Photograph — TelevisionAfrica

Temi Olajide is a child psychologist and Nigeria’s first certified child sleep training consultant. Pheew! That’s a mouthful. But that’s exactly how she introduced herself when we had this interview. As a child psychologist, Temi works with parents, especially mothers, to help them understand and get the best out of their kids. In her own words, “I teach parents to become psychologists for their children.” 

Temi works a nine to five, but she’s a child psychologist round the clock. She doesn’t mind being called late at night or in the wee hours of the morning by a frustrated parent. After all, it’s her empathy for working mums that got her started on this path. When she started her platform, Mummy Clinicc four years ago, she did not intend for it to grow into the global community it is today. 

“It was something I started to help family and friends, until I landed on Instagram one day, and realized that so many mums were dealing with a lot of challenges in terms of raising their kids, and even getting their babies and toddlers to sleep,” she said. Currently, Mummy Clinic works with about 5000 mums around the world, teaching them that parenting can be fun as long as you have the right information and support.

What made you choose the career path of being a child psychologist?

I have never agreed with the narrative that women – mothers – have to sacrifice their careers to be successful at parenting. The narrative says it is either you are successful at work and the home suffers, or you sacrifice your career to nurture your home. And I don’t like that. So I started Mummy Clinicc to let mothers know that they can have a career, be successful at work, and raise phenomenal children.

Temi Olajide

Being a child psychologist is something that I started to pursue when I launched Mummy Clinicc because I soon realised that mothers needed support in other areas. I knew that to help parents with their children, I needed to understand children in a profound way. That’s when I decided to get a certification in child psychology. Because you cannot say you want to help people or address a problem without a proper understanding of who or what you’re dealing with. This is how I became a child psychologist, and I have been a child psychologist for three years now. 

So how do you work? What’s your process? 

Although I’m a child psychologist, I do not work with children directly. Instead, I empower parents. I teach you what you need to do to create a better relationship with your children, how to understand them, and the conversations you need to have with them. Basically, I teach you to become a psychologist to your child. It is more sustainable. It is more productive to get parents to a point where their children trust them, can talk to them about anything, and confide in them. Sometimes I work directly with children, but only in extreme cases like abuse and molestation.

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

I do not want to sound like I don’t have challenges, but the way my mind works is to see solutions. Whenever I see a problem I am not really seeing it as a problem. Mainly because I love my work, I love to see parents happy. I want parents to enjoy being parents rather than endure being parents. 

But something I’ll point out as a challenge is inconsistency on the part of parents. Oftentimes, children are not the problem, parents are. Parents struggle to be consistent in raising and caring for their children. Even after booking a session, some parents fail to be consistent with what they are taught, what they have learnt. You cannot get the best out of your children if you are not consistent with them. 

About parenting, how have things changed over the years? What is prevalent in parent-children relationships today that wasn’t five years ago or a decade ago that we ought to pay attention to?

Obviously, with the digital age, so many things have changed. But most importantly, values have changed. Parents are overlooking a lot of things. People say children are not so respectful anymore, but whose fault is it? Parents need to be deliberate about teaching values and respect. And this should be done by leading exemplary lives. If you tell your child to act a certain way, they should not see you do the opposite. Children are great imitators.

Also, a lot of parents are substituting quality time and communication with gifts. Everyone is busy, so they compensate for their absence with gifts. They think gifts will make their children happy and that is where they are losing it. It should be presence over presents. Rather than just buy gifts, parents need to be present.

A book by Olajide

In terms of communication, we often see families under the same roof communicating with each other via texts and chats, there’s very little verbal communication. I understand that we are in a digital age, but there should be a balance. Parents should organize family gatherings from time to time and spend quality time with their children. 

What are key steps parents can take to keep their children away from the toxicity of the internet?

First, parents need to be mindful of what they watch themselves. Like I said earlier, teach by example. Be role models. You can’t tell your children to stop being on their phones all the time when that is what you do as a parent. If you do not want your kids consuming certain content. Do not consume them yourself. Telling your kids not to pay attention to certain content that you consume won’t do. Children are very curious. 

Also, monitor the games they play or download. Check whether or not they are age-appropriate. Set limits and boundaries. There should be a limit to the duration of time they can access their gadgets. And the consequences for breaking these limits should be communicated to them. In summary, educate your child before you allow them access to certain things, and follow up to ensure that they are sticking to the lessons.

What are some common mistakes parents make in raising their children? And how can they do better?

Parents don’t listen. And the secret is, if you don’t listen to someone, they will not listen to you. It’s the same thing in adult relationships. If your partner doesn’t listen to you, chances are you’ll find it hard to listen to them. It’s the same thing with children. If you want your child to listen to you, be a good listener yourself.

As a parent, you have to be deliberate about caring for and raising your children. Children are people. You can’t just treat them as you wish. Let them know you are a team and that you are on their side. When you listen to what a child has to say, you are less likely to misunderstand or misjudge them. Because oftentimes, parents misjudge their kids.

Parent by example. Your children should know that they can learn from you, and be able to emulate you. They should also see that you can learn from them. Do not be dismissive. It shouldn’t always be “come and do this or that for me…”.  Parents also ought to stop being overprotective. Allow your children to make simple mistakes that they can learn from.

The ‘African parent(s)’ trope is quite popular, mostly for the wrong reasons. And while we often joke and laugh about it, in reality, what African parents are known for, boils down to physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. How can we correct this? How do we break this cycle of abuse? 

So, this is one area I’m really passionate about as well. Sometimes, when I put up posts about spanking, I get a lot of backlash. Some people respond with bible scriptures saying, “spare the rod, spoil the child …”. But the truth is, sometimes, we take scriptures out of context. Does spanking equal discipline? And is it an effective way of raising a child? I always tell parents that when they spank their children, yell at them, or insult them when they are not pleased with them, they are simply teaching them that whenever they are unhappy with a person, that is the best way to act or react. And the cycle continues. I don’t spank my children. I don’t scream at them. Sometimes, it’s hard not to, but there are so many alternative ways to discipline a child.

What are these alternatives?

I won’t be able to go through all of them, but we (Mummy Clinicc) have resources for them. Also, it’s different methods of discipline for different ages. Toddlers need constant redirection, not yelling or spanking. If they are always caught up in a particular situation, redirect them. Do this repeatedly and they’ll get the message. Some people practice the ‘quiet corner’ method. A quiet corner is a space where children can retreat to when they need a break from all the excitement.

Book by Temi Olajide

For children, ages four to five, parents should simply set realistic consequences. For children ages six and above, you can sit down and set consequences for their actions with them because they understand. And for teenagers, let them lose their privilege for something they like if they do something wrong. I think spanking and shouting are unnecessary. Instead, make your children understand that there is a consequence for every wrongdoing. When you are consistent with this, children will act right.

Another really important thing I always tell parents is for them to correct with positive words, irrespective of how angry they are. For instance, rather than yell and call a child who stole a thief, say, “I know you are not a thief, so why did you steal?” Affirm them positively and they’ll act right.

How do you earn a living with what you do?

To be honest, I didn’t start this to make money, but it has been an interesting journey. Companies invite me to speak or hold sessions with their staff members who are parents. I have worked with Procter & Gamble, MTN, and Union Bank. Mummy Clinicc also offer well-discounted programmes for parents. We have several short courses and classes that we have put together for parents, such as sleep consultation packages, potty training classes, and sex education. We have a minimum of ten to fifteen online courses.

I have also written three books on parenting. These are some of the ways I make some form of income.

How much do your sleep packages cost?

The sleep packages and the mummy coaching packages cost about N35,000 to 150, 000, depending on the duration of the classes/sessions. There are also affordable courses of N5000 to N10,000. I believe if you want to be deliberate about raising your children, no amount is too much to invest into being a better parent. If parents can invest in their businesses and careers, why not in raising their children.

Temi Olajide, Child psychologist and founder of Mummy Clinicc

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