My aunt invited me to her house at NICON town in Lekki. It was another opportunity to waltz into those high-walled exclusive estates on Lagos Island, where all the generators have silencers and all the residents’ passports have American or British visas( that is, if they are not already second citizens of a developed country across the Atlantic).
After having a very nice lunch, i noticed that her six year daughter, Chichi, was throwing a terrible tantrum. Honestly, I don’t know what she wanted but my aunt was unwilling to give it to her because she felt her daughter had had enough of it. The little madam was screaming and acting like a stubborn little monster. After the intense altercation, my exasperated and exhausted aunt then issued what must have been her ultimate threat;
“Be careful or you will get a time-out”
Hian!! Time-out ke! Are we playing basketball?
Long before the tiff escalated to this present stage, my mother would have slapped the earwax of my ears. When she was feeling merciful, she would only anoint my disobedient buttocks with some strokes of Hausa koboko. The memory of ‘buttocks-past-flogged’ would prevent me from be stubborn in the future. Corporal punishment seems to be on the decline in Nigeria. We seem to think that it is inhumane to flog an errant child. Some believe that children who ‘feel good’ will ‘act good’. Other ‘no-spanking’ apologists believe that children grow up to hate their spankers and spanking damages the parent-child bond. If you scour the internet, I’m sure there are more than a million more reasons.
Firstly, it is important to separate spanking from violence. Any form of discipline carried out in anger becomes violence. Anger beclouds objectivity. It makes you lose control and it turns you into a bully It is often better to ‘hands-off’ from a child when you’re angry. Even what you say to the child in anger often leads to regret. Personal experience has taught me that discipline is better effected without the emotional overload of anger or frustration.
Children, by nature, have a lot of foolishness. It is often a benign foolishness. The barriers of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour are not very distinct to six year old. Telling an erring child to go sit in her room and think about what she has done is one of the most ridiculous forms of discipline I have ever seen. Granted, children are different and some will exhibit amazing maturity at a tender age, nevertheless, stubborn children will always need a firm child. Constant negotiation with a child, all in a bid to preserve self-esteem, is often futile.
In 1979, Sweden became the first country in the world to pass a blanket ban on spanking, arguably creating a nation of brats. Leading experts have warned of the possibility of breeding a generation of ill-mannered children in Sweden. Children are different and parents should be able to implement different methods of discipline. Despite all the flogging from my parents, I still love them all the way from Lagos to Maiduguri.
Finally, I agree that child-rearing is a difficult thing. Reasoning with kids can be great, but what do you do when it fails? Besides, flogging doesn’t last forever. As children grow, there should be a phasing out. Some parents flog all day, every day. That’s terrible. There’s an igbo adage about not flogging a child the day he throws away palm oil. I can’t remember it now.
There is talk of a ‘rod’ in the Biblical Book of Proverbs 23:13(KJV). What do you think?