In matters involving children, is the child’s best interest of paramount importance?
Should parents allow children to do what suits them?
These are questions Assistant Professor in the School of Law, Dr. David Adetoro, addressed at the School of Law seminar of February 8. His presentation was on “Confronting the balance between Social Dignity and Social Control: Competing for Contemporary Challenges in a Child’s Upbringing and the law.
Dr. Adetoro said some people, especially grandparents, hold that children do no wrong.
He argued that the same opinion is held among policymakers, educationists, psychologists, and legal practitioners, among others. “That is what is informing policy towards child rights. The position is also backed by Article 3 of the UN convention on the right of a child among other instruments that the child’s best interest is of paramount importance.”
This is why he maintained that there is a tension between the right of a child and the dignity of the parents. He said that it is the dignity of the parents that is at stake whether a child turns out well or not. For this reason, he said there is need to take into cognizance the prevailing social conditions in the environment where a child is being raised such that key values of parental control are not eroded.
“The parents bear the brunt, either a single parent or complete parent. The people who are celebrating the right of a child being promoted will not be there if that child is not a success. The point at which the child fails, s/he becomes an orphan. But if the child succeeds, they would want to claim glory with the parents.”
The law scholar said that assessing the best interest of the child means to “evaluate and balance” all elements necessary to make a decision in a specific institution for a specific individual, child or group of children.
“We know that it is not just what suits the child that will be taken into consideration but every other thing ought to be taken into consideration.”
He upheld that most parents would want to get it right in during the process of raising the children.
“Those not getting it right are in the minority. Parents who go to the extreme are parents that need more education or need some medical attention. That’s why I said the policy as it is might have to build this in to take into cognizance the interest of the parents.”
The scholar recommended a legal framework to define parents and their rights to provide a balance wherever both the position of the child and the parent’s get intertwined in a conflict.
Interim Dean of the School, Professor Ahmadu Lawal, said he finds the topic interesting. “It will mandate us to strike a balance between disciplining a child and complying with the law.”
Reported by Omorogbe Omorogiuwa