By Catherine Onyekwelu Nneka
Infants are highly dependent on the care of adults for their survival. The needs of infants ought to be provided to ensure their survival, sustainability and growth. While most African parents understand that certain needs of children have to be met, they pay little or no attention to the psychological needs of their children. A typical African parent would find it a sole responsibility to provide the physical needs like food, shelter and clothing for their children. Meanwhile, some lack the knowledge of their deficiency in provision of the emotional needs.
The rarity of African children who grew up in homes where they are constantly reminded by their parents, of their undying love for them, is quite fascinating. Many African children grew up without hearing the words “I love you” from their parents. The parents feel they express such love by instilling the right attitude into their children. The instilment of the ‘right’ attitude into one’s child is most times done in a supercilious and authoritarian way. Other times, the modification of misdemeanours exhibited by children, into ‘right’ attitudes and behaviour is done with the aid of operant conditioning, a type of learning process that involves modifying behaviour through punishment or reinforcement.
These ways in which most African parents express their love for their children, sometimes leave the said children in a constant state of trepidation. Most African children tend to be fearful of their parents. They grow up with a gnawing feeling that their unsuccessful endeavours would render them a disappointment to their parents. Children’s need for constant approval from their parents makes them grow up with an external locus of identity. They place the value of themselves on how others value them because their parents failed to satisfy their emotional needs.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places psychological needs right after the basic needs and before the attainment of self-actualization. The basic needs are divided into the physiological needs, that is, the biological requirements like food, drink, air, etc., and the safety needs like security, medical care, etc. The psychological needs are divided into two – love and belongingness needs and Esteem needs. Love and belongingness needs entails the need for interpersonal relationships. Friendships, intimacy, trust, acceptance and receiving love falls under this psychological need.
Deficiency in satisfying the psychological needs of children can result in adults with different psychological issues. Even when children grow up into adolescents, some suffer from different psychological disorders like depression, obsessive compulsive disorders and many more. Most African parents tend to be oblivious to such predicament of their child, either due to a lack of knowledge of several psychological disorders or their stereotypic thought that such predicament is a spiritual problem.
Statements like “you are beautiful, you are smart, I love you no matter what happens”, are rarely said to most African children. These statements would go a long way in building the esteem of children and make them less susceptible to psychological disorder. Unfortunately, some African parents find it quite cheesy to express such emotional vulnerability. – YA