By Njideka Eze
My Aunt gave birth to four boys. One of the boys is very stubborn and pushes the mother to anger at all times. The mother also formed a habit of beating him with cane as often as he annoyed her. It became a habit, the boy somehow got used to it, he developed thick skin and doesn’t shake when the mother beats him. Noting the mother says makes any meaning to him. He will always tell others “kpata kpata Cane” meaning that the worst the Mum could do is beat him.
There is a difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is good because it tells the child that actions have consequences. But punishment must lead to a point where a child can, on his own, choose not to misbehave. That point is called DISCIPLINE. A disciplined child can make the right choices unsupervised.
Unfortunately, many times, punishment does not lead to discipline because of wrong administration. There are common mistakes parents make when punishing and the end result is negative. Many children even become more stubborn like my Aunts son.
If you must punish a child, do it right …
Never ever beat a child out of anger. No don’t do it. You came back from work and noticed that Peter has broken the centre table due to excessive play. You get so angry that you land Peter a few dirty slaps while shouting at him.
WRONG! I know your table is expensive but that child’s character is more valuable. Be the parent. Be in control of your emotions. When you react out of anger, you’re telling your child that it’s ok to react out of anger. They learn more by what they see you do rather than what you say. My people have this saying “you don’t beat a child the day he pours oil away but on the day he pours ogiri akwu away”
Avoid punishing for a first time offence. If Peter went to the convenience without flushing, that is an offence in most houses. Do not punish Peter yet. Ask him to flush and immediately, please stipulate a punishment for that offence. “The next time you do this you will get 3 lashes on your palm or back or you will wash the toilet for a week”, or any other punishment you so desire. Let Peter know the consequence for that action. The next time Peter does it, do not shout. Do not get angry. Look at Peter at his eye level. Squat or bend if you have to. In a deep serious voice remind him of the consequence of that action and please follow it through. Give him the 3 lashes. Not 2, not 4, but 3 as stipulated. Peter must not think you’re beating him out of anger but because of what he did wrong.
By that, Peter will learn that actions have consequences. Next time he uses the toilet, he will flush.
Be consistent. If a punishment for an offence is 3 lashes, please give 3 lashes each time that offence is committed. Do not pardon Peter sometimes depending on your mood. Do not threaten without following it through. If you do, Peter will begin to take you for granted and it’s a terrible situation.
Do not shout threats. Please have a serious voice. Practice it. It should be deeper than your normal talking voice. Threaten only once and follow through next time it happens. A parent who shouts a lot will likely raise a child who will shout a lot.
Do not beat impulsively. Always give a pre-stipulated punishment. This is so important. You could be teaching your child violence when you just beat out of anger. I had to repeat this because it’s important. How do you want Peter to react when he’s angry? Practice it on Peter. If you always beat because you’re angry, then as a parent you need discipline yourself.
Reward good behavior. If Peter was punished for an offence and next time he chooses not to repeat it, you have succeeded at discipline. Bravo! Reward his behavior please. Acknowledge it. Tell him you’re proud of him. Hug him. Do something to re-enforce that good behavior. Discipline is not all about beating.
Avoid using your hands to beat. Don’t slap. Don’t knock. Get a small cane if you must beat. If Peter messes up and the punishment is 3 lashes, ask him to get the cane. Those seconds will give you time to calm down. Always remind him of why you’re giving 3 lashes before giving it.
Do not use your hands. Hands are for love. Let him associate your hands with love and not violence. Especially avoid slapping girls. They may think it is normal and not recognize domestic violence when they see it in future.
Remember that beating is not the only form of punishment. You can raise a well disciplined child without ever beating them. If possible, avoid it.