Loom Staff Member Eugenie Adamah-Tassah reflects on a recent CCS testimony, growing up in Cameroon, and her own role as a parent and mentor.
Teaching biblical principles that support raising children in a safe and loving environment has been one of the driving forces behind Loom’s Celebrating Children Seminars (CCS). As I reflect on the different testimonies and stories we have been receiving from the participants in East Africa, I wanted to share my thoughts and impressions. How do I, as an adult, embrace God’s intention for my children in the ways I discipline them?
Since last year and throughout the lockdowns and the impact of the pandemic, Loom’s CCS facilitators never ceased to marvel at the testimonies they received from the various participants in their programs. One of the testimonies reads as follows:
“I am Marion, married mother of four children and a trainer of Hairdressing. I was one of ten students in the workshop and learnt how to handle children and listen to them. Since childhood, I have never experienced love from my parents. That’s why I also didn’t have love for my children. After attending two workshops this November and December my life changed and I started loving, handling and listening to my children and even taking care of my students’ children because some of them are mothers. I was also able to gather a group of women, especially mothers in the community and share with them those teachings. Through my sharings after the training many families in the community have been touched. I would love to attend more CCW training to learn more and help my nation.”
One of the teachings that has impacted the participants is about listening to children in order to value their ideas and to provide them with the support they need in order to fully live the life God intends for them. Listening to a child promotes the child’s understanding that they too have something to contribute in this life. It helps create a stronger bonding between the adult and the child because of the trust that is being established through healthy communication. Church leaders, parents, teachers, adults, and ministry leaders have expressed how these teachings impacted their perspectives on listening to children. This is a big eye-opening experience that has freed participants from their former models and turned them to new ways to raise their children.
As a parent, and an adult who wants to align my heart attitude with biblical principles of raising children, I have applied this same principle in my family. I see how important it is to be intentional in fostering an attitude that allows my children to share their thoughts with me and know they are being listened to. The result is a healthier relationship between my children and myself upon this foundation of trust.
I often think of the times my dad and I would go on father-daughter trips, where the whole trip would be dedicated for me to talk with my dad. I did not even realize what a blessing this was until I noticed that it was an uncommon thing in my culture to let children share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas with their parents. My mom did not travel much with us, but her time with me was either while teaching me a new recipe or braiding my hair. She always made me talk and I never questioned why. I simply thought it was normal.
The day I realized I was brought up in a counter-cultural manner was when my uncle commented on my parents’ way of raising us and said they were spoiling us by letting us have a say in our family’s decisions. I also realized that it was uncommon to listen to children, because the adults didn’t understand that this skill would help the child or young person to develop healthy habits and build trust. In fact, when we allow children to express themselves freely, we empower them to reach higher potential. They develop healthy communication skills, critical thinking, creative thinking, strong self-esteem, and the acknowledgement that they too have a role to play in the present.
When I listen to my children, I am reminded that I am cultivating a two-way communication dynamic where the child is put first on my agenda. I practice giving full attention to the child and allow the child to lead the conversation. Sometimes, things that come out of those moments are mind-blowing! My daughter once asked questions about a family member who has been known for making choices that are not well thought out. She then expressed her desire to speak to this adult and to pray for them as well.
I like the Message’s version of Proverbs 22:6 that reads “Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.” My children and I have been reading and doing research on stars recently, and I am amazed by the role that the Polestar (North Star) plays in giving direction to people, a proven scientific fact. As an adult, I am called to be this polestar to my own children and to all the young lives around me. I must not be one that misleads them.
How am I pointing them in the direction that would cause them to grow and become all that God has called them to be? Can I find ways to create a space for a dialogue that will help form these young lives into the women and men God has created them to be?
Many times children are not given enough opportunity to express themselves as children, and have the adult be the North star in their lives. Our attitudes toward them can derail them and mislead them. Imagine a North star that points to the west. How devastating that would be for the world! It is the same with an adult who fails to be the North star in the lives of children and youth. It results in damaging the lives of these children and youth.
In my two years with Loom, I have learned and strongly believe that as an adult, I am called to be held accountable to the biblical standards of living a life that models love and care for the vulnerable people around me, especially children and youth. Every child needs to be given the opportunity to grow in a healthy, loving, caring, nurturing environment where their potential finds favorable ground to grow.
In this unstable and constantly changing world, God is calling me to be the Polestar for my children, as well as for other children and youth in my life, and for the adults around me who can use these skills to improve their care for children. I am called to anchor these children and youth in the direction they should go and to be a dependable and trustworthy adult that children and youth can lean on. I am to be the supportive voice for other parents around me and be intentional in creating a space where children are listened to.
In my childhood, my parents (especially my dad) understood this principle well and never stopped me from sharing my thoughts with him. But I also witnessed the impact of our traditional beliefs, which caused parents to fail to provide that space for their children to be heard. Cultural and traditional pressures cause even children who grow up in a loving and caring environment to fail to embrace that love and care at times. But the more people understand the importance of these principles, the more these values will be implemented in homes and impact the communities.