Parenting in Africa: What unites us all
Parenting in Africa is all about making sacrifices. A typical African parent is ready to give everything necessary to make sure their children get opportunities the parents never had. It is all about making sure that the children do way better than their parents. When you think about parenting styles in Africa, there is a common thread connecting all families.
Parenting in Africa: What connects us all
1. African parents provide basic amenities for their families
An African parent can deny themselves vital needs to make sure that their children do well. African parents have to go the extra mile when it comes to providing basic things for their families – some of which the government is supposed to provide.
For example, Nigeria is famous for lacking basic amenities, so individuals have to provide their own electricity, water, health, education, etc. The bulk of the family income is usually channeled into providing these things.
African parents first have to deal with providing for the family even when there’s a scarcity in resources. In the end, they seldom have enough money to deal with other needs.
Many parents, especially in the south-eastern part of Nigeria — those born before, during and immediately after the war — did not have the opportunity to go to school. Yet, because they knew the importance of education, they struggled to send their children to school.
3. Putting the children first
African parents put their children first. Putting their children first entails a lot, including letting go of their dreams, careers, friends, work promotions, etc. An African parent would rather have a life of unfulfilled dreams than have a child who’s not accomplished.
The welfare of the children usually informs family decisions like housing and accommodation, and what jobs the parents – especially the mother, would accept. The goal is to make sure that the children live in an area where there is access to good schools, and so that the parents’ jobs wouldn’t affect their time with the children.
Seeing their children as good and successful citizens is fulfilling enough for the parents.
4. African parents support the extended family
The extended family is important in Africa. African parents often have to care for both their nuclear family and some members of their extended family, especially the aged members. It is not uncommon to find households with grandparents living there too.
No matter the burden, they make it a duty to fend for their parents and their own children. African parents bear it lovingly, knowing that when they are old, their children will take care of them too.
5. Staying in a marriage for the kids
No matter how bad a marriage is, some African parents prefer to stick together to make sure their children grow up in a two-parent home. Unfortunately, even in relationships that are life-threatening, they still stay together. It is believed in some parts of Africa that once you are married, you are married. You are supposed to fix (or ignore) problems and march on.
Marriages are beds of roses. You enjoy the scent of the rose, and you endure the thorn of the rose as well. Even if you decide to leave a bad spouse, your family and friends would ask you to think about your children. Think about the damage it will cause them to grow without their mother or their father. Think of the social disadvantage it will cause them.
They will be mocked for the rest of their lives as the children whose parents couldn’t stay together. So, because of this, the parents would stay together and try to settle their differences because they love their children and do not want to expose them to ridicule.
6. It takes a village
Training a child is not the business of the parents alone. The whole village trains a child. It is said that a child belongs to the village. When a child errs outside the home, the neighbours discipline the child before they get home. And when they get home, the parents normally continue from where others stopped.
Because of this, children respect themselves both at home and outside the home. Failure to properly greet an elder would get the child reported to his parents, and that’s after the elder has chastised the child.
7. The extended family always comes through
The extended family always comes through to assist the parents in raising the children. If parents have an engagement, they can send their children to their own parents or siblings. These family members will be happy to take care of the children until their parents return – even if it would take years for the parents to return. This helps to foster close family relationships.
8. Teaching the children how to love
African families are so close that even when a child is gainfully employed, they can remain in their family homes until they get married – especially if they are in the same town with their parents. This is not because they cannot afford to get a house of their own, but because they understand the importance of staying united as a family and loving each other.
Back in the day, even when the children got married, they moved to another house in the same compound with their parents, uncles, and the rest of the family. They all lived in the same compound but in different houses.
9. Teaching the children obedience
African parents teach their children to obey them, their teachers, society, and God. Do good, keep your hands clean, and let the forces of the earth fight your battle for you. African parents do not encourage violence of any sort. They teach their children that every life is precious whether it is that of your friend or your enemy.
African parents may not have the same opportunities as parents from other parts of the world, but they sacrifice so much to give their children rare, incredible opportunities. They may not verbally declare their love for their children, but they love their children more than life itself.
Parenting in Africa is best described in two words: self-sacrifice and love.