Disciplining-what are your boundaries?

I hope I am not too late to the party but I thought I’d give my two cents on various child disciplining experiences based on an event from weeks ago. There was a video that trended on social media some weeks back for obvious reasons. For those of you, who have “PhDs in maturity” and therefore are not on social media like that, (the likes of Atte Focho) you can watch the video below.

Apparently, George, the father in the video, slaps and punches his son while raining insults on him. The reason for his rage, his son (I’m sorry I didn’t catch his name) failed most of his subjects woefully and was absent for others. He, however, got a distinction in music, the only subject he passed. Meanwhile, George spent cumbersome amounts of money on tuition. To be very precise, twenty-one thousand dollars (in other currencies, nineteen thousand three hundred and sixty-one Euros or eight million Naira as my Nigerian brothers and sisters have repeatedly pointed out!). So he, George, does have a lot of sympathizers on social media who absolutely agree with his actions.

The comments which ensued this video were nothing short of entertaining, championed by Nigerians with belly-aching jokes and memes. I am most certain I speak for many when I say the average Nigerian is a comedian. Apart from the jokes made, a lot of comments were about personal experiences. A good number suggested that George was doing nothing compared to what their parents would do in his stead. And there were those who were simply offended, calling George out for being cruel and all.

The mixed reactions from the millions of people who watched the video abound. On the one hand, some supported George with remarks like “you spare the rod you spoil the child”. Not exactly in those words but you get the drift. And on the other hand, those who were categorically against the choice of punishment. (And by the way, why was the boy’s mother recording? I understand Kodak moments. You know, those occasions suitable for memorializing with a photograph or a video, but how would this particular moment be great to relive for any of the parties?)

What stroke me through this entire internet saga, however, was not so much the video, nor the comments in themselves, but the glee and pride with which many commentators shared their experiences. The speed with which many others agreed with some crazy stuff, retweeted and shared. Some of the stories were horrendous and in my humble opinion, not funny at all. But best believe you me, it is an unpopular opinion, as the reactions to these stories were even deemer and were told in such light-hearted tones as if to suggest, it is okay to put a child in a drum and roll them around while encouraging them to shout out “I am a thief”!

I am not going to sit here and pretend like I was not whooped as a child. I was, and plenty. And if you ask me I’d say I probably deserved every whooping I got. My siblings and I were such wild children, we needed, by any means necessary, to be tamed!

However, there is a fine line between disciplining a child to correct them, and humiliating them to release one’s own frustration. And if you find yourself doing the latter, well there is a name for that and it definitely is not discipline.

Before you go out lashing, you need to ask yourself if the child in question is actually learning anything from your choice of discipline. But do some of us parents care? As long as we have vented out our anger. That is what counts!

Mind you, I am not encouraging this young man’s actions, personally, I believe failing exams the way he did, and not showing up for some at all, is an act of defiance.

A rebellion against God knows who, or what.

And that should be the crux of this internet brouhaha!!!! But here we are, peering into strange tales of the child disciplining experiences most commentators have endured in the past-

What if he broke his neck or sustained a serious injury in the name of disciplining?

I could go on and on with these reactions but I am sure you get my point. These personal experiences reveal that we do have deeply rooted issues within some of our communities when it comes to disciplining children. Interestingly, money was the centre of every justification. It is disturbing to see how the comments absolved this father based on the amount spent on tuition.

My question then is, would it have made a difference if George had not paid fees at all? If this same boy had come home with these same results would his father have reacted that way? Are students who go to cheaper schools allowed to flunk because it didn’t cost their parents much? Would the method of disciplining him have been different? I have so many questions. And I wish all these internet aunties and uncles could indulge me.

What if that parent who denied his son’s dinner later found out his son developed gastritis? What if the child put in a drum broke their neck?  And please, this is not me telling anyone how to discipline their child.

At the end of the day, no one can ever love your child more than you do, nor wish them well more than you do. At the same time, no one can ever scar your child for life as much as you would. It would be wise not to cross the line every now and again. 

We need to tone down the need for corporal punishment within our communities. Especially at the age when children begin to understand that every action has consequences. Every time a child errs should be a teachable moment.

One commentator said-

“This topic has shown a lot of us need therapy. I don’t understand how folks are sharing stories of them being abused with so much glee and a sense of anticipation to do the same to their kids. Heartbreaking that this has been normalized as discipline/love”.

I couldn’t agree more!