Emotional Intelligence...Or the lack thereof of it

...in Nigerian households.

A few days ago I came across a few tweets (by @fantabender) that spoke about the lack of an emotional climate in Nigerian homes. He mentioned how the lack of it can screw you up in so many ways and we have to hold our parents accountable for how they treat us. "Nothing is gained from the mentality that they are beyond critique"

Now these tweets caught my interest because not too long ago I had tweeted something akin to that - well more about how Nigerian parents don't realize how much they contribute to our "fucked-upness" (because we all are in some way or the other) and I had also had a conversation with my cousin about it.

First off, Emotional Intelligence is defined as:

the ability of individuals to recognize their own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

For most Nigerian households, something you might find common is the motto "we just don't talk about it". It's amazing the number of unspoken topics that Naija parents just don't talk about, you are just supposed to know, deal and figure it out or pray it away. It's like important things crucial to growing up are taboo to talk about. We were told stuff much more than we were talked to. Let's not even talk about if a mental issue is involved.

A certain area as a woman I have always wondered about is in the case of marriage. Any Naija girl "of age" knows the pressure they receive to be married. We also know many a story of the generation before us and it's not always a pretty picture and most stayed due to not having options and no financial independence among many things but when it comes to their kids, it's like they just skip all the opportunities to pass down a lesson and keep pushing for marriage. Even when they do give advice sometimes it's head scratch worthy (e.g all men cheat, as long as he's not beating you it's fine etc) Talking about the guys, I remember some time when Naija guys were talking about how many of them had hugged their dad or said "I love you" to each other and they weren't many.

Now, don't get me wrong I don't 100% blame them for their actions because that's all they know and learned from their own parents. Just because they don't say it, doesn't mean they don't love you. Naija parents see providing you with the basics and some as love. Paying your school fees is love. Which is all well and good but some form of recognition of issues and actually communicating about them goes a long way.

The repercussions of repression, in any area of life is pretty long term. A lot of people form habits in their love lives and base some life doctrines on stuff they absorbed from their parents and adopted as normal because it is all they know and it's pretty damn hard to shake off a practice when you are older. I acknowledge that parenting is hard and I am sure they do try their best but I hope our generation tries to turn it around and make an effort to be aware of their children's behaviors, create a safe space where the kids feel comfortable talking to mom and dad and generally a healthy space that allows for full development.

P.S My worry for our generation is actually more in the area of empathy. We seem to be so selfish and don't know how to relate to people who have different experiences from what we know and I am hoping this isn't passed down because that's a gateway to intolerance but maybe I am overthinking it.

Ok so disclaimers:

  • My post does not apply to all Naija parents and to everyone and if it doesn't just read and thanks for reading
  • I think you can be close to your parents and still have areas where they were lacking in emotional intelligence. I was close to my mom but I can acknowledge there were just certain things that were no go areas and we just went right along with life.
  • Confess if you said "well, me I don't have fuckedupness o"


Sankofa said…
Very well put. I hardly talk to my parents about anything that actually matters (esp. my mother) and I hope I don't pass it down to my kids. The sad thing is my parents are even better than others I've seen! Granted, I'm Ghanaian but I think this problem is common to many Africans.
mizchif said…
Just last night i saw a tweet about why do Nigerian parents force you to study a course you don't like to which someone responded that Nigerian parents are just sadists. But it's really more about lacking emotional intelligence whilst also wanting what they believe is best for their children and also not really knowing better.

At some point in my life you couldn't convince me that my mother was not a witch. I couldn't understand why she was so hard on me but over the years i've come to understand that in her mind that was her own way of trying to bring out the best in me but having a mother you lived in fear of and could never talk about anything with is not exactly a healthy way to grow up so yea, fuckedupness already set in but now i kinda understand her motives and i know how much she loves us and now i'm constantly practicing a more accommodating type of love with my younger cousins which i hope to continue if and when i have kids.
But generally our culture seems to encourage a just grin and bear it mentality, no matter what it is so thats why in spite of all these older women have suffered in marriage as long as it hasn't killed them, it won't kill you too so just go ahead and enter. Quickly.
I hope as we make these observations we try to make things better when it's our turn. i,e NOW.
Such a good read! We are ALL messed up, I see that as the one thing that we have in common :).

Our generation has the opportunity to strike that balance between the wonderful lessons and values that we were raised with, and what we may have seen outside of the home that is good but so different from our upbringing! It won't be easy but it's important; it's the only we we can avoid messing up our children or other young ones that we get to mentor in the future!

I agree with you on the topic of empathy! I'm often struck by how selfish I can be at times, seeing things from my perspective only.
jennifer said…
this post really struck a chord in me because I struggle with it. What pisses me off the most is the idea that most parents feel like they are above reproach. Have you ever tried to get a 9ja mom to see things from your perspective or see why you could have been upset something they did to you? I remember getting into a fight with my mom for something that was completely her fault and as usual went to apologize and thought I'd take that opportunity to "talk with her" seeing as we're both adults ( I was 27) yeah that did not go well at all. She straight up told me that since I'm the child, I cannot get angry....where they do that at?

Let's not event talk about how some parents have had terrible marriages and are probably divorced but would still tell you that your life means nothing unless a man has married you. You would think their terrible experiences would be an opportunity to pass on a different message of independence and self fulfillment. I swear somethings I feel like i'm living in an alternative universe and one day I'll wake up.


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