“Spare the rod and spoil the child” –   Nollywood Film Maker Fidelis Duker Dishes on Fatherhood & Discipline

Nollywood film maker and producer, Fidelis Duker, is a popular figure in the Nigerian movie industry. With a career spanning over two decades, Duker, a former President of the Directors Guild of Nigeria, has over 250 home videos to his credit.

He is also credited for writing the scripts of the popular children’s TV. programme, ‘Tales by moonlight’ between 1988-1992. He got married to his wife Temitope, in 1998.

In an interview with Punch, Duker, shared some of his experiences from being a Dad.

How would you describe fatherhood?

 Fatherhood is very interesting. One of the most interesting parts of fatherhood is the day one witnesses the birth of one’s child. Subsequently, as the child grows into a teenager and adulthood, that is another phase. One of my teenage children became an adult recently as she turned 18. I think when one sees one’s children growing, there is this feeling of fulfillment that as a father, one has been able to a large extent, inculcate some values in them.

When look back to your eldest child’s formative years, how do you feel now that she has become an adult?

The first feeling is that now, I have an adult as a child in the house now and secondly, I ask myself, can I scold her the way I used to do when she was much younger and will I begin to listen more to her opinions on issues? As a father, I have to listen to her unlike when she was a child. Those are some of the things that run through my mind. Have I been able to overcome these feelings? No, but essentially too, I have been able to live with it and begin to understand that it is part of human existence, where people grow from one stage to another. It will get to a point where the children will leave one. Two of my children are in the university now. When they finish school, they will go for the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps scheme, get married and move into their own homes. That is another stage of fatherhood. When I see my father look at me now, even though he is over 70, he still sees me as his son.

What are some of the things you learnt from your father that you have passed onto your children?

I learnt independence because I became very independent at age 10. I went to a boarding school, far away from home, about 12,000 kilometres from Lagos. I was born in Lagos but schooled in Kano at the Federal Government College. I learnt how to be independent, work hard and how to start from nothing to be something. My father made me understand these things. Even when I started my career as a film-maker, I did not start from the top. Nobody gave me millions to shoot my first film. I had to look for every penny from family members, my late mother and friends. I also learnt from my father that when one spares the rod, one spoils the child. As a father, one needs to be a bit more firm.

Do you spank your children?

I would be telling a lie if I say I don’t do that. I smack my kids, including the one that has become an adult. I feel that while one must be liberal with one’s children, one also have to be very strict and inculcate good attributes in them; discipline, respect and hard work so that at the end of the day, people will not blame one. There are instances where I have seen people blaming parents for the misdemeanour of their children. Like I always say, in every home, the father has a major role to play.

Pampering does not mean that a father should spoil his kid. Just give them the basics. I am averse to those parents who spoil their kids. When you smack a child, bring him closer again and tell him why he was smacked and explain to him why he or she should not do such thing next time. Gradually, the child begins to understand that these are form of discipline.

Apart from providing the basic needs, it is also the responsibility of a father to show some level of parental guidance. A good example was when my kids were growing up. I used to take them to school and even at a point, I washed their clothes. There are some basic things I do that one will think they are women’s jobs.

Fatherhood goes beyond provision. One has to be there and I think a father’s attention is critical to the upbringing of any child. Some women have been able to take care of their children, combining the roles of a father and mother but one cannot compare it to when there is a man in the house. For instance, a male child turns 14 and begins to see himself as a young adult, confronts his mother and she finds it difficult to scold him. If there is a father in the house, he will understand that there is a limit to what he can do. The role of a father in the upbringing of a child is very important.

Do you and your wife have different views on how your children should be raised?

I have been very lucky in the sense that  my wife and I understand ourselves to a large extent. We started as friends so the bond of friendship has kept the marriage going. Most times, when I take a decision and it does not augur well with her, she will first of all listen to me and come back later to explain the demerits of my decision. Essentially, the responsibility of how a child should grow lies with the father. It is important that a man realizes that he is the head of the family. He must show honesty and be hard working so that when the children become independent, they can fend for themselves. I do not think any wife or mother would want to stop a father from performing his roles. Where you find conflict is when, possibly, whatever the father wants to instill in the children is perceived as negative. Maybe he smokes and the mother doesn’t want him to do such in the presence of the kids and he begins to assert that he is in his house.

What are the distinctive character traits of your children?

My three children are very individualistic. Let me start with my second child who seems to have leadership qualities. She is an introvert who behaves more maturely while my first child has the maternal qualities. She always wants to be the mother hen to her siblings. My youngest child is still observing things. He is an extrovert. My first daughter writes with her left hand (southpaw) and many people said I should have made her change while growing up. My question to them is always what makes her different from the person who is right-handed?

The only common attribute they all have is that they love themselves. However, when I find anything that is negative in their character, I try to explain to them why they should discard such.

How would you compare fatherhood in Nigeria to the practice overseas?

There is a big disparity because in Nigeria and Africa, fathers are more connected to their children than those in the Western world.  Even where there are cases of divorce, one would still find about 90 per cent of Nigerian fathers insist on taking custody of their children. But overseas, what they always look for is how to pay child support. They are so liberal that you see fathers who cannot even scold their children because the society has made it so difficult for them to do so. Only few can smack their children in the confines of their homes unlike in Nigeria where a father can smack his or her child in public. In Nigeria, parents are more attached to their children.

What’s your children’s perception of you?

I think they see me as very strict and weak.

How do you mean?

They see me as a weak person in the sense that if they make demands, they are sure of getting it but strict in the sense that when I say this is what I want, it must be done that way. I stand by my rules. My children know I love them a lot I have also noticed that my son is already trying to be like me and I always tell him that it is a matter of hard work and commitment. I have made my children to understand that nothing good will come easy. They have to work for it. Even if I become a billionaire today, they have to earn whatever they want to enjoy because I want to raise responsible children.

Did you influence your children’s courses of study?

I did not influence my children’s courses of study in any way. My first daughter wanted to study Economics but she got Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. My second daughter wanted to study Creative Arts and I think she was influenced by my industry. She is studying Political Science and International Relations. They made their own career choices. I want them to study whatever they feel comfortable with. I always tell them that it is not the course they study in the university that will make them, it is what they make out of the courses.

What is your advice to fathers in the entertainment sector about parenting?

They must always have time for their children. People feel that the creative industry is a very tasking and time-consuming one but I still find time to be with my children. To a large extent, I talk to them to know what they are discussing. Even if I don’t get to know, their mother is very close to them.  Secondly, you need to also instill some level of discipline in your children. You cannot pass on what you don’t have so you must also be disciplined.

Photo Credit: Punch

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““Spare the rod and spoil the child” –   Nollywood Film Maker Fidelis Duker Dishes on Fatherhood & Discipline”

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