By Olanrewaju Ogundiminegha & Omolara Olufakunye
Child abuse is a criminal offence, as entrenched in the Nigerian constitution, likewise anywhere in the world but discipline is not.
Even the Holy Scriptures – Bible and the Quran – are in support of disciplining our children to ensure they are of good character.
In recent time, there have been several cases of discipline ‘taken too far’: parents and guardians abusing their wards all in the name of discipline.
While abuse refers maltreatment or inhumane treatment, discipline is a process of developing children’s behaviour by instruction and practice; especially to teach self-control. Child abuse can be in form of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect or sexual abuse.
According to UNICEF, six out of 10 children experience one form of abuse or another and only five out of 100 receive any form of support when the abuse occurs.
For instance, some weeks ago, a woman brutalized a seven-year-old houseboy for stealing meat in Akure. She used razor blade to inflict terrible wounds on the boy.
In Jigawa state, a 40-year-old man killed his 11 year- old daughter while punishing her for disobedience to his directives. The poor girl was reported to have sustained internal injuries, which led to her death. This happened February this year.
Even in schools, there have been cases of teachers abusing students or pupils all in the name of ensuring they are disciplined.
A teacher in Delta state in February this year flogged a 19-month-old baby to death for playing with water and getting wet. The teacher was said to have given the boy 31 strokes of cane before he went into comatose and consequently died afterwards.
Cases like these call for sensitization and drawing the line between abuse and discipline.
According to the principal of Imade College Owo, Mr. Adeyemi Farayola, child abuse could take life and it is very heart-breaking seeing children or kids with the patterns using hot iron, rod or razor blade in their bodies, that is not a good idea.
“I remember the day one of my students was flogged due to his wrong deed and he fainted. If not for God, I would have met myself where I was not supposed to be,” he revealed.
He stated that many parents, in recent times, brutalize their wards in the name of discipline, pegging the prevalence at 92%.
In his recommendation, Mr Farayola suggested counseling and advising children are better than flogging.
While saying some situations may arise where they needed to be flogged, he advised that “I know some won’t take heed to advice, we can actually flog them but not to an extent of brutalizing them.
“In the olden days, children could not face their parents talking to them or disrespecting them and parents use body language to tell their children what’s right and what’s wrong”.
Also speaking, the Principal of Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School, Akure, Mrs Omobola Ojoge said parents must clearly draw the line between disciplining their children and abusing them.
According to her, “Discipline is the practice of training children to behave in accordance with rules or code of conduct so they can adopt desirable future behavior. Which punishment is one of the ways. Punishment is inflicting suffering in someone for they’re wrong behaviour.
“We have different ways of constructing discipline for our children. One we start by information, we inform them that if you do these, these are the consequences.
“Then two, we move close to them and try to understand them we should correct them with love when they know mum won’t accept this, they won’t do it.
Mrs. Ojoge emphasized that it is the right of guardians to teach their children the best way to behave and this requires a lot of patience and time.
While harping on setting limit for the young ones, she suggested that parents must handle discipline with care and love. Try to teach and correct children right from wrong with calm word and actions. Set a limit to everything they do.
“Have clear and consistent rules your children can follow. Be sure to explain these rules with the simple words they can understand. Calmly and firmly explain the consequences if they don’t behave. “For example tell her that if she does not pick up her toys, you will put them away for the rest of the day. Be prepared to follow through right away. Don’t give in by giving them back after a few minutes after. BUT REMEMBER, NEVER TAKE AWAY SOMETHING YOUR CHILD TRULY NEEDS, SUCH AS A MEAL.
“Redirect bad behaviour. Sometimes children misbehave because they are bored or don’t know any better. Find something else for your child to do,” the educationist suggested.
She further harped on parents giving their children attention, saying “the most powerful tool for effective discipline is attention—to reinforce good behaviors and discourage others. Remember, all children want their parents’ attention”.
Also speaking, a retired teacher, Mrs. Caroline Olufakunye said ensuring proper upbringing of children starts from their birth.
While likening the children’s hearts to a clean slate, she averred that constructive correction, with words of mouth, begins for them immediately they start misbehaving.
“There are two types of punishments – capital punishment and corporal punishment. Capital punishment is meant for criminals while corporal punishment is just a way to influence a child character positively.
“When a new child is born, their heads are empty slates. So immediately the child is growing and start misbehaving, we try to correct them with words of mouth.
“We can correct them many times and we should explain the actions he has engaged in if it is contrary to what he is supposed to. If a child tries to go against what you said, then you can withdraw some incentives.
Speaking on flogging, the educationist berated the current trend of adopting western style of child discipline, where flogging is prohibited in any form. She identified that parents must avoid flogging in annoyance as it could lead to abuse.
“We must not cane with annoyance because that’s when its can lead to child abuse. Even the Bible confirms that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. But parents should not use this method when they are annoyed”.
Mrs. Olufakunye also recommended that parents should correct their children with love and always differentiate between the right and wrong for them.
A professional in Child Education, Mrs. Victoria Adebomi identified that many parents abused their wards rather than discipline them. She emphasized that shouting and flogging of children may not make them change from bad to good.
“Parents abuse their children instead of discipline, we don’t need to flog them and there is a way to discipline a child rather than flogging them or a form of abuse, sometimes shouting on them and beating them is not the point.
“When you shout on them or beat them they will stick to that. I mean it will be every day by day and they will not see that as a surprise for them and they will be adamant to correction. They will continue and they will think that it’s the best way for them to be disciplined.
“Rather than punishing them, I think there should be a responsible approach and a positive discipline should be adopted. This will help have a healthy relationship in a family”, She said.
The child educationist suggested that parents could engage their wards in one-on-one conversation always and ensure they create time for them.
“Some parents do not have time for their or children when they do something weird or annoying. Such parents do not understand why the child behaves that and that will make them react wrongly and aggressive words and it can cause emotional damage,” she added.
She also said, “giving them less punishment is part of discipline too and another thing to correct them was to tell them their negative behavior but appreciate their positive act”.
Ogundiminegha and Olufakunye are interns from Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo
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