Opinion: Stop putting pressure on your children

by Blessing Iyamadiken


When it comes to raising children, stereotypical pressure abounds in every nook and cranny of the world, but they are most common here in Nigeria among parents. Let’s start from when the child is born, a child of 3 ideally should still be with the mother, playing with toys, trying to explore his or her curiosity, and may be starting kindergarten at 4 or 5, but you find out that a 3 year old is already in school trying to read and write, struggling with the pen and paper as the teacher holds his hands for him or her to write properly, hitting him gently on the back if he doesn’t write well.

We move past that to when the already “old enough” child is in primary school and doing so well that the parents and teachers are so amazed and cannot believe that such intellect is coming from a child of that age. As far as they are concerned, he is the next Einstein. So what do they do? They decide to reward him or her, not with gifts, or words of encouragement but with a double promotion. For those who do not know, a “double promotion” as it is called here in Nigeria, is when a child skips a class to the next because of his seeming intellectual prowess.

The child finishes primary school at such a young age, he must be a god. Moving on to secondary school from primary 5 or primary 4 at the age of 8 or 9. He is faced with a new kind of life, peer pressure which he is not ready for from classmates who are 12–13. He struggles through though, coming tops in his class throughout and finishing at the age of 14 or 15.

His parents anxious still for him to be done with education push him into one of these private universities at 15, (you would wonder why they are so much in a hurry) at an age when that child doesn’t exactly know what he wants for his life, into an already chosen career path. Some children are lucky and finish even with a first class probably because different children mature at different rates, but then, not many are lucky and if they don’t fail in school, they fail at life when they are done and cannot handle the day to day challenges of being an adult.

I for one had three of such double promotions, finished primary 5 at the age of 8, and moved to secondary school where I struggled through without anybody knowing I was struggling, dealing with peer pressure from my mates, handling a low self-esteem at the same time because I was the youngest and smallest in class and so I never blended. At the end, I finished at the age of 14. At 14, or 15 (and I dare you to quote me), nobody knows what exactly they want out of life. They only begin to have a rough sketch at 16 and that is why the age for admission into Nigerian universities is pegged at 16. Every day it seems more and more like the youths are not serious with education, but most times that is not the case. They are not just emotionally mature for that stage.

My point is, every age, whether 1 or 14, is a stage. Every class, every exam through primary and secondary tests ones readiness for the next stage of life. And so skipping one stage, two stages, three stages, may seem great at first, but in actuality it is preparing that child for a great fall later in life.

As a parent, you have to overcome the urge to put your child under pressure. You can ensure that they discover themselves, ensure that they use their time wisely, but leave them be. Leave them to pass every of life’s test on their own. There is a very thin line between encouragement and pressure. You have to realize that and not cross that line. I got into the medical school at 15 and was I overwhelmed? Yes! Looking back, I now understand why I struggled through secondary school and why I never seemed to understand anything taught in the university. It was simply because I was not mentally prepared for that life. At the end, I was withdrawn for failing at 19. A whooping four years GONE. You won’t be wrong if you say life collected the years I had skipped back. If I had done a 4 year course, and graduated at 19, my parents would have been the happiest people alive, having a graduate at 19. But would I have been prepared to handle the next stage of my life? I seriously doubt it. By the way, how many of our parents were in the university at 14 or 15 or even 16?

Success in school is not just about academic work, it is also about mental, emotional preparedness. Ayodele Dada, the best graduating student from University of Lagos who made a cumulative grade point average of 5.0 was not 19 or 20 at graduation. He was 29. Now I’m not saying everyone should graduate at that age, I am simply saying that with age comes knowledge on how to relate things better, how to handle distractions better, and knowing your purpose in life.

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