and repercussions for their actions.

Most parents are usually in denial of their children’s exuberances because many cases that we have handled, when all these children were under you, they obey you. But immediately they gain freedom that thing that has been suppressed will be unleashed. When they tell parents look at your child, they become surprised. They say “I didn’t raise you this way.” It is because of peer pressure. Research has shown that peer pressure will not have any negative influence on your child if that thing isn’t part of your child.

If on your own, you haven’t taken alcohol in your teenage years, you haven’t had sex, you may not even do it when you get to the University. When you are not coerced, you are not likely going to do it. Unless you are being suppressed.

Look at most people we have as political leaders today. Why don’t they have the compassion? They were beaten when they did something wrong as children. But they didn’t teach them how to behave when their parents aren’t there. I read a research. That research is on one of the greatest indicators of success at 32 is for a child to have self discipline at 12.

At 32 I held my first 2 million in my life. The money came in cash. I didn’t steal it.  I was working in the bank then and I made the money through forex. I built my house. But I didn’t manage some things well because I lacked self control. I saw money and I was lavishing it. The resultant consequence of me not being able to handle my first success very well somewhat affected my children.

It is not everything you wish you want that you will get. And let me tell you that wish is not strategy. Write your strategy down. The pillar to sustain your strategy is self discipline. I didn’t have it all through my teenage years.

You wrote “Daddy where are you” and “Mummy no excuses.” What do you aim to achieve with these books? What is the message?

These are different books. One is for fathers while the other one is for mothers. What led me to write the first one was when my wife told my son about some home chores and my son was like “no way. I can’t wash plates.” He thought that anything that has to do with the kitchen is basically for women.  I told my wife that henceforth I will be engaging her in the kitchen but at the same time me and this boy will be going to the market to buy some things. While we did that he had a change of heart about home chores. That led me to more research on availability and the relevance of fathers in the home. I did questioners on “how accessible are fathers in the homes?” I asked some people online and offline and realized that the place of fatherhood is failing. We have reduced the efficiency, influence and relevance of father to you being financially strong alone. You know we were raised to believe that it is only children that build the home right. Fathers provide. When they say a father is responsible, it is beyond being financially capable in the home. Kudos to fathers who work hard day and night to make sure that the home front does not suffer. But I want to appeal to fathers. Irrespective of you being financially buoyant in the house, children still need your physical appearance because there are many things that if fathers don’t tell children to do, they will not really grasp the wisdom behind it. Take for instance most of fathers are not at home. Their children don’t know what they go through. They don’t know that they have emotions. We were told that men don’t cry. It is a lie of the devil. That is one of the reasons why suicide is so rampant among men.

The first chapter in the book is “know your child.” How many fathers know their children? And fathers are so quick to shift the blame on the mother anytime they notice anything wrong with the children. You know I have gone to work from morning till night I don’t know what is happening. As if women are not supposed to work. Another chapter in that book is: daddy your place in finance.

Another chapter: Daddy’s discipline. Don’t shout. You don’t shout at your child. According to psychologists, when you shout, nothing enters the ear. This book is basically about the place and purpose of fathers in the house.

When parents have a boy and girl as children, the boy wants to look at the father and say that I want to be like my dad. When we were growing up, everyone in the house had plans of marrying many wives because we knew the way our dad enjoyed moving from one to room to the other. Anytime he was having lunch his wives would bend and serve him different meals. We saw it like enjoyment.  Every son wants to be like his father.

There is another research that says until a child is 15 they do what their parents tell them to do. From 15 up, they do what their parents do, not what their parents tell them to do. By 15 they begin to have their voice. Every son wants to be like his father and every daughter wants to see her dad in the man she wants to marry.

The most important thing is how relevant are fathers around their environment. They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” But unfortunately today, everyone has become unto thy tenth. That shouldn’t be so.

I also advise single mothers to look for a father figure for their child. Don’t make it look like you are the one doing it alone. There is connectivity between a father and son and father and daughter.

About mummy no excuse some women think that because they have to keep the house in order, then they fail in finances. It is not supposed to be. You are supposed to be a total woman who takes care of her career and home as well. Regardless of challenges you are facing in your marital life or career, your children must not suffer. That is why that book is titled mummy no excuses. The sole responsibility to raise children is on women.

In that book you teach how you keep your husband, regardless of how irresponsible your husband is in the house, what led to it? What did you do?

Your job is not to compete with your husband. Your job is to compliment what your husband does in the house.

Which book is selling more in the market? Is it “Daddy where are you” or “Mummy no excuses?”

Daddy where are you commanded a bigger share in the market because mummy excuses is still new. It came out this year. Daddy where are you is doing well in the market.

You are a leader in your own right. DO you plan to go into politics in the future?

What we have learnt so far is that nothing is impossible. Why it is possible is that for instance, you are a journalist. Maybe in a few years from now, your chairman would say I have this guy that is doing very well. He covers my activities very well. I will send him to a governor. Go and be PA on media. By default you are in politics. You may not be a career politician but you are there. That is why I really urge one to be good in whatever he or she is doing. IN Nigeria today we don’t have a Ministry for parenting and family or children. When you go to any of the states, they say that children are under youths and sports. That is wrong. If tomorrow comes and they say that since I have been doing something on parenting and they want me to help them set up a ministry for parenting and family, I will be there. I won’t say no.

 

 

 

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