‘I gave birth to you, so I can kill you if I like’
These are words I have heard a parent utter to his own child. Why? Because his child failed his exam at school.
Taking a look at the way a lot of African parents raise their children, they do not raise their kids as separate human beings from themselves, they raise their kids in a way they see fit for their own status in the society. When a child does well in school, they say ‘that is my child’, they take credit for their children’s academic success, so it is not shocking that they also feel responsible for their failure. That is why they feel the need to ‘fix’ their children, by beating them when they fail at school, beating them when they are not reading 24/7, beating them when they break a mug, punishing them for staining their clothes etc, as a way to ‘disciplining’ the children and preventing them from being failures. They have somehow forgotten that they are only instilling fear and sometimes resentment in the children. Coupled with this process of this ‘discipline’, some parents are even verbally abusive, saying all sorts of harmful words to their children, just like the statement above.
Let me shade a little bit more light on fear, maybe some people may not understand. Some of us heard Kendrick Lamar’s last album, ‘Damn’. A track on it was titled ‘fear’. On the first verse of this track, he talked about a child whose mom instilled fear in him (or himself as a child), because she always threatened to beat him at the slightest mistake, and then on the 3rd and the 4th verse, he talked about how much he has become accustomed to the fear that has accumulated over the years, and some other fears that bother him, like fear of losing creativity, losing loyalty etc.
This is an example of how much fear at an early age may cause children. This also explains why we a lot of African children do not have close relationships with their parents. Some of them find it hard to open up to their folks, because they are afraid of how their parents will react. There was a story about a lady who advised a teenage girl to get an abortion. The teenage girl got pregnant, but could not tell her mother, because her mother would be furious, so instead she confided in a total stranger.
In a mother daughter relationship for example, where the mother yells and beats her daughter for doing anything wrong, how easily do we expect the daughter to open up to her mother when something goes wrong with her? What’s shocking is that when the daughter grows old, people expect her to automatically have a good and cordial relationship with her mother, someone she whom was never close to her even when they lived under the same roof.
Now deviating from fear, another aspect is Control. Forcing children to study specific courses in universities or to follow certain professions because they think they know what is best for their kids. Some go as far as using their children to fulfill the dreams that they wish he would have achieved. Children are human beings that have the right to make certain decisions concerning their lives, so that they can be responsible for their successes and failures in life, and not live a life regretting the decisions their parents forced them to make. We have heard success stories from different people who talk about how their parents first kicked against their choice of career, which made it more harder for them to fulfill their dreams. This should not always have to be the story for African kids. It’s okay to advice children on certain choices, but you cannot always force them to do whatever you want.
A lot of people believe this tough love of beating, controlling and emotionally abusing kids is necessary, because it is a form of discipline that shapes children to become responsible adults. For example, if a child fails at school, we beat him so he’ll read his books instead of playing. Even though that child may have a learning disability, or is simply a slow learner who needs attention and not beating. The truth is that you’re not hitting a child because you want the child to learn, you’re hitting child because you’re angry at the child, or because you’re disappointed at the child, you’re simply transferring aggression. If you really want to help the child, you’ll talk to the child, listen to the child, and understand what is wrong with that child, not hit the child till the point that they think their parents hate them or that they were adopted.
I went to a military secondary school (Command Secondary School), where we had a lot of soldiers and army officers. We get beaten by the soldiers for the slightest reasons, sometimes for no reason at all. Despite all these beating and punishment, we still remained stubborn and disobedient. Getting punished gave us the reputation of a bad student, a reputation that students have somehow turned into a form of honors among ourselves. So the more trouble you got into as a student, the more ‘rep’ you had. All this ‘discipline’ never helped us to be better.
Point is, abuse, whether physical or emotional doesn’t not in anyway discipline children, neither does emotional abuse. There are ways to reprimand children asides from abuse, there are also ways to discipline them other maltreating them.