Taiwo Akinlami is a self-motivated social worker and social empowerment advocate. He is a public interest and social development legal practitioner. He studies, observes and interprets Childhood and “her” many neglected mysteries for the purpose of preserving childhood and transiting the same to functional adulthood.
Taiwo Akinlami is a father to many and he has the best interests of children at heart. This is obvious through his work. He has also been a speaker at our last two Parenting conferences. His wealth of knowledge regarding all things parenting has been a blessing to parents. Parenting does take both mum and dad! Read and be inspired
Please tell us about yourself
My name is Taiwo Akinlami. I am a husband to one wife! I believe that we must create a world that is fit for children and their development in peace and in sanity. I’m a “securing a friendly and protective environment” ideologist. An ideology that came out of my childhood experiences of abuse and the help that I found thereafter. I believe that everyone has the responsibility to bring to the very front burner of private and public conscience and consciousness the rights and responsibilities of the African child for due respect in the best interest of the child.
I believe in parenting and I am the founder of Taiwo Akinlami Academy. A company that is interested in talking to parents about parenting. Most importantly from the perspective of the peculiarities of raising children in the 21st century which is also the fourth industrial revolution. Basically, I am a social development Lawyer.
Can you share one unexpected thing about you?
One unexpected thing about me will be that my wife and I have been married for 12 years and we don’t have children yet. People do not believe so because we are so close to children and we work with a lot of children. I have raised so many children under my roof. My wife and I have provided guidance and direction and we keep doing that to many young people around us.
My wife and I do not have any pressure whatsoever when it comes to children. We have sought medical intervention here and there and we have come to accept that the responsibility of raising children is a sacred one, it is important and it is something you prepare for all your life. So, we continue to prepare ourselves, support families to ensure that they raise their children well. Then we ensure that we are a blessing to every child and parent that we come across. The result has been tremendous and the responses have been great.
Tell us about your beautiful family.
My beautiful family consists of my wife and I. We got married in 2006 and we are so much into each other. We have common passion and purpose – passion for children and their development in spirit, soul and body. We’re interested in creating a family that is conducive for the peaceful development of a complete child.
Please note that when we talk about the complete child, we are not talking about perfect children, we are talking about balanced children. It can never be the mission or vision of any parent to want to raise perfect children. Your mission must be to want to raise balanced children because since parents are not perfect, they cannot seek what they do not have.
In our own family, we have a family constitution that determines what our family vision, value system and mission is in life. Our interest is in building a family that the whole world can be grateful for and be proud of.
What was growing up like for you?
Growing up was turbulent for me. My parents were good people but unfortunately, they did not understand what it means to “raise children”. My father had moved from one woman to the other before he finally married my mother. I and my twin brother are my mums’ second children. We were told that our elder sister died at birth.
As a young person, I often say that I was not raised, I was erased. There are four ways a child can be abused. It could be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect and I suffered them all. I lost my virginity at the age of 6 and that was the year I started primary school.
I don’t look at childhood with Nostalgia, I don’t think there is anything in childhood that I want to reminisce over. Childhood for me was a long torturous experience. That was why at the age of 12, I ran away from home to become a bus conductor because I did not want that experience to continue. So, when people ask me “are you saying there is nothing that you can look up to in your childhood? Are you saying it was that bad?”
I usually say, well, there may be sparks of experiences that may be pleasant. But this is how it works, if someone writes an exam, and he gets 70%, you call the person an excellent student, but the person has lost 30 marks, and if somebody writes an exam and gets 30%, you call the person a poor student but the person has gotten 30 marks. In essence, when you say somebody is an excellent student, it means what he got is so great that it superimposes itself on what he lost to the point that what he lost became insignificant.
Also, 80% of my childhood was laced with abuse. There may be some sparks of pleasant experiences here and there, but I tell you they are not comparable to the suffering. As a matter of fact, the reason why I do the things I do today is because of my childhood experiences. When I became an adult, I began to understand that I was not properly raised, I began to work on myself. I sought help and as I found it, I felt that I had to go out there and educate parents, primary caregivers and secondary caregivers on the impact of their action, inaction and ommissions on young people and children.
If not for the mercies of God that I gave my life to Christ at the age of 27, I cannot be where I am today. I will still be struggling. So, for me, my childhood was a big bundle of mess. But I thank God for creating a message out of my mess, through this, I am able to work with many other parents and children. I am able to work with them and be a point of reference for succour, for comfort and for help to so many others.
I thank God for my childhood. It wasn’t his plan for me to be abused. But He has made the best out of a very bad situation.
How different are you from your dad?
I think I am different from my dad now because, unfortunately, my father was a good man that did not leave too many examples for us. Time will fail me to talk about the kind of life he led. I once saw my father and my mum fight, pounding themselves. Many days, they ended up in the “supreme court” of the landlord for settlement and we the children were the “home prosecution witnesses” where we had to testify.
I started smoking at the age of 12 years or thereabout because my father was a chain smoker. My first butt of cigarette was the one that he had dropped. I started drinking much earlier because my father drank. Many days, he will be drunk and wouldn’t be able to find his way home. My father was not faithful to my mother. Anytime my mother travelled out of town, my father brought other women and he usually warned us not to let our mother know.
I think I picked a lot from him in my early adult years; I became a drunkard and I also went after anything “under a skirt” because I had lost my virginity at the age of six. However, at the age of 27, I gave my life to Christ. That was the beginning of a transformation in my life. I began to study and understand that generation does not answer to time alone. Generation also answers to a decision, a decision to make a difference.
I began to understand that change is an ever-present possibility for any human being who is ready to take responsibility. So, I decided to take responsibility for my life and create a new generation of the Akinlami family.
Right now, I have created a different culture that is a complete departure from my father because I have come to understand that in life, at the end of the day, you tend to have many excuses on why you did not become great, why you become irrelevant but you do not have one reason. This is because for every excuse that you give, God will show you so many other people who went through worse situations and they have come out well and are doing very well because they found help.
So, my dad and I are poles apart in terms of value systems today and family cultures that we have embraced.
Why do you think parenting tends to fall more on mothers than fathers?
I think it is a major challenge in our society. Society believes that men should earn money while women should focus on raising children. This is a very defective way of thinking. In developed countries of the world, there is maternity and paternity leave. In countries like America, teachers encourage both male and female students to take “dummy children” home. When they do, there is an alarm that rings at a particular time for the students to stand up and take care of their children.
The most important thing is that the responsibility of raising children has to be for both parents and it will be determined by the roles that they must have extensively discussed. Parents need to be in agreement. In order to live a meaningful life, they have to be purposeful and intentional.
We need to correct the notion that parenting is for one person. The only way we can do that is to address this unfounded belief that a fathers role is to provide money while a mothers role is to raise children.
Every child needs both their father and mother. It is the responsibility of the parents to sit down and agree in line with their family constitution on who is responsible for what. Who does school runs, who attends PTA, how do we pay school fees, how do we admonish our children? etc. All of these are things we must be intentional about. Whatever you are not purposeful or intentional about, you will not be meaningful about it and it will slip out of your hand.
Tell us about Taiwo Akinlami Child Protection Academy
It is a legal and social development academy which focuses on legal enlightenment and social development. Also, we focus on working with parents to secure a friendly and protective environment for children. We do that by creating programmes, solutions and products that are important to helping parents achieve their goal.
We are in the 21st century and things have changed completely. As a result, any parent or secondary caregiver that is responsible has to look in the direction of knowledge, skill, attitude and learning from children.
Children today are digital natives and we are digital aliens. We are going to be isolated parents if we do not learn from our children. We must deliberately understand that these children are living in a different world from the world we grew up. For example, when I was growing up I was hooked on pornography because of my experiences. Then, it was not easy to watch pornography. However, today if children want to watch pornography, it is just a button away. When I was growing up, the only type of pornography we knew was hardcore pornography. But today, it is both hardcore and softcore. Softcore pornography are those porn materials that are subtle and are in songs, words, pictures etc
Our commitment in Taiwo Akinlami foundation is to ensure that we work with parents to help them develop positive value systems which they can inculcate in their children. We believe that in the area of parenting, there is a solution to the madness of the 21st century. The real solution is to help our children develop positive value systems which become their compass in swimming against all the tides of the big mess that our world has come to know today.
There are too many belief systems that are confusing children today. For example, on Facebook, there are three sex options – male, female, customs. And under customs, there are a lot of options. Today, there’s paedophilia, transgender, trans-species, trans able, the world is so bombarded.
However, we need to empathise with young people because the circumstances under which they are being raised is very tough. With that empathy, we need to reach out to them, work with them and ensure that we help them to do the best they can do. We inculcate the right value systems into them because this is the only solution against the madness that is out there. And we believe that raising upright children in this world is a possibility. All we just need to do is to embrace a positive value system and to ensure that with wisdom, knowledge and gentleness of skill, we inculcate that in our children.
What excites you about the future for children?
What excites me is that we are in a changing world with better opportunities. The same way the challenges are many is the same way opportunities are enormous. I’m excited that we are in the 21st century – the fourth industrial revolution – where opportunities are limitless and unusual and the opportunity to reach the world has become very visible. The world is one global village and we can benefit from each other. To me, that’s very exciting.
On how to raise children for the future
I believe there are four fundamental value content that we need to instil in our children,
1. We need to let them understand that there is a God who rules in the affairs of men.
2. We need to develop every ounce of gift and talent in them so that we can help them be versatile and resourceful.
3. We need to help them understand that there’s a way this life works
4. Explain to them that they can be anything they want to be if they put their minds to it. Also, we need to help them understand that there is hope for them out there.
We can do this by telling them our own story, the things that we have gone through. According to Bishop TD Jakes,” parents give their children what they have made, they do not give them what made them”. That’s pathetic.
Giving your children what you have made is the easiest thing to do in the world; you buy them a car, you pay their school fees, they are chauffeur driven to school, you buy them everything they ask for. But to give them what made you is to inculcate in them your value system. It requires spending time with them deliberately, being deliberate and intentional.
How important is it for fathers to be involved in raising their children?
It is very critical. Fathers are the heads of the home. Headship is not for decoration, it is for the purpose of order. It is important to note that a father is a source and sustainer. You need to be able to sustain your children emotionally, educationally and financially.
When it comes to financing, the burden of finance should not solely rest on the shoulder of the dad. There has to be a financial policy within the home concerning how parents save income and invest for their children. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a joint account.
Fathers have a major role to play in parenting. They are the leaders of the home and leadership is for the purpose of order. When fathers drop the ball of leadership, it introduces disorder into the home. This is why even when a woman is a single mother, we advise that she should find a father figure that can be there and model leadership and sustainability to the children.
Do dads also need a support system?
No man is an island, everybody needs a support system. Dads need to come together to share their victories and challenges and how they respond to them. They need a support system that will address issues about parenting, career, work-life balance etc.
Is there a need for LagosDads?
Yes, there is. As stated earlier, dads need support systems. So LagosMums can also take the bull by the horn and begin to think about the possibility of LagosDads.
Use one word to describe one thing that should not be missing from every home
Love! Love to children means appreciation and attention. You need to recognise their uniqueness and also pay attention to them.
What do you love about LagosMums?
I must say that LagosMums is an unusual platform. It is a platform that has brought to the fore issues about motherhood and fatherhood that people shy away from. Particularly the fact that LagosMums organises programmes to bring parents together to get them to understand what their roles are in this turbulent world.
I think that LagosMums is commendable for everything they are doing. I am proud to be associated with the exploits of your organisation because you understand that family is king. This is an organisation that is contributing to the sanity of the family by sharing the right culture and value systems. LagosMums is great!
We thoroughly enjoyed hearing from him! To get a copy of his panel session discussion on Understanding Millennials and Generation Z at LagosMums 5th Parenting Conference, please send a mail to [email protected]