On Nigerian Parents and Raising Financially Independent Kids

Yesterday, my man @Echecrates reposted this tweet by what I assume is a business owner in Nigeria complaining about the attitude of middle and upper middle class Nigerian kids who grow up being spoon-fed by their parents without any real life experience until they show up to the workplace, demanding salaries that are incommensurate with their skills.

I agree that the comments in general seems exaggerated, which is understandable because exaggeration is how Nigerians make their point. But it still raised some questions to me about how we raise kids. To make it easier to discuss, I’ll break it out in sections

Work Experience and Skills

One of the points raised in the tweet is that most people don’t allow their kids gain any kind of work experience, formal or informal, throughout their lives until they get into the workplace. Nigerian parents tend to adopt the stance of “until you graduate, your only job is to get good grades.” This jives with my experience. Until I moved to the States and got a job in my freshman year, I had never been in an organized work environment. Never held a job. I accompanied my dad to his office, sat in on meetings, or joined offloaders at the warehouse, and at one point, even hauled mixed concrete with laborers at our building site, but all these things were because I wanted to. I had no assigned tasks, could come and go as I pleased, and could do whatever I wanted. When I worked for the first time and had to take instructions, and do things that were boring, for hours on end, day in day out, to be honest, I struggled a lot.

While I know it’s not that easy in Nigeria to find a reasonably easy place to get work experience, I still think if we wanted to, there are ways to do that, especially once a kid is up to 15. It helps them get out into the world somewhat, learn how to interact with adults and gain confidence. We tend to overemphasize book knowledge as if an academic education is the only type there is, or the only type necessary. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve asked carpenters, mechanics, even brewers, if I could hang around their workshops and help them out, for a chance to learn things from them. All those things are education I could have gained much earlier, if I had realized it. Nothing wrong with asking a kid for instance, to clean house or babysit for the neighbors, or go work with a local barber, or hair maker, or stock shelves, or handle bookkeeping for local supermarkets. All these things would give kids an insight on how hard it is to make money, and perhaps just as importantly, force them to stop seeing jobs like that as something to be looked down on. Because don’t lie, most middle class children look down on jobs like that as somehow beneath them. I know I did.

Financial Independence

Some of us got allowances as kids, some of us did not. But almost all of us knew that allowance or not, whenever we needed money, there was always Bank of Mom and Dad and their wells never run dry. If they say no to our financial requests, it’s because they want to be mean. Then we get older, and start paying our own bills and suddenly we are shocked by how hard it is to take care of everything and have money left. And we’re single. So now you’re reevaluating your parents super hero status. If you’re lucky.

For many, we are raised with little to no financial skills. No budget, no understanding of how to rein in the urge to spend on frivolities, live within your means and save for important stuff, or invest your money for the long term. We’ve never known how much our parents made in a month, what that money goes into, in fact, we’ve mostly never discussed money in detail with our parents. Exceptions exist of course, even in my case (by 17 I knew specifics about my dad’s finances) but in general, we just never know. So by not starting early, we never get a chance to pick these things up or form these habits when we’re still young enough for it to become a bonafide part of us. We now end up starting to learn it while we’re already grown. And when we have kids, we tend to also not teach them early because we’ve assumed it’s only stuff to be learned as adults.

But compare this to the experiences detailed by Robert Kiyosaki in ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ and in the biographies of one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, John D. Rockefeller. They show parents who give their kids budgets, push them to learn how to save, account for their spending, manage budgets, and find creative ways to make more money even as kids, in the house. They also openly discuss, as much as feasible, the details of how much they (the parents) make, what it’s spent on, when they run out of money and why, or in the case of the wealthy, how they make all that money and why. This shapes the way the children think about money and finances, and they grow up seeing money as the by product of discipline, hard work, intelligence, and value to society.

This is something we don’t do enough in Nigeria. Nigerian parents tend to ascribe wealth to God’s favor, luck, knowing the right people or outsmarting others. I also imagine if you crooked your way into wealth it would be hard to tell your kids, but I don’t believe that represents the majority of Nigerian parents. So isn’t it high time we imbibed a better financial culture when it comes to how we raise kids?

Besides, learning all these things, having jobs of their own and making income, managing their money, understanding your family finances and how money comes and goes is just as valuable (in my opinion, even far more valuable) than simply going to school and reading books for almost 25 years. It will prepare them better for an independent life, and give them skills that will help them when they finally leave the home.

What do you think? Do you agree or not, and why? And what are some challenges, other advantages and disadvantages of raising kids like this?

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6 Comments

  1. My father, God bless him is guilty of this.
    I love him to bits and I know he believes it was the best way but he never wanted me to work; now that I think of it, I believe he felt his ego was bruised that I wanted to get a job! (Guess he felt insulted or something)

    I was about 16-17 years old when I saw an ad in my Church bulleting about a lady needing a baby sitter for her kids; I was still waiting to gain admission into the University so I thought, BRILLIANT! I could make cool money (Can’t recall the figures but I was super ecstatic about the 0s the job offered) during the wait.
    I went to the interview, met her kids…and got offered the job with ONE condition:
    My folks had to be ok with it.
    Before I met my dad, I honestly thought that he wouldn’t mind, seeing as my dad was a HARDWORKING man, I assumed he’d be proud that I got a job of my own but the opposite was infact the case.
    Not only did my father say no, he actually said his fear was that I could be used for money ritual…I rolled my eyes in head in annoyance and disbelief (didn’t wanna get an a$$ whopping); I called the lady and told her the sad news; I was upset with my dad. Hours later he changed his mind, I got excited and called the lady back only for her to tell me that she had already hired someone else.
    When I told my dad, he said sorry (with only a hint of remorse), the man was glad I didn’t get it but I digress….
    Till this day, whenever the subject comes up, he still feels he made the right choice, I guess what I’m saying is, I do agree with this article, I wish I actually worked earlier on in life, who knows what skills I’d have added to my cv today.
    I actually worked for the first time in my life at Uni (outside Nigeria though) and like the author of this article said, it was really tough for me, I switched jobs too cos I just couldn’t handle the hours plus the new phase of having bills to pay etc although my old man helped me immensely (super dad syndrome lol)
    It’s a pity that with the current security threats in the country today, a lot of parents would never in a million years want their kids out there on their own working and I wouldn’t blame them because I’d do the same as well.
    Hopefully, Nigeria will be a safer place where I could let my kids have a job at an earlier age with peace of mind because the security in this country is nothing to write home about.

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    1. I can totally relate to your story. A lot of our parents think by stopping us from working, they’re being better parents. I guess they mean well, but it goes a long way to create dependence in the children which ends up hindering them especially in places where mom and dad are no longer there to help.
      I also have the same concern about safety and trust but I’m sure if we do a lot of background checks and know the people we want our kids to work for very well, we can mitigate some of that.
      It’s not like they won’t go out to mix anyway.

      but yeah, it’s all about the future. I hope Nigeria gets there.

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  2. My parents didn’t deny me money be cause they were mean. They didn’t give me things because they straight up couldn’t afford it. I was aware of my parents financial struggles as I grew older.

    That being said, I agree with the main points of your post. Kids need to be exposed to the working world by the time they turn 18. I think it’s absolutely fine your first job was in uni. Mine was too, and it was cleaning toilets! Which I later upgraded to work at the library. I don’t think I would have had the skills to do much more than that at that age

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