By Hadiza Abdullahi
Many parents do not care to deliver their responsibilities, leading to different social problems in Nigeria and the world. In layman’s terms, parental negligence can be seen as the failure or inability of parents to fulfil their parental responsibilities of providing the proper and adequate care and attention to their children.
The child-parent relationship is supposed to be affectionate, harmonious, supportive, and productive, but this relationship is becoming conflicting, unsupportive, destructive and agonizing due to certain factors. For example, some parents may be emotionally unsupportive to their children yet provide all their basic needs, i.e. food, clothing and shelter, while some are not supportive.
A study conducted on improper parenting and parental negligence by Dr Manzoor Hussain pointed out that good parenting quality depends on several factors. They include; the mature personality of the parents, which is an essential element of good quality parenting, stable and intimate marital relationship, as well as the form of the pregnancy, i.e. planned or not, as planned pregnancy implies better preparation to be a parent.
On the other hand, a broken home is believed to be the primary factor that contributes enormously to the issue of neglectful parenting, as children from such families are usually brought up by either their biological parent or a step-parent. These children often undergo different sorts of challenges, trauma and agonies from the step-parents, particularly stepmothers, who do not like having a stepchild under their custody.
A typical example is the case of two minor Almajiris, an eight-year-old Habu and his six-year-old younger brother Tanko (not real names), whose parents got separated and had to live with their father and his new wife. Although the father is financially stable and could cater for their basic needs and education, he refused to do so due to the influence of their stepmother, who rejected them. As a result, the innocent boys left the house, roaming the street as Almajiris.
Research has indicated that couples’ desperation toward becoming a parent also promotes this issue. Some couples, especially the rural residents, who consider the number of children as pride, are only interested in giving birth to as many children as possible without having any adequate plan for their wellbeing. Instead, they exploit the children by engaging them in different forms of child labour such as domestic chores, street hawking, street begging or even working as house helps, all in the name of sourcing for income. The World Health Organization (WHO) regards it as child abuse. This exposes children to dangers when they mingle with bad people who may negatively influence and/or harm them.
These children quickly go astray because their parents are not around to watch and caution their wrong behaviours. Hence most of them end up going into drug abuse, prostitution or even being recruited into terrorist groups, among other crimes.
Hajiya Salamatu Yaqub, a housewife and a mother, lamented that the absence of adequate face-to-face interaction (which is an essential principle for a good parent-child relationship, in which both children and their parents understand each other’s needs, views, emotions, and brings about strong and growing intimacy between them) contributes immensely to this problem.
Similarly, Malama Maryam, another mother, expressed her grief over how some so-called civilized and educated Nigerian parents, especially young mothers, adopt an improper way of parenting. They focus more on their jobs, education, and other forms of businesses instead of the primary role of every traditional Nigerian parent, specifically mothers who are supposed to put the welfare of their families ahead of anything else. However, some abandon these responsibilities altogether while some entrust the responsibilities to nannies and other house helps, who may not be morally upright and talk more of instilling moral values in children.
A teenager (who refused to be named) and a victim of neglectful parenting said, “being neglected by your own parent is the worst and most traumatizing experience of every child”. She further disclosed how she and her siblings went through a lot due to this issue. Even though their parents took proper care of all their basic needs, they are always absent to watch over them, support them emotionally and caution them. She added, “we miss our parents badly and do a lot of things we should not do and mingle with people we would not have been mingling with supposing our parents are around”.
Children with intellectual, psychological, emotional and developmental disabilities are especially vulnerable to being forced into child labour and are more likely to face threats of violence and abuse. These children— especially girls—are often victims of trafficking, prostitution, domestic enslavement, forced marriage and other forms of abuse. In addition, some children who have physical and visual disabilities, visible congenital disabilities, or disfigurement are forced by traffickers to beg. In extreme cases, traffickers intentionally disfigure children to exploit them through forced begging.
Yusuf Muhammad Daura, a student at the Department of Special Education, Bayero University, Kano, described parents who take advantage of their children’s physical disabilities and refuse to work hard, instead using them as a source of income, as irresponsible and self-centred. He added that when interviewed, most of these children seen on the street begging or hawking explained how they were forced into it and if they were to have an opportunity of living a normal life, they would be more than happy to join their mates in going to school.
However, it is understood that some children undergo neglectful parenting not because the parents or guardians are not around to support them emotionally or failed to provide for their basic needs. It’s, instead, due to their inability to home train and discipline the children properly.
The implications of parental negligence are many. They include a lack of mutual understanding and affection between parents and their children; children’s needs also weaken the close bond that is supposed to exist between their parents and their children. In addition, the children may feel the parent are worthless since they cannot cater for them, which might make them disrespect or hate the parents.
Research indicates that children who lack proper parenting behave aggressively and violently and perform poorly in academic activities. When interviewed, Mr Yahuza Abdullahi, a primary school teacher, confirmed that most children going through improper parenting perform poorly in academics and recreational activities as they do not have the extra support they need, such as helping them with their home works and getting the necessary learning materials.
Therefore, it is paramount that couples must be physically, psychologically and financially ready before they venture into the demanding task of parenting. As someone planning to have a child, prepare for your children or unborn children on how you intend to take adequate care of them. Make provisions for their basic needs, i.e. food, clothing, shelter, education and proper medical care. Also, provide a conducive environment to protect and keep them safe while instilling sound morals and values in them and having a plan on how you intend to caution and correct them whenever they are wrong.
Also, the government has a critical role in tackling this menace because, as citizens of Nigeria, these children have fundamental rights that the government must protect. Thus, the government should have the full authority to punish any parent or guardian caught abusing or neglecting their parental responsibilities.
Hadiza Abdullahi, Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano.