1.1 Background to the Study
Parenting involves the process of nurturing and building up the physical, emotional, social, intellectual and moral life of a child from infancy to adulthood. Proper parenting is therefore, an integral part of transferring social norms to, and raising responsible citizens among, younger generations. This explains why the Old Testament aptly links proper parenting to a healthy and well-organized society (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). However, poor parenting has become a common, universal problem that threatens the well-being and survival of contemporary societies. More-so, several other social problems that are rampart in the modern era are by-products of the problem of poor parenting. Yet, the Bible is a rich source of good parenting models. Particularly, the Old Testament writings contain patterns of parenting that tend towards raising children who are wholesome individuals and who go on to ensure a healthy society. This goes on to reveal God’s intention to build human societies that are devoid of corruption, indiscipline and violence. Furthermore, it lays the foundation for each individual member of the family and society to be humane, patriotic and constructive.
Currently in the Nigerian society, there is a general decline in the standard of morality among the citizenry and President Goodluck E. Jonathan in Ombe (2012) attributed the problem to the lack of right attitude to issues and realities of life among the citizenry. Even-though this ugly trend of moral depravity and negative outlook to life cuts across the age groups, Okoye (2012) maintains that it is more ravaging
among the youths in Nigeria. The implication is that young people are at the centre of the high and increasing levels of social vices such as prostitution, armed robbery, corruption and general insecurity. This point is also buttressed by Mariety (2009) who observes that the youths in Nigeria are involved, and in most cases in the vanguard, of violent conflicts that have occurred in different parts of the country in recent times. This primarily implies that the major problem with the Nigerian society is structural in the sense that something is apparently going wrong at the home front and the nation is feeling its effects in terms of youth dysfunction and depravity, which dovetails into various other social and moral problems. The bigger effect of this problem leads to the observation of Nwabueze in Edike (2013) that Nigeria is on the verge of becoming a failed state. According to him,
This country is on the verge of becoming a failed state, there are so many failed states in Africa and Nigeria is on the verge of getting that status of a failed state. Before now, we did not know about kidnapping, but it has become a way of life. Did we know about bombings before? But today, churches, schools, offices are being bombed on daily basis, the worst is that the bombers are not coming from outside the country, we are bombing ourselves. A nation that cannot provide a credible election for her people is a failed state; in 2003, 2011 we had no credible elections, yet we are talking about democracy. A country that cannot secure social and economic rights for her people is a failed state. Read chapter 2 of Nigeria’s constitution and you will understand what I am taking about, they are not leaders but looters.
On the strength of the foregoing, this work argues that despite the fact that so many other factors contribute to the increase in the tide of crime, immorality and general dysfunction among the youths, the problem of poor parenting is highly fundamental. This stems from the observation that whatever one sees in the larger society is a reflection of what goes on in the family. In other words, although the
researcher acknowledges other causes of the unfortunate culture of wanton waste and impunity but this study pitches its tent with poor parenting. The major factor in taking this position is orchestrated by the manner of child upbringing, which is being referred to here as poor parenting. By extension, this means that there is a slack in parenting today and as a result, certain un-cherished behaviours are fast becoming the culture of the people. This view is buttressed by Azu (2012:1) who observes:
With the prevailing situation in Nigeria the country is in dire need of innovative parenting to raise outstanding children and rebuild it. It has been established that poor parenting is at the heart of the numerous challenges facing the society today: be it economic, social or political.
Arising from this development, the major institution that is responsible for raising children and building the youth is the family. More-so, within the family the only process that facilitates the proper upbringing of children and inculcating values that make them constructive citizens is parenting. Thus, considering the place of proper parenting in national development, this work undertook to examine the problems associated with parenting. This is because proper parenting is a fundamental strategy to ensuring a peaceful and stable society. In other words, in any society where there is a culture of right parenting, there is a viable and enterprising future for that society. In accomplishing the task of this study, the Old Testament model of parenting is analysed with the hope of identifying its strong areas and using them to recommend changes in contemporary parenting patterns while hoping to transform modern day society into a peaceful, stable and cohesive haven.
1:2 Statement of Problem
In the Nigerian society, there is an apparent show of lawlessness and resilient display of various social vices. This ugly trend does not in any way suggest that it is a recent development. For a long time, the culture of lawfulness, accountability, responsibility and social integration was short-changed for mediocre values and many factors are being blamed for the down turn of events in Nigeria. Even though the list is endless, some of them include, the ever-increasing rise in unemployment, corruption in the leadership class, lop-sidedness in the distribution of national resources, political and administrative positions, ineptitude and the disregard of the principles of rule of law among the ruling class.
Giving the foregoing, previous and present governments and non-governmental organizations have committed efforts and resources to bring the tide of lawlessness and the culture of corruption to the barest minimum. This they do by carrying out several awareness campaigns aimed at sensitizing the people on the danger of such careless lifestyle. Both private and public stakeholders commit so much resources to the education sector in the attempt to produce a generation that will be marked by peace and resourcefulness. Many programmes have been introduced and some of them are still on-going in a bid to stem the tide of violence and criminality in the society.
Considering all the effort of the government and other stakeholders in ensuring that a society that would be peaceful and responsible emerges from Nigeria, one is surprised to find that the more all these are being done the more the situation worsens. This makes one to realize that something very fundamental is at the heart of the problem and is grossly lacking. It was in the quest to finding out the fundamental cause of the current social and religious turmoil that is ravaging the nation that this study was targeted at the family as the smallest image of the society. Given the saying that the family is a unit of the society, it therefore means that if the society is troubled, there is a very high probability of a massive problem of lack of proper and effective parenting in the various families that constitute the society. This work proposes that why things are not getting better in the Nigerian society despite all the efforts and resources being committed into solving the problem is largely due to a fundamental problem of poor parenting.
Various fields of studies like, psychology, sociology, guidance and counselling have developed theories aimed at helping mankind to promote healthy living and develop good inter-personal relationships in the society. However, there are some fundamental problems in the home that spill into the larger society and that tend to frustrate the efforts of scholars in this direction. This is because as human relationships continue to deteriorate within families, the very fabric of society is being torn apart and society is not healed of tumults from the family. Conversely, if society itself is to grow stronger, the turnaround must begin within the family structure.
Although Achebe (1984) has argued that the trouble with Nigeria is a failure of leadership. But if these leaders had been properly raised by parents, the society would have been better off. This is why this study attempts to evaluate and analyse the fundamental problem of the Nigerian society, namely poor parenting. More so, a cursory look at the social ills ravaging the nation reveals such problems as kidnapping, socio-religious and ethnic unrest, fraud, armed robbery and prostitution. These are largely youth crimes, attesting to the fact that the home – the natural industry for proper upbringing, is seriously under siege and can no longer be ignored. Hence, even though one cannot propound a single theory that will solve the whole problem, yet it is important to tackle it from the source and explore options from a wider range of possibilities.
It is therefore, the problem of this study that the numerous social ills reflect a crucial disorientation at the basic level of socialization which is the family. Yet, there has not been a study of this nature at this level to identify the thorny issues that constitute the causative factors, as well as to establish the effects of the problem and posit alternative child upbringing models, especially as evident in the Old Testament society that is well documented.
1.3 Objectives of Study
The aim of this study is primarily to identify the deficiencies and expose the challenges that abound in the Nigerian society in the area of children upbringing. It also includes presenting the effects of these deficiencies and challenges. In contemporary society, many parents and teachers have suffered and some are still experiencing pain over the challenges of parenting because they find it difficult to influence and/or control their children. In many cases, the agony and heartbreak that children cause their parents could be averted if parents are equipped with better information and strategic parenting skills. In view of this missing link, this work presents the Old Testament model as a guide with an illustration of the training package portrayed through the lives of some individuals and their relevance to their society and humanity in general.
Therefore, it is a pivotal position of this study that an effective programme for introducing and counselling parents on child upbringing will initiate the necessary measure to check further deterioration of moral standards in the society. It is therefore the intention of this study to bring to the knowledge of the public, particularly parents, the biblical principles of child upbringing and parenting as contained in the Old Testament.
To put it succinctly, the specific objectives of this thesis include to: (i) Highlight the Biblical principles of child upbringing as contained in the Old Testament, (ii) examine the defects attendant in the method of parenting prevalent in the present-day society, and (iii) apply the principle to the Nigerian contemporary context as a valid alternative to parenting.
Canonical criticism is the method adopted in this research. This is a branch of biblical criticism. According to Myers (1987: 156):
Biblical criticism is a variety of techniques and disciplines that has been employed in an effort to determine the exact and original wording of the biblical text and to seek to elucidate its meaning for both its original audience and today by examining matters of authorship, transmission, and application.
While fundamentalists like Kreeft (1988) and Mather and Nicholas (1993) view this approach as a threat to the authority of the Word, many other scholars recognize the importance of such an approach to biblical studies. According to Soulen and Soulen (2001), biblical criticism comprises of many disciplines which include canonical critical method. In view of the topic of this work and its implication to the contemporary society, the canonical criticism was adopted because according to Oswalt (1987: 318), it involves “paying attention to the present form of the text in determining its meaning for the believing community”. Also, Achtemeier (1985: 135) maintains that:
This is the most recent type of biblical criticism, which builds on the results of earlier methods. Unlike other forms of criticisms, like source and form criticism, canonical criticism places greater emphasis on the final form of the canonical text. It is less interested in the stages of development that led up to the writing of the text or even the various literary aspects of a work. It seeks to take more seriously the fact that the Bible is a collection of canonical writings regarded as sacred and normative in two communities of faith, Israel and the Church.
To achieve this, the researcher used mainly secondary source of data collection. Bearing in mind that certain words used in the Bible often need some appreciable level of explanation, the researcher used exegetical tools such as lexicons, Bible dictionaries and commentaries. In view of the contemporary era, internet materials were also consulted and the information gathered were carefully arranged and analyzed in a manner that enabled the researcher to present the findings in a systematic, cogent and engaging manner.
1.5 Significance of Study
The significance of this study stems from the fact that it addresses basic issues that arise within the family, which is the nucleus of every society. More-so, the family, by virtue of its being the bedrock of all social interactions is the fundamental institution responsible for building and inculcating moral virtues and social norms. Hence, any problem at the family level will definitely result in monumental problems and an erosion of values at the social level. In view of this, the significance of this study includes:
- As an academic material, this study employs the process of systematic research to identify and establish that the problem of poor parenting is at the root of Nigeria’s many problems because it is located at the foundation of human social relations.
- On the strength of the first factor, the study further discovered, developed and proffered valid principles of parenting from the Old Testament that can address this salient threat to national development in Nigeria and be of immense benefit to the contemporary society.
- The study also serves as a valid and insightful resource material that future scholars can consult to gain useful information on the issue of proper parenting and child upbringing in Nigeria. The data collected and analyzed in this study afford a deeper view into the challenges and possible solutions associated with parenting in contemporary society.
On the practical dimension, this work is significant because:
- It will afford stakeholders in the field of care-giving and family-related counseling an opportunity to improve on their knowledge bank on the issue of parenting and child upbringing. In other words, this material will ensure that professionals in the field of providing care and advice to parents and children are better equipped to carry out their responsibilities and discharge their duties to the society.
- A study of this nature will be beneficial to policy makers, government officials, non-governmental organizations, institutions, parastatals and other groups and individuals. This is so because the task of nation building is the responsibility of all and sundry. More so, every individual begins life from the nest of a family. This study, therefore intends to provide the missing link in adequately addressing one of Nigeria’s most pressing social problems.
1.6 Scope of Study and Limitation
Nigeria’s many socio-political problems are indicative of a more fundamental problem, namely the instability in the family arising from poor parenting. The recurrent nature of the problems further attest to the fact that many people are at a loss on what to do to improve the quality of their home life. Consequent upon this fact, the major premise and scope of the study is centred on the injunction in Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 regarding the principles of family interaction and child upbringing in the Old Testament and its application to the present Nigerian society. In addition, the scope of the study also includes biblical references made from other passages in the Old Testament with some illustrations drawn from the account of certain people who were trained according to the Old Testament tradition and who became relevant to their society. This will be used as a model to show the importance of healthy family interaction and good parenting to the building of the Nigerian state. The scope and context of intervention specified by the study is, however, with particular reference to families and areas where the presence and praxis of the Bible and the church are strong and influential.
Limitation of Study
This study was carried out over a long period of time and amidst very many herculean challenges. Some of these were due to demands on time and finances, while some others were constraints placed by the needs of both the family and duty. However, the greatest limitation resulted from the scanty data available on a matter such as the focus of the study. Rather than deter the completion of the work, these and other problems served to motivate our persistence to plunge into the work and get the desired result. Thus, because of the value of such a work as this for the survival, sustenance and future of the family and the nation, we refused to be deterred and kept on ploughing until the ground broke and yielded. The time that this process took was tedious and in many cases, daunting.
Again, neither the church nor individuals were very forth coming to discuss issues surrounding the family. For some people, these hesitation and sometimes blunt refusal was due to ignorance as some people thought they would be exposed. Some others thought it was out of place to discuss personal matters with an ‘outsider’ or even a total ‘stranger’ as the case may be. This was a huge barrier to the work and caused incessant bottlenecks in the clog of progress. In fact, the study was eventually skewed towards secondary sources, as many respondents were also reticent about the issues raised.
1.7 Definition of Key and Related Terms
Terms are often defined in studies like this one to bring about clarity to the work. On this note, it became pertinent to define basic and unconventional terms that were used in this work. The term in this research work is parenting.
Parenting generally describes the work of parents. According to Martin (1995: 278), parents are:
Individuals who have primary responsibility and authority in raising a child. They may be biological parents, foster parents, or significant others who replace legal guardians as primary providers and protectors. Parents are those people who by assuming responsibility for the child’s development serve as primary caretakers.
It is the fundamental duty of parents to provide early guidance and emotional support for their children to enable them become responsible in the society. This implies that parenting refers to the other aspects of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.
In the views of Robin (2006: 80), “parenting is usually done by the biological parents of the child in question, although governments and society take a role as well”. In many cases, orphaned or abandoned children also receive some level of parental care from non-blood related parents. This care is often transmitted within the context of an adoption, in foster homes and/or orphanages. Samuel (2008: 34) also sees parenting as “the practice of supporting and nurturing a child from infancy to maturity”. In amplifying this definition, Okwueze (2003: 63-67) posits that the work of parenting includes input from “the nuclear and extended family members, elders, members of one’s kindred, age-grade members and others who play a particular role at one point or the other, for the general well-being of any child in the society”. By implication, parental work is seen as a collective endeavour. Therefore, in the context of this work, parenting is seen as a process of training which involves a number of different individuals or groups in the society. Hence, it is not an exclusive work engaged in by the biological parents.
Family is an important concept as far as parenting is concerned. There can be no successful parenting and child upbringing without talking about family. There is no Old Testament word, according to Williams (1997), “which corresponds exactly to the modern family of mother, father and children”. (p.166). He went on to say that family might also mean tribe or nation. However, in this study, the understanding of family as presented by Williams (1997) “as a unit of society …and consisted of husband, his wife, children, slaves and also various dependants such as servants…” (p.168) would be considered. In support of this view, Okwueze (2003) refers to family “as the primordial society-the society at its minute level” (p.69). Although, there could be families without biological children, in case of barrenness, but generally, it is expected that in a family of husband and wife there should be a child/children. So the general nature of family as expressed above is hereby adopted.
Biologically, a child (plural: children) is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. However, there is a sense in which the idea of being a child covers every human being whose parents are still alive. In that sense therefore, one does not over-grow being a child until ones parents are dead. This paradigm shift in the meaning of a child is embedded in the Old Testament. For example, in 1 Samuel 3, Eli was held responsible for the sins of his sons. It is obvious from the biblical account that the sons of Eli were adults, yet it was expected that the parents would not relinquish their parental responsibility on them as long as they are alive. Hence Eli was not exonerated from the sins of his children but was punished along with them. In this work, a child is seen as being between the stages of birth and puberty; however, the paradigm shift as portrayed in the Old Testament is reflected.
The concept “love” has a variety of meanings in different contexts. Love, according to Oxford Illustrated American Dictionary is the state of feelings, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection to pleasure. It can be seen as an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary sees love as a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection, that is, “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. Love also is described as compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one’s self or animals. However, Deem (2011:1) points out that” “the true meaning of love, as defined in the Bible, has been corrupted in the common usage of our English language and society. Hence, love is being confused with infatuation – that is, a strong feeling of affection that seems silly or extreme to other people”.
Similarly, Morris (n.d) explains that in the Old Testament, there are different Hebrew words used for “love” and these often have wide variations in meaning, depending on the context. Some of the meanings in the Jewish tradition include familial, covenantal, compassionate, friendship, romantic, and neighbourly love, but in all of these overarching issues, justice is a motif that is often interlaced directly with love. However, the basic Hebrew word for “love”אָהַ֙בְתָּ֙ ahavah means intimate or romantic feelings or relationships, such as the love between parent and child, as in Genesis 22:2; 25: 28; 37:3; the love between close friends as in I Samuel 18:2, 20:17; or the love between a young man and young woman as in Song of Songs. Another Hebrew word for love is חֶ֕סֶדchesed which is often translated as “loving-kindness” or “steadfast love, as in Genesis 24:12. Other Hebrew words sometimes translated as “love” includeרַעְיָתre’ut that is, the love for a friend or companion, as in Songs of Solomon 1:9.
In the New Testament period there are four major Greek words that were used to describe love. They are:
Eros έρος, Love – A word that was not actually used in the New Testament, however, it was of common usage in the society during the New Testament era. It meant physical passion; its gratification and fulfilment.
Storgeστοργὴ, Love – Storge was not used in the New Testament. However, it was also used in the day-to-day life in the society (4 Maccabees 14:13). It is the natural bond between mother and infant, father, children, and kin.
Phileoφιλέω, Love – Phileo is a love of the affections. It is delighting to be in the presence of another, a warm feeling that comes and goes with intensity.
Agape ἀγάπη, Love – Agape love is God’s kind of love. It is seeking the welfare and betterment of another regardless of how one feels. It is generally termed ‘unconditional’ love.
According to the New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of English Language, to teach is seen as imparting knowledge to someone by lessons or giving of instructions. It also means to guide by precept or examples. In other words, it is an act of making things known or communicating the knowledge of something to someone. In essence, it entails the development of mental powers of someone through training and education. In this work, it is taken to mean the act of imparting knowledge, precepts, caring and giving of sustenance necessary for one’s physical, mental and moral growth.
According to Kumar, Abbas and Fausto (2005) the heart is a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood throughout the blood vessels to various parts of the body by repeated, rhythmic contractions. It is found in all animals with a circulatory system. In humans, the heart is situated in the centre of the chest with its apex directed to the left side of chest. It is the source and centre of emotional life, where the deepest and sincerest feelings are located and a person is most vulnerable to pain.
In addition, Adam (1979) says that the word “heart” is used more than 1000 times in the Old and New Testaments. It is one designation of the non-material side of man, along with soul, spirit, mind, conscience, and will. Heart in the Bible is the inner life that one lives before God and himself, a life that is unknown to others because it is hidden from them. In other words, it is the most fully developed, most far-reaching and most dynamic concept of the non-material man. Therefore, one may likely say that the “heart” is the – the real person. However, that is not always the case in the sense that each person has varied thoughts, both good and evil, that do not manifest into the physical world. In essence, the real person also includes the restraining forces, conscience and will, that prevent these thoughts of the heart from becoming apparent in speech and actions.
More-so, in the bible, the heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. “Heart” and “soul” are often used interchangeably (Deut. 6:5; 26:16; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33), but this is not generally the case. Hence, in the context of this work, the heart is the “home of the personal life”.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the concept, soul, is the immortal essence of a person or living thing. Eardley and Still (2010:34) comment that the immortal souls belong only to human beings” and in view of this, Thomas Aquinas attributed “soul” (anima) to all organisms but taught that only human souls are immortal. On this note, Strauss (n.d: 1) comments that the soul is the seat of passions, feelings, and desires of man, as F. W. Grant, cited in Strauss (n.d) explains that the soul is the seat of the affections, right or wrong, of love, hate, lusts, and even the appetites of the body.
Might is a concept that depicts the power, force, or influence held by a person or group. It also portrays the physical strength or ability to do something.The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of English Language defines might as the ability to do something requiring force or power. In the context of this work, might is used in the sense that man possesses great resources, ability, authority and power which could be used positively for the progress of the society.
- Old Testament
The Old Testament is the first part of the Bible, comprising thirty-nine books and corresponding approximately to the Hebrew Bible. “Most of the books were originally written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, between about 1200 and 100 bc. It begins with the creation, but the main theme of the Old Testament is the history of the Hebrews”. (World Encyclopaedia: 2005). In addition, it contains prophetic writings, poetry, and short narrative tales. It comprises the Pentateuch or Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy); the Historical Books (Joshua to 1 and 11 Kings); the Wisdom Books (Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastics); the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel); the 12 Minor Prophets (Hosea to Malachi); and the miscellaneous collection known as the Writings (including Psalms, Song of Songs, etc.). They comprise the chief texts of the law, history, prophecy, and wisdom literature of the ancient people of Israel.
The Old Testament has had the widest acclaim of all writings in the fields
of literature, history, and religion. According to Schultz & Smith (2001:12) “Jews, Muslims, and Christians find their beginnings in the Old Testament. It continues to attract and challenge the keenest scholars and meet the needs of even the humblest of every generation”. Continuing, Schultz and Smith maintained that while the Old Testament is seen as sacred history:
The Old Testament gives an account of natural events, guided by and interwoven with the supernatural activity of God. In times of both blessing and adversity in Israel, God was accomplishing His purposes in national and international developments. Consequently, the Old Testament can be interpreted properly only when both the natural and the supernatural are recognized in its pages.
Okwueze (1998:1) agrees and states that “in order to read the Old Testament intelligently, we must remember that its history is marked by and built around not only simple historical events but is basically a spiritual and religious history”
The Old Testament provides the historical background by which we are able to
understand the New Testament. This is apparent in the fact that the New Testament contains over 600 references or allusions to the Old Testament. Jesus and the apostles repetitively appealed to it in their teaching. Paul used the Old Testament with prodigious effectiveness as he went from synagogue to synagogue to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (cf. Acts 17:3, 11–13; 18:5, and others).
In contemporary Christianity, the Old Testament is more neglected than the New Testament. This is because of the prominence of law in the Old Testament, and of the Gospel in the new; readers do not always clearly comprehend that God’s grace operated throughout the history of His dealings with people. Those who depict the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath and judgment, and think of God in the New Testament as a God of love, should not overlook the fact that Moses (Deut. 4–6), Jeremiah (9:23, 24), and others epitomized Him as the God of love and justice. The apostle Paul, who was scrupulously versed in the Old Testament, called God the “Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3).
Nevertheless, the Old Testament has abundant of mystery about it. Its pages
contain the rich literary materials of the entire nation; the ancient people of Israel, and its story encapsulates the formative period of world civilization as it is known in the modern times, starting in the Stone Age and terminating in the world of the Roman Empire. That makes even the most recent parts more than 2,000 years old, while the geneses of its earliest works are likely to remain forever hidden in the mists of antiquity. However, Drane, ( 2000:11) maintained that it is not a dull book, “its unique combination of epic stories, history, reflective philosophy, poetry and political commentary is woven together with all the elements of adventure, excitement and suspense that we might expect to find in a Hollywood thriller”. These have ensured not only its survival, but also its widespread dissemination and continuing appeal to individuals far removed from either the cultural or the religious background in which it originated. In as much as its stories occurred long ago, they have an ongoing fascination for contemporary readers.