In those days, there were a lot of influences, a lot of discipline and a lot of togetherness in Ika culture. Then, a child in the family was a child for all because it was a polygamous society. For a child in that setting, every woman was a mother. A child could eat anywhere without suspicion. Then, life was very interesting because people admired children. A child of one person was a child of everybody. Within the environment, people corrected other people’s children as did their own without hesitation. An elder who saw children misbehaving would come out and caution them, advise them, make the younger one know that he or she was guilty of daring to abuse his or her senior. It was when this had been done that the guilty person would be properly cautioned or possibly spanked by him.
Everybody could affect discipline whether known, unknown, neighbours, family and large family members. For instance, if your mother sent you on an errand and you had to be seen wasting time by playing with other children, your mother needn’t be there to show her displeasure. Any neighbour or any family member, indeed, anybody would call you, pull your ears and ensured that you ran the errand as demanded.
It was the same thing with the school. A school child then was in the eyes of everybody, teachers, traders or others. A stranger living near the school could have a great influence on his regular attendance at school. Many children stuck to going to school regularly because such a person would not only pull a child’s ears but would have threatened to report the child to the headmaster or any teacher from the school if the child was fumbling with his schooling. So, discipline was extremely valued and imparted by everybody in society. Children even begged their neighbours and friends of their families not to report them to their parents and teachers. If for instance, a child sighted his teacher, he or she would run and hide not to be seen. The greatest threat at home then was for a child to be told that he would be reported to his teacher or headmaster. He or she had better done the correct thing rather than being reported in the school by his parents. In those days in Ika, teachers were like semi-gods; and children thought that after their teachers, there was nobody anywhere again.
Again, somehow, because of the early age, discipline was drummed into children on what they had to do. For example, a parent had a trick with which she or he made a child run an errand without any waste of time. She or he would spit on the ground and say “if you return from where I send you before the spittle dries up, your navel would shrink up and that would be very dangerous for you.” So, the child would run all the way and be back in good time.
Sibling Interaction in Ika Culture
Ika parent respondents confirmed that some children often asked where the baby comes from. While some parents show sympathy and encourage the attitude towards children curiosity, some parents evade the issue by telling the children that such questions are forbidden. Among some literate parents, children are told about the impending arrival of a baby without a detailed explanation. Some tell their children that babies come from God, or from the hospital, or the maternity home or that father brings the new baby, etc.
Children are generally expected to show expressions of affection towards the new baby, and every effort is made to discourage siblings jealousy. Although there is evidence that in most households, children are treated impartially with little or no preference of one over another, there is no doubt that the new baby, on arrival, becomes the locus of new interest and so, receives the greatest share of the mother’s love. If there is any sign of jealousy, the child responsible is mildly reprimanded. However, the mother does everything possible to reassure the older child of her affection. She may let the older child hold the baby with her, or make him sit on her lap occasionally. He may be allowed to continue to share the same bed with the mother and the baby. As soon as possible, both children are made to eat together. The older child may be encouraged even to feed the baby, look after him when the mother is cooking and play and share his toys with him. At times, the mother, to discourage siblings’ jealousy, may threaten to give away the baby. This, according to respondents, is always effective in that the child will dissuade the mother from giving away the baby. In this and other ways, parents establish a fondness for one another among the children.
Older children are encouraged to protect and care for their younger siblings; and reciprocally, the younger children are expected to respect the older siblings. Age, of course, is not only respected but also revered. Hence the ordinal position of each child is given due recognition. For instance, when parents share out food or any other thing to the siblings, the oldest child is usually the first to be offered the share due to him or her, the shares differing in size according to the ages of the children. Thus, the oldest child receives the largest share while the youngest gets the smallest. As far as food is concerned, children can go for second, third and fourth servings, if they like. After the initial sharing, no further protocol is observed. When children have some work to do, the oldest child is given the biggest share of responsibility. There is a direct relationship between privilege and responsibility, and the oldest head carries the greatest burden.
The relationship among siblings in Ika culture is usually very cordial. In polygamous families, the father to whom all the children owe a common loyalty usually fosters this relationship. Occasionally, however, cases of rivalry, encouraged by co-wives are not uncommon, but they are never allowed to develop into siblings antagonisms.
EMOTIONAL BEHAVIOUR CULTURE OF THE IKA CHILD
Emotional drive in the child is mostly acquired in many forms. The pattern and rhythm of emotional development depend upon the family and environmental setting of the child and are greatly influenced by age and sex. There is much emotional behaviour in Ika culture, but anger, fear and love are here discussed, for example.
Children’s emotions arise when something unusual happens to them. For instance, children may be angry.
i. When they are not given what they want;
ii. When they are deprived of some privilege or toy, and when food is withheld from them;
iii. When scolded or prevented from pursuing some activities of interest;
iv. In connection with hunger or the absence of a loved one, usually the parents;
v. When they disagree with playmates;
vi. When their parents are abused or spoken of in derogatory terms by playmates or others;
vii. If a playmate beats their brother or sister;
viii. If someone interferes with what they consider to be their rights;
ix. Over alleged discrimination in the division of x. food among them by parents or other adults;
xi. When adults fail to keep their promise to the child;
xii. When children feel they have been falsely accused, etc.
Expression of Anger
Observations show that an infant expresses his anger by thrashing the arms and legs and crying. Anger is also expressed in the form of temper tantrums (fits of bad temper or anger), frowning, disobedience, striking siblings, parents, or playmates and in some extreme cases, throwing stones. Some children show anger by destroying or throwing away things, kicking, hitting or fighting the person who makes them angry. Some reject food when angry, or mutter words or use insulting language.
How Anger is handled
When children show rage behaviour, they may be totally ignored by parents and adults if the cause of the anger is known to be trivial and uncalled for. The child may even be reprimanded or spanked, especially if he shows anger by physical aggression. When mothers feel that they are the cause of the rage behaviour, they usually assuage the child by conciliation, and by calling him nice pet names and hugging him. They may offer him small gifts of fish, meat, and fruit. Respondents hold the view that angry children usually grow up into pleasant adults, but do not put on proper weight, and hence look undernourished. As a rule, anger in young children is short-lived. Quarrels among them are easily settled and normal relations re-established.
Among older children, the causes of anger are fewer but the duration is longer. Crying as a means of showing anger is more frequent among younger children of both sexes than older children, and among girls than boys. Crying among older boys is regarded as a sign of cowardice. But old children express rage behaviour in more determined terms in the form of frowning, scolding, bullying, withdrawal and disobedience. Old girls usually express anger against their friends and playmates by refusing to be on speaking terms, and by making use of riddles to ridicule them. With older children, reprimand, appeal to family sentiments and withholding of privileges are the usual methods of handling rage behaviour by parents.
Ika, with her teeming population of the illiterate peasantry, is a nation where suspicion and ignorance still exist sufficiently enough to condition children to fear things real and unreal. It is, therefore, necessary to find out what the fears of the Ika children are. Fear is, however, common to everybody in the world, both young, older adolescents and adults.
The objects feared by the young Ika children include animals, strange people, for instance, a Hausa man is feared most because of his baggy dress and turban which are unusual in Ikaland, robbers, kidnappers, darkness, being alone, masquerade, loud noise such as thunder, the mooing of cows, the sound of an aeroplane, the barking of a dog, loss of support or being left alone by a parent or older sibling, etc. Fear objects among older children are fewer in number, and some are fears still nursed from childhood. Fears of older children are also more abstract than the fears of younger children and include ghosts, death, failure as well as such concrete objects as animals, witches and wizards. What the children are afraid of depending to a great extent, on their age and experience. During infancy, the child’s fears consist of concrete happenings. But as he grows older, and as his experience enlarges, and his ability increases, he requires more and more competence in dealing with concrete events. To be continued…