I heard this story in my country Nigeria many years ago, and I want to share it with you. When you communicate with children, don’t always assume you know more than them because of their young age. Don’t assume they must always learn from you.
That’s true in most cases, but not so in some cases. You can also learn from them as this story shows. A man was conversing with his 4-year old daughter. Obviously trying to impress Daddy she was learning something in school, she began to recite the kindergarten rhymes they taught her in school.
Daddy did not listen, but one of the rhymes got his attention. She was singing…
“Two little birds… standing on the wall. One named Peter…One named Paul. Oh, fly away Peter…Oh, fly away Paul,” she concluded in excitement clasping her hands. But her father cut short her excitement.
“You are wrong Ngozi,” as he tried to correct what he thought was a mistake. It is Nwanem Peter…Nwanem Paul. Nwanem is the Igbo word for brother or sister.
“No daddy, you are wrong,’ the toddler replied. What I said is what my aunty taught me in school.
“I am not, daddy insisted. I was taught this same rhyme in school many decades before you were born, and it has not changed. Or is your own a new rhyme. So my angel, go tell your teacher that she made a mistake in what she taught you. What I said is correct.
“No, Daddy you are wrong,” Ngozi insisted. Nwanem is Igbo. You cannot mix Igbo and English in a rhyme. What I said is correct. It is like that in the book you bought for me in school.
“I am not wrong Ngozi,” daddy insisted. Your teacher taught you the wrong thing.
The dialogue attracted the attention of Ngozi’s mom who laughed uncontrollably when he heard her husband’s bastardization of an age long rhyme. “Just hold on,” she told her husband. She dashed into the room and came out with Ngozi’s book of rhymes.
Behold, there it was; One named Peter…One named Paul.
Daddy bowed down his head in shame. For more than four decades, he believed the wrong thing, only to be corrected by his toddler daughter that fateful day. He must have had his early education in the village where the local language affects the diction of teachers. Ngozi is going to school in Lagos. Like the international brand of soft drink, 7-UP says…The difference is clear.
When communicating with children, be attentive. Listen well. You may pick up something that can correct an age long belief or change your life. You never know with children. Your breakthrough can come through them.
(16 July 2014)
Eric Okeke is a CSR specialist and strategist in brand marketing and mobilizing support for corporate and social issues. He is the brand storyteller, writer, speaker, author and media consultant, with training in chemistry, marketing and business journalism. As a business writer and speaker, he has recorded a good career in media consulting and journalism which he started at The Guardian, Lagos.
Eric’s communications niche is storytelling which he is now using to empower professionals and improve business returns in Nigeria. Email him at, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Tel +234 803 301 4609; +234 817 301 4609.