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How environment affects child development

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The environment is an important factor in child development. The neighbourhood, family, religious centres, school are a deciding factor to influencing the development of every child. Hence, it is important to ensure that our children’s emotions are not mortgaged.

According to Thankgod Ocheho, child psychologist and founder, TGM Consulting, a child development resource outfit, there are three kinds of environment that influences a child’s development. “The first kind, is a controlling environment where the child’s voice or opinion is irrelevant. It is an oppressive environment; parents, teachers or caregivers who create this kind of environment demand that children should comply with their instructions and rules without questioning them.

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They expect their order to be obeyed without any form of explanation, they implement spanking, screaming, shouting, threatening and different forms of corporal punishment to discipline their children just to simply control their behaviour and put them in order and control.

“However, we must understand that the effects of creating this kind of environment can be very devastating in the mind and behaviour of the child both in the short and long run. So many people who created this kind of environment are ignorant about the effects instead they are more concerned about the satisfaction and joy they derive seeing the child conform to what they want.

“Children who were raised in a controlling manner often develop people-pleasing tendencies because they were groomed to see themselves as being below others and to put others first. They literally learned that their main function was to serve.

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“Controlling parents for example keep controlling their children way into adulthood. They can’t rely on physical methods to control them anymore when the child becomes an adult, so they turn to using guilt-tripping, shaming, silent treatment and playing a victim.”

Ocheho noted that adversity and conflict is another environment unhealthy for a child. When a child is exposed to adversity or conflict within the family system it affect his or her development as the child begins to grow. Some research suggests that negative experiences early in life can hinder children development of purpose and motivation, even decades later.

“However, a child who experience adversity doesn’t mean he or she is doomed for life, but the child is exposed to potential risk factors. Poverty, abuse, war, divorce, death of loved one or health issues can affect the development of a child. I know some of this adversity is not within the control of parents but ensure that even when it is not within your control, you provide support to the child so that it doesn’t affect the child so much.

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It’s important for an environment to be created in order for the child to emotionally evolve and develop in a healthy way. Parents or teachers who support the development of autonomy are involved in their child’s life but encourage independence and problem-solving skills. It’s important for parents or teachers to give children both age-appropriate autonomy and agency. By doing so, they help them develop at an appropriate level. This can have the effect of greater emotional well-being.

The mental health professional stressed that when children are autonomous, they are more likely to feel capable of making their own healthy choices. By supporting children in the development of autonomy, parents also help children learn about family values, social norms, and essential rules.

“You can create this kind of environment by providing a rationale and explanation for family rules and behaviour expectations – minimising judgement and control. Many parents may try to control their kids. Allow children make choices; by providing age-appropriate opportunities for children to make independent choices and decisions, parents are giving them a healthy sense of control.”

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