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Zuriel Oduwole: Discovering the ‘Star’ early in your child

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Jim Morrison said: “The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”

When we refuse to accept children the way they have been wired, we kill them subtly by trying to turn them to something else. We must help children to find, discover and express themselves, instead of trying to change them.

Prudence Kohl said: “The search for self-worth begins by finding what is indestructible inside, then letting it be.”
When we tamper with the way people are designed and wired, we ultimately set them on the journey of identity crisis.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld said: “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.” Parents should avoid the temptation of forcing their children to fit into their own design, but rather provide them with a platform to stand out with their uniqueness.

Zuriel Elise Oduwole is an American education advocate and filmmaker, best known for her works on the advocacy for the education of girls in Africa. Born in July 2002 in California, United States, to a Nigerian father and a Mauritian mother, she is home-schooled and her advocacy has since made her, in the summer of 2013, at the age of 10, the youngest person to be profiled by Forbes.

In November 2014, at age 12, Zuriel became the world’s youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced and self-edited work screened. After her film showed in two movie chains, it then went on to show in Ghana, England, South Africa and Japan.

She has met with 30 Presidents and Prime Ministers in line with her education advocacy work, including leaders of Jamaica, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Liberia, South Sudan, Malta, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and Namibia. She has also appeared in popular television stations, including CNBC, Bloomberg TV, BBC and CNN.

In 2013, Zuriel was listed in the New African Magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People.” On April 21, 2014, she was listed as the most “Powerful 11 year old in the world” by New York Business Insider’s in its listing of “World’s Most Powerful Person at Every Age.”

In February 2015, Elle Magazine listed her in its yearly feature of “33 Women Who Changed The World.” In December 2015, she formally launched her DUSUSU Foundation aimed at building partnerships with corporation and individuals to develop the education capabilities of children, especially the girl child, across the globe. She started filmmaking at age nine. Her education project for the girl-child kicked off at age 10. Today, at 17, Zuriel, an avowed girl-child empowerment advocate already has five films up her sleeves.

The secret of her breakthrough is in her parents’ ability to discover the ‘star’ in her, while other children at that age were still struggling with their identities or being manipulated by their parents. If you wish to give your child an unusual edge in life, you would have to stick to the following.

Give Them A Platform To Be Themselves
The greatest gift parents can ever give to their children is to provide them with a platform to be themselves. Parents are meant to nurture the uniqueness in their wards. Allow them to make their own mistakes and learn from it. Be a good and empathic listener to your children. Do not dominate conversations when you are talking with your children. Give them the platform to express themselves.

We must allow our children to fully live and experience life. We must prepare them emotionally to live independently of us. Refusal to create a platform for their independency may cause them to cling to insecure ‘anchors’ that are detrimental to their future.
Help Them Nurture Their Gifts And Talents

Zuriel discovered her filmmaking talent at 9. Every child is uniquely gifted. Our work as parents is to nurture the individuality and uniqueness in our wards and not to beat them into the shape or picture we have in our minds. We are responsible, as parents, to help our children discover their gifts, unravel their hidden talents and help them fire up their passion. The world is in a dire need of kids that can solve problems with their gifts and talents. We have the responsibility to nurture their uniqueness.

Don’t Allow Their Schooling To Hinder Their Education
Most of the skills that would help a child survive in life are not found in the classroom. Albert Einstein said: “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Most schools don’t teach children to think or to be creative. Creativity and ‘thinking’ skills are only found in the way a child interacts with life’s challenges and disappointments.

We must endeavour to give our children ample time to do other things that are not school’s homework and assignment. Their vacation periods must not be studded with academic activities alone. Let them travel, learn a new skill, go to orphanage homes and do some volunteering activities.

Find A Mentor That Can Help Them
Every child needs someone they can look up to. Children are in a dire need of models and mentors. Zig Ziglar said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

What a child would ultimately grow up to become is a deep reflection of the values passed down to him/her from the parents and mentors. Children don’t need critics; they need models and mentors.

Give Them Exposure In Their Areas Of Abilities
The greatest form of disability is not knowing our abilities. We should discern our children’s areas of strength and their unique abilities and help them build it. We should give them the exposure that is needed in those areas. When we discover a child’s ability early and help them build it, we give them a unique edge in life.

Monitor, Don’t Manipulate Them
The greatest parental sin and abuse is to manipulate our children to live a life that is not theirs. Many parents already have a script they want their wards to fit into for their own selfish interest. They obsessively try to control their children and dictate how they are supposed to live their lives. These parents want to live their lives through their children, neglecting the fact that those children have their own lives to live.
As parents, we must prepare our children for their future, instead of using them to correct our own past.

Watch What You Say To Them In Their Formative Years
It has been ascertained that the life of a child is fully formed from the words he or she hears between the ages of one and seven years. If there is something that exerts so much influence on children in their formative years, it is the words they hear. Many years after, these words would keep ringing in their heads.

Peggy O’ Mara said: “Watch what you say, for the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” The worst kinds of parents are those that don’t know how to use their tongue. Parents should avoid cursing and ridiculing words. Children will surely make mistakes; we all do. When we yell at children for making mistakes, we ultimately kill their ability to innovate.

Don’t Skip Processes For Them
The process validates the products. Don’t help them skip difficult processes; it is actually part of what is meant to form them. You cannot help your child skip the basic process of life and expect him or her to live a fulfilling life. What many parents fail to realise is that the more we help our children avoid facing their own challenges, the more we make them unfit for the future.

Hellen Keller said: “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” We need to have strong faith in the processes of ‘evolution’ of our children. Parents must be mature enough to expose their children to life situations that would shape them for the future. A smooth sea never made a skilful sailor and every problem introduces a person to him/herself.

Parents who tend to dominate their children’s choices eventually produce obedient, but dependent children. We must encourage decision-making from an early age. We must subtly expose them to the risk of choices and consequences in life. We must raise our children in a way that promotes self-confidence, adaptability, self-respect and optimism. This way, we reduce their vulnerability.


In this article:
Zuriel Oduwole
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