By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
A mother of five, three of whom are undergraduates, Mrs.Chineze Ajoku, believes that children are more likely to turn out right if given some measure of freedom while growing up. The Head of Youth Department of the Roses Ministry, a faith-based non-profit organization, spoke exclusively to Vista Woman during a recent annual youth seminar put together by the Roses Ministry in Lagos. A graduate of English Language with a Diploma in Secretarial Administration, Mrs.Chimezie Ajoku is the MD/CEO of Cinet Bridal in Lagos.
Some parents claim it’s always difficult to understand young people; what has been your own experience?
It’s not easy working with youths, but for me, it has been interesting because I’m a very friendly person. I have four teenagers, and I’m very close to them. We mix freely, dance, sing, joke, and do all sorts of things. Before you can penetrate the lives of young people, the truth is, you have to be their friend. So, they get close to me naturally. That’s why I always encourage mothers to get close to their children because that’s the only time they can know about their problems. You can’t know someone’s problems when you’re so distant. I have a set of twin boys in the university; one is a member of a musical group and the other is a footballer playing defence. I give them all the moral support instead of preventing them from honing their skills.
In the same way, I make sure they are serious with their academics! I’m able to guide them this way because they are free with me and I know their activities at almost every point. If I were the sort of parent that would warn them against their talents, they would always sneak out without my knowledge! I remember when they had to attend a party organized by their mates after their graduation from secondary school. I allowed them and directed one of their aunts whose house was nearer the venue to go pick them after the party.
To be sure they were all together, I would talk to the aunt on phone and then tell her to give the phone to them. Most times, when you fail to give such freedom to young people, when they enter university or go far away from you, they will engage in all sorts of things because they never had the exposure! When you’re too strict with children, they some tend to behave like late Michael Jackson; when they are old, they will go back to those things they could not do when they were young. So, you allow them go into every crucial stage so that they don’t miss out.
My own parents were liberal and they always trusted me. Still, I didn’t go haywire. When you cage children too much, they tend to misbehave when they are given the slightest freedom. My 19 year old daughter who’s in the university once put the picture of her male friend on her Black Berry profile. I also use a BB because of my kids, so, when I saw the picture, I made a joke about it, that sent her a signal to remove the picture! You see, I had to do that sensibly and like a friend, instead of trying to be a dictator.
But do you know that many parents are of the school of thought that they must be disciplinarians and dictators to get the best out of their child?
It depends on upbringing. People have different backgrounds. I had a liberal background and it did not ruin me. Instead, it made me a better person. Allowing your child to attend parties does not mean the child is being spoilt. Attending parties does not even mean a child keeps an intimate boyfriend or girlfriend. Ideally, girls should have friends that are boys and boys too should have female friends so they are all able to understand one another.
When I was growing up, we had family friends and every now and then, we had parties! I transfer these to my children because I feel it is a fair way of raising children. I lost my mum at the age of 14, but I still remember vividly all the vital things she taught me because we were very close. The popular writer, Ben Carson, expatiated this in one of his books where he talked about the upbringing he got from his mother.
What informed the theme of this annual youth seminar?
The main theme is “The Challenges of Growing Up”, and we know there are lots of challenges associated with growing up. Like I said, I have four teenagers at home, and I know what it means to be a teenage. Each year, The Roses Ministry designs sub-themes. The sub-theme for 2010 was on sexually transmitted diseases because we observed that too many young people sleep around without taking precautions! The Mass Medical Mission collaborated with us on that.
Last year, we talked about abortion because we also observed a high prevalence. This year, we’re looking at peer pressure, dating, alcohol abuse, and others. We had to also talk to them about alcohol because alcohol abuse and smoking start from teenage years and could best be addressed at that stage. We got a doctor who is also a pastor to give a talk on these; teaching them both medically and spiritually.
My father was a medical doctor who had his own hospital, so, I have some measure of understanding about STDs and other health hazards because I had the interest. I studied English Language and also got a diploma in Secretarial Administration. From my knowledge, I teach my children as best as I could, and also try to extend this knowledge to other young people through the Roses Ministry.