Cruelty or Love?


I have wanted to write about this particular topic for the longest now and finally, here I am sitting by the riverbank, taking in the much needed fresh air as I watch these beautiful unbothered swans swim. Near the water are these two doves hungrily feeding on the leftover crumbs as if they haven’t had food for days. It is calming to watch the little waves on the water and feel the wind on my brown skin.

“We turned out alright” they say. But did they really? I ask myself. A question only a victim of physical abuse could answer by being completely honest with themselves. Digging deeper into my experiences and gathering from all conversations I have had with people who the rod wasn’t spared, here is what I think. I’m talking about beatings that were exerted on a lot of us in the name of discipline.

Where I grew up it wasn’t uncommon to hear children wailing and crying for dear life every so often because they had either done something that triggered their parent or guardian to beat them. Tough love they call it. The joke of the decade concerning this is, “I’m beating the mistakes out of you, not you. Appreciate me for being so loving and correcting you now, so you can become something in the future. If I don’t do it the world will.” If you aren’t too sanctimonious you won’t deny how many times you have heard that statement. We can all agree that most parents have the best intentions for their children and that discipline is key to them. How some of them went about it was the only way they knew. And for sure they did go through struggles unknown to us. We do appreciate them for everything they did and for sticking by our side.

However, we cannot ignore the cruelty that some of them subjected to their kids. Knowingly or unknowingly. There are so many children who were beaten “Kichapo cha mbwa“. It is a statement a lot of us use quite a lot, to mean beaten like a dog. Beating animals isn’t right, and yet this is the norm that I experienced in my community. Most children were beaten for no absolute reason. Punished for mistakes they didn’t commit.

If you were flogged by your guardians, how many of those times were “deserving“? For example, I have heard stories where a child would go to report a disturbing matter to their guardian and without them looking into it they would instantly put the blame on the child and start beating them. How many beatings did you get for bad grades? How many strokes did you get for dirtying your Sunday best outfit? How many slaps did you get for every glass you broke? How many beatings did you get for forgetting to do a certain task? How many whips did you get in school for speaking in your vernacular?

The most heartbreaking of these stories is where a child would go to report an older person who was sexually molesting and assaulting them and instead of a guardian seeing to the depth of the story they would beat their child and go to an extent of asking the child what they did to attract that. Like seriously! Do you see why up to date there are some people who will normalize assault and rape and not believe a victims case? They learnt from their closest. The guardians.

I had a heart to heart talk with a man who told me how distrusting his dad was of him as a child. More than often the dad never took his word and he would usually get beaten a lot even when he was innocent. I say that because the beatings were very normal. Still are I guess. He told me that he believed his parents were like his gods and that he couldn’t lie to them about anything, so he never lied but still got beaten. So imagine what all the beatings and distrust did to him. Tell me how this won’t change you.

This led me to think about how impatient we often are with our children and how many of our frustrations we unconsciously rub on them. The energy we impose on them, the fear we instill in them that they, in turn, cannot come to us when they are going through issues and need guidance or just love. Think, it has taken you all your years to learn some of the things you know and you expect your very young child to think it is common sense and to not fail, and if they do slaps and canes are your pick.

There are those who say a child is theirs and they will do with them whatever they want. Well, I just hope they realize that a child is not an object or a possession. We all want to raise a woke generation and to achieve that we have to do right by our children. Right and wrong are perceived differently. But what I would hope for us to agree on is that showing love doesn’t have to be mean and physically painful.

Tough love that comes in the form of physical and mental abuse is the hardest for me to comprehend. Inflicting physical pain followed by insults on a helpless child who can’t fight for themselves and calling it discipline is now beyond me. For me this kind of love is one way to show a child that it is okay to be violent. Is it so impossible to find a loving way to correct your child when they do the wrong thing? Aren’t there any other effective ways to correct your child other than inflicting pain on them?

I did think beatings were the way of life because of how my society was set up. Now I don’t. And no bible verse will ever make it right for me. How unjust is it to let your children be beaten not only by you but by your neighbors, teachers, strangers, or whoever else in the name of punishing their mistakes? How would you feel if you got a beating for every single mistake you made? Life finds a way to slap us for our mistakes yes, but think of the traumas you are creating in that child by aimlessly beating and insulting them.

I have sat in crowds of people narrating how they were beaten by their parents and everyone including them laugh about it. Some will even go ahead to narrate how they beat their children but not as much as they were beaten. And some will argue how un-African it is not to beat children.

The woke ones are those who have realized the wounds buried deep in their subconscious and are working on forgiveness and healing. They know they can’t turn back time to go erase the mistreatment. They have realized that such traumas have impacted their lives in one way or another and they don’t find this narrative funny, because they have felt the damage. They won’t cheer up or watch anyone beat a child. They have struggled in certain aspects of their lives because of the physical and emotional scars they still have from the beatings. They have for a good part of their life second-guessed the love their guardians claimed to have for them. They have struggled to discern the love from the fear.

They find it hard to confront their guardians on why they caused them this kind of pain. They realize that the worst victim is one that creates another. They yearn to know better and try to do better to break the abusive cycle. They speak out against violence on children. They recognize that love isn’t violent. They are learning to forgive their guardians for taking out their frustrations on them. They have slowly realized that their parents knew only what they knew then, and did so as their parents did by them. Day by day they are healing from the insults and becoming a cleaner version of their being. They are detaching from every hurtful label they were called and are redefining the amazing persons they are.

If you have been a victim of this kind of abuse my heart truly and deeply reaches to you. I hope for you to search within yourself and slowly crawl out of the fear and pain you’ve been swaddled in. I hope you find the grace to heal and recreate an image you love to see when you look in the mirror. The pieces of you that were lost during the beatings shouldn’t define you. Learn to recreate better memories regardless of the painful experiences.

Find a way to work on the resentment and ugly feelings you have harbored all this time. Denial is worse than confronting a situation and finding a healthy way to cope. Believe me that those beatings did shape you in one way or another. The best thing is you possess the power to change the narrative. Take your experinces as a lesson to do better by you and by those who surround you, be it your offspring or your neighbors.

So, did you turn out just fine? Do you think that beatings affect children and it manifests in their growth up until when they are adults? If this article took you to places you would rather forget. I’m deeply sorry. And if you would like to share your experiences please do so in the comment section, you can do so anonymously if it feels safer for you that way.


  • Richmond

    I totally agree with all your points. But in some cases and for some people those kind of beatings shaped their life and made them the better person they are. In my case, I have always wanted to to what I wish or like, but I got beaten that did not permit me to do anything wrong but always do things right, and today I can say I am happy I got my foundation fixed with what we call “konk”

    Yes some parents use it as abuse on their children, but 98% of it is corrective beating. When you compare kids of western societies and other societies you will see the complete difference. Maybe some other times I will share some experiences.

  • Anonymous

    Well I have a had a fair share of beating growing up especially from Teachers and Mom…. I being a Teacher learnt psychology in the Teacher’s College the adverse effects of purnishment not only physical on children. But on my first job as a practicing teacher I was adviced to use the cane as it is the ‘only’ way the kids understand….
    As a grown up the effects of that form of discipline has been tremendous, I have been in constant fear of Authorities for no reason. Just a call from my boss would send my blood pressure to the roof. I have also lacked the Courage to speak up against unfairness or injustices done to me or to someone else.
    I have also been inclined to Play the victim and be dependant instead of standing up and fighting for what I want. I have observed this behaviour on many Who have been raised up in the same tough love way.

  • wambui nganga

    personally i don,t support beating, ones self esteem is destroyed and relationship of the person receiving beating and the beater will never be the same you can never trust that person ata kama ni mzazi wako.
    There are other better modes of correcting mistakes not necessarily beating a person.
    A friend told me he was slapped by his Dad at the Airport in front of his family and friends. can you get the picture that was painted on his little daughter’s mind? And his dad told him you are my child no matter the age .

  • Grace Mungai

    Very true. The trust is broken. How sad is that, because the first person(s) we should learn trust from and trust with our lives are the ones breaking it. I’m unable to see love here.

    I don’t want to imagine the mental imbalance that scene created on that mans daughter. I really hope we can grow out of this behavior.

    • Anonymous

      Tough love..I’m unable to side on this one because apparently am a mum nd somehow when my child is unbearable the only way to tame is slippers haha. . But between canning n shouting. Which should i rather. Well, boy. I guess I’m slowly becoming my mum. Damn.

      • Grace Mungai

        It’s good to have a perspective from a modern day mum. It’s definitely easy to become what we would rather not become because it runs deeper than we recognize. I totally understand where you are coming from. But at the end of the day the choice is ours to raise our kids the way we want to. You choose what you feel is good for them. Thank you for reading and commenting

  • Anonymous

    I personally dont agree with beating as a Form of corrective punishment, although sadly enough for some of my childhood friends, this seemed to be the only way of stopping them from joining Gangs, peddling drugs, force them to do home work and not to drop out of sch.On the other hand, i always felt that my mum was too linient, too soft..i wish she had used the cane at some point.She used to cry when we were too much, only to be disciplined by my elder bros and sistas.Those Kids who received – kichapo cha mbwa- at home and still nearly the same in sch..became somehow hardened by those beatings.Some dropped out of sch class 6/7, others decided it was Payback time..One boy in class 8 nearly killed the deputy headmaster..The tchr had ahabit of caning Kids sometimes for no reason, and this boy kept telling us..huyu sikumoja ataona..The deputy called him infront as usual and placed his head btn his thighs so as to cane the buttocks..the boy lifted him up with his shoulders and he fell on his back! He was abig man, He laid there without movement and we thought he was dead.The boy Just took his bag, left and never came back. And from this day, things changed in that sch.Afew boys who had nothing to Lose, dropped out of sch and started to revenge! They would waylay the tchrs on their way home, in maize plantations, Rob and beat them up to the extent of police Escort! Some girls got pregnant, others moved in with their gangster boyfriends and started ferrying guns around! So this is Just the other Bad ugly side of caning..but i still believe in spare the rod spoil the child..i have many examples but i beg to stopp here…

    • Grace Mungai

      Damn whaaaaaat? I felt like I was reading a script from a scary gang movie. Wow that must have been quite a school.

      But do you think beating someone over and over saves them from joining gangs? Could it not be them seeking attention and wanting to be tough because of the cruelty they receive at home?

      I think I might end up like your mum and cry when everything overwhelms me. I would choose that than physically abusing my kids.

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