I do not have children of my own yet, yet I find myself vexed by this topic of mercilessly beating children. Some people ask me to wait until I have children to see if my standards based on this will shift. But how can I wait for this unpredicted time to speak on something that affects, has affected and continues to affect a lot of us directly or indirectly. I honestly can’t ignore how I feel when I learn of a child being abused in the name of discipline.
Maybe I am trying to speak out on child abuse because I am very passionate about children. Maybe I am trying to help someone to take a step towards healing their wounds, because I have listened to many people who have unresolved issues. Issues related to abuse from their past which interfere with them being the best versions of themselves. Maybe I am realizing that some of us walk around mistreating others, because this is what we were subjected to while growing up, and we might have bought into the lie that that is how we should treat others. I am not a mother yet, but I will use my voice to talk about issues I see within and around me. We often say it takes a village to raise a child. You and I are the village. We reflect on our lives, the good and the ugly, unlearn, relearn, learn and do better so we can impact other generations to do even better. Your voice isn’t insignificant. Never buy into the idea that it is. You and I can change the narrative.
Below I‘m sharing some very interesting, heartbreaking, insightful and eye-opening stories I heard from you after posting Cruelty or Love. The names have been changed.
“I had a fair share of beatings growing up, especially from mom and my teachers. I being a teacher, I learnt in psychology the adverse effects of physical punishment on children. On my first job as a practicing teacher, I was advised to use the cane as it is the ‘only’ way the kids understand.
As a grown-up, the effects of that form of discipline have 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 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 behavior on many who have been raised in the same tough love way.”
“My parents especially my mum were the church-going type. After church, she would physically abuse us. We suffered so much that we started wondering, what was the purpose of claiming to serve God yet it wasn’t reflecting in how she was raising us? Up to date I still don’t see any meaning in the church because my parents removed any trust I ever had. Now that I am older the memories hurt even more.
When I was 18 I wasn’t even bothered, and I could laugh about it. But now it’s like it’s happening all over again in my head and I find it hard to forget. Sometimes I remember how she even gave me permanent body marks from beatings and I just wanna cry. But I live to forgive her every day because we were raised during different times and now we know better.”
“I was raised by my aunt, a primary school teacher, and a strict disciplinarian. She believed that every mistake had to be corrected through a beating. I would be surprised if a day passed by without being beaten. I would be beaten for adding a little too much salt in the food, for waking up 5 minutes late, for taking too long from the shop, for failing to take a bath, for speaking too loud, and the list goes on.
There is one incident that traumatizes me to date because it left me with both a physical and an emotional scar. I did not “deserve” it because I was completely innocent. She never wanted to hear my side of the story, she beat me until I was almost breathless, almost broke my arm, blaming me for things I did not understand, just because I had accepted to keep a bunch of keys for my friend, which she had stolen, but how could I have known they were stolen keys.
A week later she came to apologize after she realized I was innocent, but that just added more to my pain. I have never forgiven my aunt and I don’t think I will ever do, as long as I carry this scar. I was thoroughly beaten in many other occasions, but I was in the wrong and I cried and got over it, because I believed it was normal.”
“Beating cowers, hardens, numbs and/or desensitizes you. How does violence make you better? Who decides what’s wrong and what’s right? Most of them are just experiences to explore, but a beating just shuts you up without explaining why an action is wrong. That the person feels fixed just reflects that they were put in a box to stay there and cannot veer off.
It is only when someone consciously goes back to look at getting hit, that they can dissect and well understand what it did to them. Like the comment given by the teacher. An adult that beats a child, is unconscious, and may just be perpetuating their childhood. It is a short cut to proper communication and resolution. It is a control mechanism. I believe most people that beat are unaware of this, and just do it blindly. It avoids proper dialogue. You cannot beat up a child then hug them after, even if you do, they will still be in a resentful vibe.
Other forms of correction allow a child and the parent to cool off and sober up enough to dialog. That trains them and opens up space for trust. We didn’t go to our parents to discuss personal issues because the violence creates a wall. Got a lot to say here but I’ll end it at that and hope that people try to be honest and kind with themselves to interrogate if they are okay and well because they were beaten.”
“I never experienced those childhood beatings but I know of relatives and close friends who did. I was present when some of them were beaten and all I can say is that nothing justifies such kind of treatment from parents /caregivers or any other person whatsoever. The impact of the physical and verbal abuse on children are far-reaching than we can imagine.
First, it teaches children that mistakes can only be corrected by beating. And since children learn most things via observation, they tend to embrace violence and aggression. Thus, they are likely to do the same to other children and later in life to their spouses and friends. It can be really difficult for such children to form lasting relationships even in the future when they become adults.
Besides, physical abuse hurts a child’s self-esteem and confidence. It becomes hard to speak their minds about anything because of the fear that has been instilled in them through the abuse. The whole act of physical and emotional abuse screams, ‘you are weak, defenseless, and can never be in control’. It hurts the body, soul, and mind. According to psychology, children who experience this kind of abuse are more likely to develop mental disorders and become abusers in the future.
Also, physically abusing children devalues the relationship between them and their parents /caregivers. This is because the children even doubt whether they are loved and wanted. The sense of identity, belonging, and security fades as the abuse heightens. I have heard of children who ran away from home because they don’t feel loved and wanted due to the abuse.
I know a family whose son ran away from home 26 years ago and he has never visited or contacted them. He wrote a letter citing that he has gone to look for his parents because he knows that his real parents would never subject him to such abuse. Believe it or not, that was the last time his parents and siblings saw him. Rumors has it that he was taken in by another family and even has a family of his own now. Imagine that!
I don’t know how such abuse can lead to positive behavior. Those who say that they turned out fine because of the beatings, it could be wrongful conclusion because there are other factors at play when it comes to human behavior. Additionally, we don’t know which aspect of you turned out fine and which didn’t. This can only be assessed on a case by case basis, the behavioral aspects that an individual possesses, and the responses to different stimuli in the environment.
Let’s be patient with our children and acknowledge that physical punishment is not the only language that we can speak. Only then can we embrace and promote non-violent ways of disciplining our children.”
“I was never a victim of the beatings unless I was horribly in the wrong. My mother would mostly give us a time out and ask for a full page of a written composition. On the other hand, my dad believed that being spared would just make us worse. Although it never came to a point of him beating us. I think we all knew and only took risks when only mum was around.
My childhood friends were beaten and my dad would come out and say the parents were wrong and we should not stand for such. Seeing how they lived in fear we thought we were somehow better off. I think it’s wrong and even worse if parents justify their doing by saying ‘spare the rod spoil the child’ or ‘if you don’t straighten your kids the world will do it for you’
I think there are better ways to discipline children and people should be taught these ways. Kids should be encouraged on how to speak up if it’s too much. Others are damaged and they don’t know it. So they are full of anger and temper not knowing where it originates.”
I’m afraid that if I am blessed with kids someday I might use ‘mwiko’ as a threat. I picked up the threat from my mum’s housekeepers trying to make us do our homework. And it worked. She never used it and I disagree with what she did but it was effective. So it sticks as a tip to raise kids. But I hope I never get to use it myself. Because I am aware.
”Spare the rod, spoil the child” used to be one of the most commonly used phrases while we were growing up. Since this kind of ‘punishment’ was the most common in our neighborhood, we weren’t spared either. Any slight misbehavior would trigger merciless canning, sometimes you’d be forced to miss a meal or two all in the name of raising a morally-upright generation. Over time, children would treat their parents with utmost reverence, every decision that the parents made, right or wrong would be final and left unchallenged.
Parents would say that we are who we are today as a result of our beatings, that it shaped us but that might not be the case to everyone. People tend to react differently to various situations/challenges and I believe that there is always a better way to raise a child. Even if that method seemed to work well on some, what worked then might not work now. The world has changed. The only constant thing is change. Let us be our own children’s example of who we would want them to be. We ought to empower them mentally, emotionally, spiritually and above all care to offer a listening ear to their pleas.”
I chose those few stories to give you more coverage on the topic. Maybe your story resonates with bits of each story shared above. I ask you to see these persons and see how their background shaped their thoughts and doings up until now. Search within yourself and answer these questions as honestly as you can be.
- Is physical pain the most effective form of punishment?
- Did you turn out just fine because of the beatings you got?
- What joy does it bring a person to beat up a child and have them sleep hungry in the name of discipline?
- Would you forgive those who mistreated you in the name of discipline?
- What would you do differently?