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Moppet Dadsperience: Raising Boys Vs Raising girls

There is no manual for raising children but there are principles and guidelines on how parenting should be done in order to raise responsible children who will turn out to be responsible adults.

Patrick Abah is a lawyer with four children. He shares his experience in raising his two sons and two daughters who are now adults. Hear him:

My first child was a girl, the second was a boy, the third was a girl, and the fourth was a boy. I raised them the same way. I was stricter with the boys than with the girls. My philosophy came upon me from my upbringing. My father was stricter with us than with the girls. I seem to have the feeling that the boys should learn to be more independent than the girls. I was softer with the girls. With the girls, I felt they needed to wholly dependent on me in terms of their needs, they didn’t have to look unto outsiders for their needs. I did not want anybody to take undue advantage of them.

My method turned out well in the sense that they have grown up knowing that they have to take a position of confidence in the society; A position of fighting for their right, a position of independence, that they are men and they have to fend for themselves, fight for their rights, and be confident in the society.

Raising a son requires closeness and friendship. You need to win their trust that you love them and care about their well-being. I had a policy of ‘the carrot and the stick’. If they went wrong, I was stern in correcting them. I corrected them in love. If they did something good and performed well, I bought them gifts and commended them. When anyone did not do well, I sat him/her down to talk. I encouraged the child. That is the ‘stick and the carrot’. If they came home with something that did not belong to them, I would ask questions. Once I found out they took it from someone, I would warn them sternly. I flogged my child (my last boy) once. As a child, I saw him remove his belt one day to flog the House help. I was shocked as to where he learnt that. I carried him from the ground, dropped him on the bed, smacked him and warned him never to do that again.

I was closer and friendly with my daughters to win their trust and confidence. It turned out well. My daughters could discuss their personal affairs with me than their mothers. For example, we got to know about her relationship with a man that was already talking about marriage. She asked me how to know whether it was the will of God. That is the outcome of close friendship with them. It makes them free with you. I joke with them up till now. My first two children are married and the last two are not yet married. I did not joke with their needs. I did not delay to their needs like I did with the boys. I did not want anyone to take advantage of my daughters.

I didn’t exercise equal disciplinary measures on my sons and daughters. My experience is that boys have the tendency of wanting to go on their own, feeling that they are now of age and can take steps of their own. They are also vulnerable to peer group pressure. Boys could easily pick up smoking, learn to sneak out of the house, watch pornography and other bad habits from their friends. I learned about these things from counseling. Boys easily pick up habits that they know their parents wouldn’t accept. The girls were more obedient than the boys.

I wouldn’t have done anything differently when it comes to raising my children. We gave our time fully to them. That closeness will still be there. We were present in their affairs. I will do the exact things I have done because I saw results.

I thank God for giving me very brilliant children. I guess their brilliance was hereditary. They were very brilliant. They won prizes all the time but my second son was not doing well academically compared to his siblings. We noticed this and tried to help him. I spent more money on him than the others, and I encouraged him often. I got teachers and care takers to monitor him. By the time he wrote his WAEC, he did not do well. He passed only three papers. I felt bad. He was discouraged. I called him and asked him the way forward. He said he wanted to register for external GCE but I refused. My reason was that if he could be in a school for six years and not pass, he couldn’t do any better if he wrote the exam outside school. He kicked against it. So, I met him in the middle. I told him he would register in another school. When we went to a different school, they said they did not take students in the final year, only students from SS 2. That meant 2 years set back. He revolted and started crying. My wife advised that I should take it easy with him.

One morning, I sat with him to talk. I said to him – You may not understand what I’m trying to achieve with your education for you. I have had my education, and I’m living my life. I want to advise you to take advantage of the fact that I am alive and working. I am ready to stand by you through any extent so that you can have a good education. The only way you can have a good education is to go to the university. The only way you can go to the university is to have your good WAEC result. The only way you can have a good WAEC result is to go back to the class. As for your friends leaving you behind, don’t worry about that one. I am telling you from the experience of life, it does not matter. There are people I grew up with, they were ahead of me at some point but today I am better than them. Some of them are better than me in terms of financial status. I assure you, you will catch up with your friends and even bypass some of them.

He cried before he accepted. We registered at a Government College. I engaged three teachers for him in Mathematics, English & Literature. At the time they were registering for the exams, he told me the students had gone to a particular center to register for the exams because that is where they get better results. I laughed. I explained to him that there were ‘sharp practices’ there. I discouraged him. I told him to earn his certificate. He stayed back to write his exams and he passed all his papers. He got admission into the University and graduated in Mass Communication. That was what friendship did. I dropped the stick policy and adopted the carrot policy. I became soft; I begged him to accept my style. I did not force him because I would have lost him. Today, he is happy that I guided him that way. I am also happy.

I believe it is important to educate both boys and girls equally. The idea of educating boys more than girls stems from ignorance, culture, poverty and so on. The idea that the boys will take on the family name and take care of the parents is a fallacy. Both boys and girls should be educated equally. Girls should not be played down when it comes to their education.

So, given another chance, I wouldn’t have done it another way.

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