There is something common to most African parents: they idolize the idea that they know more than you, they believe you owe who you are today to them and hence, they have the right to dictate your life and influence your choices and decisions.
This parental pressure and excessive influence don’t start overnight with the big decisions of who to marry or where to reside. It started way before you were aware of yourself. They picked your schools (primary and secondary), decided your neighbourhood, hence your friends; they picked your entire wardrobe till you could buy clothes for yourself, and you think you will just grow up and automatically snap out of the hook?
There are a couple of things you should know about African Parents:
- You never outgrow them seeing you as their baby
As much as you seem all grown to you- both physically, intellectually and otherwise, you never outgrow being your parents’ baby. They practically watched you grow from a toddler into the big boy and big girl that you’ve become. And remember, as you were growing, they were growing too, so even in your thirties, you are still their baby.
- You can never know more than them.
I don’t need to stress this point. I’m sure you must have heard a thousand and one lectures on this from your parents during those times you wanted to prove that you knew what you were doing. A Yoruba adage says- Bi omode ba laso tagba, ko le ni akisa tagba (If a child has as many clothes as an elder, he cannot have as many rags as an elder); a saying to prove that with age lies experience, which is a strong pillar, a strong ground our parents stand to enforce their interest, or rather what they think is best for us.
- They love and want the best for us.
This point is open to debate, but I think except for extremely devilish and selfish parents, all parents want the best for their children. Now this “best” is very relative and subjective to their level of exposure or to the extent their resources can accommodate; but if we measure their intentions against their exposure and resources, we will see they want our best.
Now, this best is according to their definition, not yours, so what is the best to them, might not be the best to you, about it being the best for you, let’s leave that for later.
- They are afraid.
If every parent will be sincere, they will admit that they are afraid. They have a great level of fear of about a lot of things. One major fear is losing us to whatever (life, wife/husband, career…) and this, in turn, influences a great deal of what they do, why they stand their ground over what they think is best. They can’t bear to watch us take risks anyhow.
- They are more conscious about security than fulfilment.
Youths are more focused on passion, dreams, ambitions and the likes; we want to pursue our dreams, do what makes us happy and what we get the highest form of satisfaction from, but parents don’t see that way. Their first focus is Security- financial security being the top of the list.
And in a way we can’t blame them, they don’t want you to be a liability to them in their old age. Instead, they want to sit back, stretch their legs and reap all the investment they put into you.
Thank God the entertainment industry is blooming now, I can imagine a father calculating how much will be entering his bank account monthly while you are busy talking about a career in comedy.
- Parents see us as trophies or as bragging rights.
This is another important point, a reason we can question their love and judge their motives. Parents want to have a voice among their mates when they meet and if their children come up as a part of the discussion, they want to be able to brag about our careers, achievements, family and so on. They want to be able to say that you are living in one big city, or doing one job that pays in millions, or that you are married to the son or daughter of someone that has status in the society.
I bet there are more, like, can they ever stop comparing us to one classmate or one family friend? Choi! But this is enough for the purpose of this post.
How then do we deal with the firm grip of control by our parents, wanting to have the final say about all our life decisions?
Now I feel very moved to say this before stating what to do; It is mostly youths without a clear sense of purpose and direction that tend to fall victim of parental pressure and assertion. I know this is not an absolute statement, but when parents perceive your passion and see your active pursuit of a goal, they tend to later come around and support you. The moral lesson of this is before you go about complaining how your parents want to control your life, you must have a clear sense of direction for yourself, they will perceive it. Not that you stay in your room all day playing FIFA and watching Sitcom series, such that when they insist you take a form for a graduate program, you lament that you are pursuing a dream. In what? Theatre or gaming?
Passion is perceivable, it is transferable.
So what should we do when faced with parental pressure and fierce control?
- Stop Arguing
I didn’t learn this quite early and some few confrontations that should have lasted 5 minutes took the whole night. You don’t have to always prove yourself, you don’t have to always win an argument (you can hardly win one with parents), and you don’t have to always respond to them or reply them.
After some really tough clashes with my parents, my younger sister called me on the phone and said that I’m the one that loves trouble, that instead of replying and arguing, I should just keep quiet and listen, nod and say yes. And it has worked for me thus far.
Note this is not in a bit to fool your parents, but some things are better demonstrated that said, some points are better painted than described in words. A good instance is this- do you know that your parents will stop shouting and be arguing with you the first time you show them the cheque from a show or a job? That’s what I mean by keeping quiet, let the results do the talking.
Even the 12 years old Jesus exhibited this when He stayed back in the temple at Jerusalem after the festival of Passover, He didn’t argue at all, He gave a response they didn’t understand, so He just followed them back home.
- Be Patient
It will take a while before parents will eventually see what you want and agree to let you pursue it. But in the meantime, be patient. Be patient, just calm down, keep your fingers crossed and wait patiently for that day to come. They didn’t form their mindset overnight, it won’t change overnight.
- There is no point rebelling.
This is one of the youth’s best way of responding to parental pressure and control – we rebel, we start from not using their cars and not collecting money from them, to moving out of the comfortable house under their roof to go manage ad hustle somewhere.
All these have their places, but they shouldn’t be the initial response. They shouldn’t even be an option till you have no other option and you are crystal clear of the path you are treading (or want to tread). After all, God put us under their care for a reason, knowing their hearts and mindsets very clearly.
- Know how far you are supposed to hold your ground.
We don’t really want to hear this, but it might be the best thing you are supposed to do. Sometimes, we are just being totally myopic or blinded by youthful exuberance, taking our parents’ wisdom for folly. They are wise, you can’t refute that, so you owe them a measure of attention. Learn the wisdom you can. Know when to agree with their suggestions or when to submit to their pressures and when to do otherwise. This is wisdom
- Open Up to them
One area we youths fault at is in keeping our plans and ideas to ourselves, staying distanced from the first set of people that should be closest to us. How do you expect to receive support from your parents when they have no idea what you are up to? They are not mind readers or dream-gazers, you’ll have to tell them. Share it with them, whether it makes sense or not. It is then they be able to give you proper counsel and support where need be.
- When things get beyond you, seek a higher counsel.
If your parents won’t listen to you because you are just a kid, they will probably listen to a friend of theirs or their parents, or your boss or your lecturer. When it seems as if your parents are just refusing to listen at all, try approaching them through someone in their class.
- Detach early.
How easy will it be to say no to your parents’ wish at 27 when you have practically said yes to everything they wanted and instructed till that point? Youths should learn to detach from their parents early. By detaching, I don’t mean separating yourself from them or seeing them as the devil that wants to make you fail in your life’s pursuit. No, learn to start making little decisions yourself; take little actions on your own.
Ask them not to worry about little excesses and extra favours, like always dropping you off, making your online purchases and booking, deciding which extracurricular activities or societies you join, then gradually to picking your major. Staying independent early saves you a whole lot of pressure.
I believe you have seen a better light on the issue if Parental pressure. This post is a response to a mail from a lady describing how her parents have practically decided her path and made every single decision for her till this point. Send in your questions and paint your own scenarios so that future post can be better tailored to suit your specific needs.
This post is mostly about Parental pressure as regards making choices. Subsequently, we’ll focus on other more specific issues we have with our parents. You can send your question or instance in (either to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the portion below), and I’ll treat it.
I’ll be waiting to read your comments 😀
See you tomorrow at 12 Noon for an answer to another of life tough issues and someone’s Personal Struggle. I promise to keep it real here 😉
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