Spare the rod and spoil the child: Is Corporal Punishment still acceptable to you?

[Part One]
Recently, I was sharing with my children a rather funny Facebook update on a friend’s wall about how Yoruba mothers are expertly making use of corporal punishment to shape the lives of their children. One of my sons suddenly started lamenting how some of their teachers are stylishly using the practice on them, despite being totally outlawed at the school and even in all schools in Qatar.

Then, my other son joined his brother by explaining that if you are found to be distracting the class, the teachers’ modus operandi for melting out their punishments range from a sudden slap on the back to a pull at your ear and a ruler thrashing on the back of your hand. I found their revelations, which seemed negligible, somehow disturbing and I was keen to raise the issue with the school during the next Parents-Teachers meeting.

After we stopped talking, then I went into some sort of sudden trance, which brought back the memories of those days when corporal punishment was explicitly in use during my junior and high school days in Nigeria.
I then recounted to my children how two of my high school teachers Mr O and Mr H were feared by all the students, especially the errant and late-comers, because of their zeal for beating students.

These particular teachers incidentally happened to be our religious studies teachers; one teaching Islam and the other Christianity (I wouldn’t know whether that had a part in their fierceness because we never got the chance to find out). They were both very aggressive and very perfect at discharging lashes in hot salvo.

You automatically become their prey anytime you are late to school. On sighting both the frightful ‘masquerades’ at the gate on any such morning, you knew you were done for because whoever must enter the school compound would have to accept their canes (I’ve had to run back home on some occasions due to fear). If I had no chance of running away, I would immediately start to cry, so much so that my school uniform’s collars would become soaked with tear drops and I would be shaking as if I was being led to the gallows. I feared being lashed that much because my parents never seriously beat me as such. Aside my mother’s occasional spanking for failure to either fetch water or do the dishes, I can only recollect my father’s once in a lifetime thrashing for turning myself into a glutton after cooking and gobbling up a whole lot of fresh corns meant for the whole family!

At the school gate, we would usually queue up to get our judgement from either of the two warriors by way of whipping and most times I’d come last as I would keep postponing my ‘evil day’ by continuously running back a few yards to the end of the line until it would remain just me and could got canned by both of them and more hotly too. On such days, boys and girls would go home with legible marks on their arms and legs made by the super staunch bamboo canes.

Those days were horrible despite Nigeria being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) since 1990. Even today, the practice of corporal punishment is still in vogue in some schools and among many families across different states in Nigeria.

Article 19 of UNCRC says: “State parties shall take all legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child”.

Corporal punishment is a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offense, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable. The term usually refers to methodically striking the offender with the open hand or with an implement, whether in judicial, domestic, or educational settings.

Effects of Corporal Punishment on children themselves, parents and society, have been clearly spelt out in a document by Unicef’s Save the Children under its “Educate don’t Punish” campaign and I thought it worth giving a read. It says corporal punishment lowers children’s self-esteem, teaches them poor self-control and promotes negative expectations of themselves. The document also says the use of corporal punishment increases the probability that parents will show aggressive behaviour in the future with growing frequency and intensity and also in other contexts.
More effects can be read here http://www.unicef.org/barbados/spmapping/Implementation/CP/Global/Educate_donthit_SaveManual.pdf

What is your experience?

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17 thoughts on “Spare the rod and spoil the child: Is Corporal Punishment still acceptable to you?”

  1. I feel and think that ANY discipline that’s deliberately meant to inflict pain (physically, mentally, emotionally) isn’t appropriate.Will I spank my child? Yes; if and when necessary. Will it be to the extent of inflicting pain? No. I will not deliberately want to injure my child in ANY way.

    In my teen years, I earned the notoriety of the most stubborn amongst my more-than-a-dozen siblings.

    I got beaten by my father, mother and even an ex-old landlady; sometimes, ‘mercilessly’. Interestingly, I don’t carry ANY scar from such beatings – physical or mental. Am I sure? Yes; I had no physical scar. But mental?

    The memory is like a movie I just watched. My father’s favourite weapon was a fan-belt…I think that of a truck. It was so so scary back then.

    And in school (elementary and secondary), I can recall some image of cane-wielding crazy floggers of some teachers.

    Noimot, your latest article is very thought-provoking. Well done and thank you.

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    1. It’s quite sad that most of us have the memory scars from that choice of punitive measure by our parents, uncles, aunts, teachers and even neighbours! I also now remember how my brother and I were severally flogged by an uncle who I can say was assisting our parents to whip us in line because they couldn’t do it themselves. It was my brother who usually fall victim because he would never stay away from trouble.
      You may ask if that impacts my parenting. Not at all, because I was fortunate enough not to grow up believing in the practice of flogging. Although, I can occasionally do verbal or spank my children (you know boys now) but not to the extent that we experienced.

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  2. True. I have a boy and his paternal grandma calls him “omo kan bi medoogbon” (translated loosely: one child like twenty-five). Just yesterday evening, my child was monkeying around the living room with fearful excitement. He had some objects in his hands. I had to take them away from him. He whined a bit. he kept monkeying around. He stumbled against the TV stand. I told him I didn’t want him to get injured – that if kept he kept monkeying around I’d shut down the laptop (he was watching Barney and Friends on it).

    He got several warnings afterward. No abating in his excitement. At this point, I was sure I’d give him some spanking. But, I didn’t want him crying to bed.

    Well, he kept monkeying around as his accomplices in Barney and Friends were doing. Then, THUD!!! My three-year-old fell headlong. It happened too quickly. And he got up immediately, crying.

    I was VERY upset. I got up. Stopped the Barney DVD. Shut down the laptop. Did you know? In my upset state, I didn’t look at his face. Until my wife showed me a protruding part on his head. Oh, I felt sorry for him. I had to draw him closer to me and apply some balm (ori) on the bulging part. Gave him paracetamol to take.

    While gently doing the massaging, I’d to remind him of my earlier warnings. And guess what? The poor chap was telling me in a moving way, “Daddy, I won’t do it again”. Awww, I was touched. He knew he’d hurt himself and his dad.

    What would some other parent had done in my case? Likely add salt to the injury. Aha! In those bygone days, my mother and father would have added to my pains were I be Alexander (my son).

    One thing I keep learning and practising is: Not to discipline my child in anger. Tough job, it’s been. Thank you.

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    1. Yes, parenting is tough job! One has to always sit at the edge of the table almost all the time just to make sure things are fine. Thanks for taking time to read my posts Bayo, it’s always appreciated.

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  3. As for me and I , I won’t hesitate to spank my daughter when and if it’s required in some circumstances. But will have to do it in such a way that she won’t see it as an act of wickedness. Our parents beating us back then was to instill some form of morality in us which paid well in our lives. These kids of nowadays are inquisitors and would want to know why such is such thereby putting strain on your being.Lol.

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    1. Yes, well said. Our parents never had the intention to abuse us (some didn’t even feel spanking is an abuse anyway, I mean just like some of us now don’t too). Thanks for taking time out to read!

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  4. Well Rovingscribe, that was a beatiful piece. It brought me back the memory lane when it used to be a topic for debate among members of various schools debating soceity. Good debaters trash it out with various valid points from either the “pros” or the “Cons” and by the end of a hot debate neither side come out a victor nor the vanquished.
    As for me, this topic I think has some cultural values which make it differ from region to region. Back in the African continent, they see it as a good method for child upbringing and shaping into a corrective form. The children from their own view see it as a means of handling a more serious offence,because not all offences are punishable by using the cane, and it works for both parties, the parents or teachers as the case may be, and the chidren. But to the westerners, that is not the case. It is rather seen as some sort of child abuse. thereby corrective measures to a child’s behavior is more difficult and strenuous and slower in that region.We were made to undrestand that it affects them in adulthood which is not the case with me and you. Some of them turn bullies in their adulthood, with terrible and quear behaviour. Then some stupid reason being that they were abused by way of flogging or scolding during their child hood days. What a nonsence!

    By Raymond Bob-Ume

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  5. Cultural values when it comes to yoruba culture makes the work of parent easier when you apply all the norms you received as a yoruba child from your own parent,while growing up. Applying yoruba norms while educating your child makes him/her understand that corrections by way of spanking when found nutty will go a long way in building a child’s moral values.

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    1. Thanks for taking time to read. I just hope that we parents of today don’t take spanking of our children for being naughty too far as our own parents did!

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