The effects of corporal punishment on your child
There are gentler, more effective ways to discipline your children.
The effects of corporal punishment on child development cannot be overemphasized. Martha was spanked seriously by her mom when she found out that Martha kept going to the neighbour's house to ask for food. So she taught her a hard lesson. They didn’t have so much but that didn’t warrant begging.
Tony wasn’t very excited when he heard the bell. He hated going back home from school. His dad was always finding a reason to flog him. He went back home about 20 minutes later than usual. He got the beating of his life that day, and his mom also refused to give him food. He slept hungry that night.
These are two very different scenarios. But these are both forms of abuse, no matter the intention of the parents. A lot of Nigerian kids have passed through this phase, and we’re tempted to believe that it’s part of a good upbringing, like if you don’t flog your child they’ll turn into monsters.
But No! This narrative is wrong and clearly misunderstood. The Nigerian child doesn’t need to pass through the hands of violent parents before they grow into responsible adults. The effects of corporal punishment on child development are worse than you thought.
Why do parents adopt corporal punishment?
You often hear tales like ‘my father would never have let me go scot-free.’ Parents flog their children because their own parents flogged them. This is the only form of correction most people know, and they think it’s even more effective if the child has a physical scar for it.
The reason is that when he sees the scar he won’t commit that ‘evil’ again. How wrong! To think that inflicting physical injuries on a child would change him.
“You don’t beat your children, and that’s why they talk to you like that!”
This one is not even new. Most times, family and friends are the ones that encourage corporal punishment. They see any adverse behavior and think you should nip it in the bud by flogging, of course.
Sometimes we can be so caught up with trying to make our kids fear and respect us that we forget we should be their best friends. If they’re too busy fearing and respecting you, the child would forget what it feels like to have a parent who actually cares.
3. To instill fear
Fear is also a factor when it comes to grooming children. Sometimes the parents are afraid of raising spoiled children, and so they think to check every abhorrent behavior with violence. Sometimes violence in Nigerian homes is called tough love.
Some religious folks would want to train up a child in the way he should go, which is very proper, except that training a child does necessarily mean flogging that child to a pulp. It means gentle corrections, leadership by example, soft punishments, house arrest, seizing gadgets and games just to drive the lesson home.
Effects of corporal punishment on child development
These are many negative impacts:
- Corporal punishment could breed contempt.
- Not knowing how to channel those energies (first point) could cause children to become anti-social.
- It develops poor self-esteem. (They learn to fear punishment, rather than try to understand why they should follow rules.)
- It leaves psychological marks, leading to mental illnesses such as depression, bulimia, personality disorders and intellectual disabilities
- Corporal punishment may cause childhood anxiety (could extend into adulthood).
- It sends the message that it’s okay to hit others.
Children tend to mirror your actions and this could translate to exhibiting such behaviour elsewhere, such as to their friends (see next point).
- Aggression and violence to others.
- Difficulty in learning self-control or appropriate behaviour (when they internalise that there are no rules and things can be settled from being physical).
The tendency to lash out physically in a heat of anger is extremely common but know that smacking your child is never an effective method of disciplining them, no matter the circumstances.
Can violence be reduced at home?
Movies will show you parents who instill discipline without resorting to corporal punishment. Experts of childhood behaviors believe that you can train a child in a non-humiliating way and they’ll still turn out well.
Here are some tips.
1. Discipline, not punishment
A child does something really bad and you know this goes beyond a pep talk with a stern face, but that doesn’t automatically mean heavy beatings.
You can discipline him or her in other, more effective ways by explaining that there are consequences for unacceptable behaviour. For example, assign doing the dishes or laundry for a week. Or, you could place a "ban" on mobile phones and other devices. Take away TV-time for a day (or week - it's up to you). The list goes on and on.
2. Withhold gifts
It’s Christmas and everyone loves to be pampered and surprised this period, especially the kids. So while everyone goes for shopping and pays visits to Santa, explain to the child "sorry, you can’t join us on this one because you did that mean thing to that kid and I’m really mad at you so you’ll have to say home this time."
The child can get the gift at a later date, but for the time being, make them know they are in the wrong.
A lot of schools do this but who says you can’t do it at home too. If your child has done something unacceptable, then, explain there will be consequences. For example, assign him a book to read and write a preview, give him a spelling test, or assign some challenging math problems.
4. Unlearn the things you know about parenting
Violence in parenting is rampant, especially in Nigeria. Nigerians have to unlearn the parenting tips they got from their own parents. A lot of parents should begin to see the light of proper discipline without the cane. The kids will still turn out fine when you don’t print cane marks into their backs.
5. Get close to your children
Closeness with the child is also important because the parents know their children on an intimate level, then they’ll both know what the other party likes. It’s that simple. Make your relationship a two-way street.
Parenting can be a lot easier than you think. Gentle correction is that ‘rod’ we thought was the cane all along!
Also Read: Should you discipline someone else's child?