If you are a parent, you can probably list your child’s personality traits in three words. Or, more likely, you can create a list of more than ten words to describe your child. In many Tanzanian homes, children are expected to be seen, not heard, and the concept of understanding a child’s personality is unheard of.
In the first six months of this year, The Foundation For Tomorrow invited parents and guardians of our scholars to positive parenting workshops that introduced the concepts of child development and child protection. In these sessions, Robin Mwanga, TFFT’s Psychosocial and Health Program Coordinator alongside her colleague, Hedwiga Mchaki, our Scholarship and Mentoring Program Manager, presented the theories of Jean Piaget (the growth and development of a child in five stages), Erik Erikson (the psychosocial development of a child in eight stages of growth), and Sigmund Freud (the five stages of psychosexual development of a child). These are huge concepts for any parent to tackle, but even more so for parents who come from a cultural background that does not emphasize the theories or stages of child development.
The 55 parents who engaged in these trainings over the past six months grabbed on to these concepts, internalize them, and were energized and excited to move forward with this new knowledge.
The overarching concept presented by the TFFT team focused on the “Wheel of Life,” a visual model to guide the discussion and talk through a child’s basic needs.
Using this colorful visual aid, parents and guardians were able to identify easily neglected needs and misconceptions that exist in their culture. It was clear from the workshop conversations that most parents and guardians placed less emphasis on the emotional needs of a child. These needs were either completely ignored, or seen as taboo, as Tanzanian culture portrays emotional neediness as a sign of weakness. Listening and responding to a child’s problems, allowing children to express their feelings and needs, and encouraging them to set goals and reach their potential are meaningful interactions that can help children. These concepts were very new for some parents and guardians.
The TFFT team used the workshops to not only discuss the needs of a child, but also the demands of parenting. The workshops were an opportunity to discuss the parenting challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. Having a forum to discuss these challenges was helpful to the parents and guardians, and also gave our team an appropriate foundation from which to tailor make a training that would address the group’s needs. While TFFT has an established Positive Parenting training manual, Robin and Hedwiga found that the manual covers a great deal of information, but the forum of discussion adds another layer of knowledge – and support.
“What I found in these trainings was that guardians knew how to raise a child, they understood at what time they crawl, walk, talk, etc., but they did not know that these skills are classified as motor skills/physical development,” commented Robin. “They were excited to learn about long term impacts and effects of not having a close care of a child at a particular stage, care that, if neglected, can lead to behavioral issues in a later age.”
TFFT’s monitoring and evaluations of earlier parent trainings had found that many parents and guardians weren’t aware of a child’s personality traits. In observed trainings, we found out 9 out of 10 parents said they did not have any knowledge of their children’s personalities, nor how to consider those traits as they addressed issues that arose. Identifying this critical issue, being able to discuss different personalities characteristics helped the parents and guardians to better understand and work with their children.
While discussing “parenting styles,” TFFT’s trainings explored different styles of parenting as well as the effects of these styles. This was an eye opener to most parents.
The TFFT team that leads these trainings, Robin and Hedwiga, found it tremendously interesting and impactful to discuss the overlap of the parenting conversation with the use of the three theories they had introduced in these sessions. To emphasize how these theories work, Robin and Hedwiga talked to the parents and guardians about their real lives, and looked to find the reality, truth, and validity of those theories in their own experiences in the community and in raising their own children. “The parents and guardians remarked that they did not know that the way their children behave is as a result of the parenting style they use,” said Robin. “They now understand that one parenting style may not necessarily work for all their children.”
“We challenged the theories, agreed to disagree, but most of all it was an eye-opener for many to understand that some of the behaviors displayed by their children may have deeper roots,” said Robin. “Parenting can play a big part in a child’s behavior, they are not simply ‘stubborn’.”
This work will continue with future trainings planned for the second half of the year. The TFFT team, led by Robin and Hedwiga, look forward to expanding the understanding of child development and parenting techniques. With each training session with our scholars’ parents and guardians we are excited to exchange experiences, gain more knowledge, and foster better practices for raising physically and mentally healthy children.