Do Children Actually Need To Be Beaten?

When a lot of people recall childhood beatings, it’s often with a hint of wry humour and I’m usually just blown, like

Excuse me, what about getting beaten is funny? Your dad or mom had you hospitalized and left a permanent scar on you and you’re laughing almost fondly? What in the Stockholm Syndrome is this? I often find that the longer people tell these stories, the humour fades and their true feelings of the events are exposed – whatever they may be. Admittedly, if I were asked to recount such tales, I’d probably laugh in the process of telling it as well. Well, that just might be because I’m damaged. Who knows?

Corporal punishments or what we call beating, is tightly woven into the average Nigerian or African’s correctional culture. It starts at home with parents, aunts or uncles and older siblings, and extends to school and sometimes even religious institutions. In fact, it’s not the strangest thing to see a man or woman “discipline” a complete stranger’s child for some wrongdoing or other. They say it takes a village to raise a child and this village believes in the supposed effectiveness of beatings. However, with all the beatings and supposed discipline, crime and immorality are still rife in the society.

A lot of people will argue that beatings didn’t leave any lasting mental scars, that they’re actually better for it. These same people look forward to beating their children for not much other reason than ‘well, it was done to me and I turned out well’. That might be true, but you could definitely have turned out a whole lot better. In an environment that often disregards mental health, it would be hard for you to even tell the signs. Damaged people damage people.

There are many detrimental effects of corporal punishment.

If you were beaten as a child, it’s okay to admit that you are damaged. It makes it easier to notice the signs and break the cycle. Unless you have the very spawn of the devil as a child (which is very unlikely) there’s no way he/she won’t be able to discern right from wrong, especially if broken down and properly communicated to them. It doesn’t have to be etched on their bodies through beatings. In contrast to what parents are trying to achieve, the child most often only learns to fear punishment, rather than understand why he should follow rules. They become sneaky and learn to hide bad behaviour well, because of the fear of punishment. AKA “wrong is what gets you punished; right is what gets you praise or avoids punishment.” Morally upright, indeed. See this.

Beatings don’t teach your child to behave properly. A child who gets beaten for fighting a sibling won’t magically learn how to get along better in future. Parents are in fact just sending a confusing message by doing exactly what they’re trying to get the children to not do. Children do what parents do, more than what they say. Effective discipline should always teach new skills, and parents are responsible for the child they raised. Parents often lose it and react, and in the process don’t teach anything other than that their child should be afraid of them. Parents who use corporal punishment often react out of desperation before they really consider the underlying reason. The child just gets beaten without fully understanding what they did wrong, simply learning that their parents don’t like it and not to do it again… and get caught.

Parents who employ corporal punishment as a discipline tool are simply training their kids to resent them.

Beatings damage your child’s self-esteem, their ability to interact properly with others, their view of the world and their view of how they deserve to be treated!

Beatings push your children away from you, and they become vulnerable to picking up vices from strangers. They also perfect bad habits such as lying. Why make your child grow up traumatised?

Punishment isn’t the only facet of discipline! In fact, if your discipline consists of just negative consequences, it isn’t very effective.

Some parents, when asked why they beat their children, will say out of frustration “I don’t know what else to do.” How would you feel if you were meted out that same punishment by a spouse or loved one with the excuse of them not knowing how else to let you know you’d made a mistake? That would be termed ‘Emotional Pain and Suffering’ for an adult, so why do we believe children don’t have the same feelings that adults do? The screaming that comes from a young child being beaten is not so much the result of physical trauma as it is emotional trauma. They experience the overwhelming emotional pain of rejection, worthlessness, and the betrayal is usually much worse than any physical pain.

So, is #StopBeatingChildren a relevant movement in the Nigerian society? Yes.

We need to recognize beatings for what they are – abuse. We need to break the cycle of abusing our children because we were abused. There are other equally effective methods of disciplining a child without physical (or verbal) abuse. Parents can try, for one, actually talking to the kids like they’re human beings with brains. They should also try educating them as patiently as possible about the dangers or implications of their bad behaviour. Ignore them, ground them, take away something they love, clearly express your disapproval and lecture them if need be, just do anything but abuse them. The mental scars you inflict on them will last longer than any lesson you’d like them to learn.

What are your thoughts on using corporal punishment as a discipline tool?