DADDY PROMISED ME A DENTAL BRACE IF I COULD PASS MY EXAMINATION: ANOTHER LESSON FROM INSIDE MY CONSULTING ROOM
Dr. Adesida Adewumi
He came with his father into my consulting room. They could almost pass for twin brothers. The only difference was the build and the look. The father had more build and obviously looked older. That was the result of adolescents’ rapid growth.
Adolescents are people between 10 and 19 years. My patient was 16. Many things are special about people in this age group. One prominent thing is their thinking and view about life. They believe in fairy tales a lot. Don’t mind me talking like I was not once in the same dreamland before age and reality of life woke me up.
“What do I owe this visit to, Victor,” I asked my patient (real name withheld)?
He went straight to the point. “My dad promised me a dental brace for my examination success. I just passed so I am here to get my brace.”
They had gone to the Dental Unit of the hospital earlier. They were directed back to the General Outpatient Department to get referral. So Victor was in my consulting room to get the referral letter to the dentist to get his dental brace promised him for examination success by his father. I asked him if there were any tooth anomalies? What was his reason for wanting a dental brace? I was shocked the answer Victor gave me and this was what prompted me to write this piece. He said the celebrity he loved was using dental brace that was why he wanted it. I am not sure I heard well the reason Victor gave.
As a general practitioner, I know people use dental brace for cosmetic reasons but a teenager of 16 years without any teeth anomalies wanted dental brace because his hero celebrity he was watching on TV was using it? This shock made me turn to the father who granted such request.
In fact, bigger shock came from the father. I asked him if he heard the reason his son gave for getting a dental brace. He said yes and further justified it by saying, “Doctor, what can I do? He said that was what he wanted for his success in the examination. Even at home that is how he behaves. Anything he wants, if you don’t give him, he will not be happy again.”
“Did I just hear that from Victor’s dad?” I screamed in my head. “A 16-year-old boy dictates what he wants to you at home and you are the father and parent?” I enquired aloud.
The father smiled sheepishly. Seriously, ladies and gentlemen, I entered counselling mode immediately. I saw impending danger here. The future of a young man was at stake. I saw wrong parenting for an adolescent here.
I asked Victor for his permission to counsel him and his father together. He accepted but was wondering what the counselling was for. “Any problem?” he asked.
Counselling format has always been basically to ask what the patients know about the topic and you as the counsellor give them all the correct information and options, then guide them to make a rational decision best for them. I ventured out on this voyage.
The topic I had to deal with here with Victor and his dad was ADOLESCENCE AND PARENTING. I asked Victor what he understood by being an adolescent. He seemed not to understand much about adolescence despite being one. I asked the father about parenting an adolescent. He asked and I quote, “Doctor, is there anything special about adolescents being parented?”
Within me I was screaming in my head again. No wonder Victor was in my consulting room this morning for cosmetic dental brace motivated by hero celebrity. Time will fail me to tell you all information I gave them on ADOLESCENCE AND PARENTING but I will summarize it not to bore you.
I told them: ADOLESCENCE is a stage of life for people between 10 and 19 years. This stage can be developmentally divided into three, according to World Health Organization (WHO). First is early adolescence (10-13), mid adolescence (14-16) and late adolescence (17-19).
These 3 stages can be summarized thus developmentally: Early adolescents have the brain of a child and body of an adult. Mid adolescents have 50% child’s brain and 50% adult’s brain and body of an adult. The late adolescents have brain of an adult and the body of an adult. Hence the decisions taken at this stage of life go hand in hand with these peculiarities.
Victor is 16. He has the body of an adult already but 50% child’s brain. You are wondering why I would say that? Was it not obvious from the decision made by Victor so far?
Now to PARENTING. Parenting is guiding and nurturing a child in all aspects of life, whether you are the biological or non-biological parent. There are four ways you can parent a child and the meaning of each parenting style based on two issues which are LOVE AND DISCIPLINE.
The four types of parenting are:
i. Permissive parenting which is LOVING A CHILD ALL THE TIME WITHOUT DISCIPLINE;
ii. Authoritarian parenting style which means DISCPLINING A CHILD ALL THE TIME WITHOUT ANY LOVE;
iii. Uninvolved parenting style which means the parents are not even doing any of the two, NO LOVE, NO DISCIPLINE, the child is on his or her own; and
iv. Authoritative parenting style, which is the last parenting style, also known as balanced parenting style, which involves LOVING AND EQUALLY DISCIPLINING A CHILD.
Research rates AUTHORITATIVE PARENTING style as the best parenting style worldwide and the remaining three parenting styles as defective.
Now I turned to Victor’s father. “Which of the parenting styles I have explained do you think you have been using for Victor?”
The 60-year-old man was quiet for almost two minutes. Surprising to me, he said almost with tears in his eyes, “Doctor, I never knew all these types of parenting styles and their consequences as you just explained.”
Continuing, he said, “Doctor, no doubt the permissive parenting style seems to be the one I have been using with Victor. What can I do now? Is it not too late for him? That was how I raised his two elder brothers. Doctor, I must tell you they have not been doing well on their own. The first brother has drug issues and the second brother is simply irresponsible.”
To my surprise, Victor, in tears after hearing my education on ADOLESCENCE AND PARENTING and its consequences as well as his father’s helpless question, said, “Daddy, it is not too late. I don’t want any dental brace again. Daddy, please guide me the authoritative way. The best way you think I would turn out best, guide me.”
The two hugged each other with mists of tears in their eyes and left, closing the door of my consulting room behind them.
Now my own tears erupted in my head! Did I just rescue a life, a future, a family, a generation? I wondered…because Victor would have gone ahead to likely parent his own children the wrong way too and the trend would have likely continued and become transgenerational.
I am happy I just made another impact. As I close my writeup, I will like to appeal to every parent reading this anywhere in the world, LOVING A CHILD WITHOUT DISCIPLINING THEM IS NOT LOVING THEM, IT IS DESTROYING THEIR LIVES. Please LOVE your child, meet their needs, cater for them, ask for their opinion and respect their opinion to the extent that it is beneficial to their present and future. Make sure that after putting everything together and considering their highest good, you have the final say by showing them the right path. They may not appreciate you today, don’t worry. When through your BALANCED LOVE AND DISCIPLINE PARENTING STYLE, they look back tomorrow as a fulfilled soul, they will forget the temporary gratification of all love without discipline and bless the day God gave you to them as their guide through life.
* The writer is Dr. Adesida Adewumi. He works in the Department of Family Medicine, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH, Kano, Nigeria.