- The First Level is the Family Level of Parenting. This level is dominated by the biological parent, the adopted parent and the foster parent or guardians. These are the parents saddled with the primary responsibility of defining the value system through which a child must operate from. Wikipedia defines parenting as the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. So going by this, the responsibility of a seamless and wholesome transition from infancy to childhood, to adolescence all the way to adulthood lies on the shoulders of parents particularly the level one parents. This is a huge responsibility and as such, parents need the help of collaborators at the other levels of parenting however, the foundational principles guiding the child should be laid by the Level One Parent.
- The Second level is the Neighbourhood Level of Parenting: They are the parents by communal responsibility. Parents will not always be everywhere but neighbourhood parents can be anywhere. Once an adolescent steps out of the home, he steps into the neighbourhood and can be engaged by a parent at this second level. These people are not necessarily parents themselves in terms of having biological or legal children, even though they can be parents, but they step into the office of a parent by carrying similar parenting values and they will ensure that adolescents are in adherence to these values even in your absence. I remember during my National Youth Corp Service year as a fresh graduate serving her nation, a young boy passed by my side sagging. I called him back and engaged him. For those of you who don’t know what ‘sagging’ is, it is a dress sense adopted by adolescents mainly where the males pull their trousers below their waist in order to expose their boxers. In Nigeria, it automatically communicates that the child is an irresponsible one even if that might not be the case. By the time we were done conversing, he understood that his dress sense could make a positive or negative statement about him and he pulled up his trousers before he left. It could be something as simple as correcting an erring adolescent.
There was an adage in Africa that used to be potent many many decades ago. I do not know how potent it is anymore. That proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child” The Neighbourhood parents are in the similitude of the Village used in the adage. On a lighter note, I remember a particular afternoon, my mom was working at home and I kept pestering her with questions. I do not recall those questions but I was persistent. I kept asking and asking to the point where I frustrated her. Then she sent me to our landlady to go get “arodan” and I happily dashed out. Very good girl. As soon as I told our landlady what my mom asked me to bring, she asked me what my mom was doing and I told her so she asked me to check a particular place for this arodan. I did. She told me to shake up those places in my search and scatter whatever I needed to just so I could find it. I had no idea what I was looking for but when I found something out of the ordinary I’d show her and she’d tell me, “Tope it looks like this one but it’s not it. Check again” When I had completely made a mess of the entire place and scattered everything, she asked me to re-arrange them. For about an hour or more, I rearranged. When I was done, she showed me another spot to search for this arodan I searched till I got tired. Then she sent me back home to tell my mom that I couldn’t find it. I didn’t realize until many years later that arodan meant “nothing”. It’s just a futile search quest that parents use on their errant children in Yoruba land whenever they want to get such children off their hands. When anyone receives the arodan message, they know their job is to detain such children with different tasks that should last for at least an hour, before sending them back home. However, with the level of depravity in our society today, the level three parents are becoming scared and community life is fast disappearing, sadly.
- The Third Level is the Professional level of Parenting: These are the ‘parents’ with a defined responsibility such as Teachers who function in schools to tutor your adolescents in a particular course, School Counsellors who give guidance on academic problems understanding your adolescent’s learning needs and blocks, Pastors and Imams who are responsible for giving guidance on spiritual matters, etc. The level three parents have the specific job of teaching the adolescent in specialized ways that are peculiar to their offices. But they also rely heavily on the level one parents and build upon the value construct of the children entrusted into their care. In the event of a gap in level one parenting, usually identifiable by the absence of morals and values, they can step into the Office of the Parent to redefine the value construct for the adolescent.
The Office of the Parent is an important position because the level one parents will not always be everywhere. They need collaborators who will step into this office to become PARENTS to their children. Only those with similar value systems can ascend that office seemlessly.
- Emergency Level of Parenting: We call them the Parent-in-Emergency. They are also professionals but the distinction is that they do not have regular interaction with the adolescent like the level three parents. With a high Awe-Q, the adolescent typically shouldn’t need such parents frequently until they need care in order to attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life. We find them in caregiving environments like hospitals, counselling homes, etc and their role is mainly intervention. They step in when the other levels of parenting are unable to prevent the adolescent from reaching a crises point. So these parents are required for emergency intervention in times of crisis. Doctors, Nurses, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, etc. you might be wondering how a nurse for example can stand as a parent, right? This was something the nurses I spoke to in a specialized TRAIN-UP session also wondered and I can encapsulate the answer with the story of Anabel. Anabel lost her mom when she was just 9 years old. Her dad was the one driving so he blamed himself for his wife’s demise. In his grief, he stopped catering to his daughter and became a major bully. He would beat her at the slightest provocation and even send her to bed many times without a meal. Anabel was a bright student and no one suspected she was having challenges at home. She had mastered the art of keeping a poker face. She had also learnt to take care of herself lest she starved. Exactly five years after her mom’s death, her dad came home drunk to stupor. She had this feeling of danger lurking around her so she ran to her room and shut the door. She just cowered by the bedside in fear. Then her dad began to scream, “Anabel where are you?” His voice sounded deadly but she still couldn’t move, paralyzed by fear. When he said, “Anabel if you do not come out now, I will kill you” that was when she rose up to open the door because she knew he meant it. That wouldn’t be the first time he had attempted such but this sounded even more intense. As the door flung open, he landed a slap across her cheek making her fall to the floor from its impact. As she fell, her gown went up and her thighs were exposed significantly. That was how he pounced on her and raped his own daughter. That was the beginning of many episodes until Anabel landed in the hospital one afternoon while she was returning from school. It was found out that she was pregnant but a pregnant 14-year old was not going to be left to wander all by herself. So, the nurse on duty asked about her parents but Anabel was so rude. The nurse in response to her behaviour cut her off and concluded that Anabel was definitely a promiscuous teen. Now, to be fair to the nurse, she was also having a bad day. She had just found out that her husband was cheating with her best friend and she’d been kicked out of the house that morning.
Her things were still at the hospital because she was kicked out as she prepared for duty. So having to deal with a rude and promiscuous [in her own understanding] adolescent was not on the agenda. Anabel snuck out of the hospital eventually because she couldn’t deal with such a judgmental nurse as well. When she got home, her dad came, as usual, to rape her only that this time he met with his untimely death. You see, Anabel knew he would come like he always did and hid a kitchen knife under her pillow. As soon as he climbed her, she stabbed him endlessly then stabbed herself. It was the screaming a neighbour heard that made him rush to the house but by the time he got there, her father was dead but she was still alive even though she had cut a major artery. By the time she got to the hospital, she was dead. The nurse on duty recognized her immediately and wondered if the outcome could have been different if only she had stepped into the office of a parent.
This story portrays the influence that all the other co-parents can have on the adolescent and how they can wield this influence to support the level one parents. The parents in all the other levels, that is from levels one to four, are called the collaborators and that’s because they work with you to parent your adolescent.