Corporal Punishment: Violation of Children’s Rights.

Tackling a controversial topic such as this one is brave of me since corporal punishment is a widely spread normative practice in Africa, precisely in my country Zimbabwe. Polemic in my writings and nonchalant to backlash is what makes great writers. I have never agreed with corporal punishment and I feel it is a damaging mode of disciplinary measure that violates children’s dignity. I understand well meaning parents trying to raise decent human beings but is tantamount to abuse, as for most it stems from a sadistic obsession for hierarchical respect.

Causing physical harm or discomfort on children inorder to teach a lesson has long-term negative effects and short span obedience. I know what you are thinking, I was beaten as a child but I turned out fine. Yes you turned out alright just as a person who was sexually abused as kid also turned out fine but that doesn’t make it right. I don’t understand why a parent will hit 2/3 year old? At such age children are hardly cognitively capable of understanding the link between the deliberate inflicted harm from parents and the all-so-terrible crime that they may have committed. Children thrive in a more secure environment fostered by warmth and positive reaffirmations. Fear and discipline does not equate to respect but sends a message that violence is a conflict resolution. A child will resent and distance themselves from their parents. They will build a wall around themselves, disassociating from the world and becoming cold insensitive adults. They will have communication problems in adult relationships and even with their own children.

When a parent hits their child, it does not come from a calm place but it’s mostly a frustrated and angry reaction to defiance. The urge to control children by flogging them is detrimental to a child’s mental health. When you hit a child they bottle the hurt, confusion and questions. Where do those emotions go? They just don’t dissipate but manifest in adult disorders such as agressiveness, depression, lack of empathy, compulsive obsession etc. Some children become timid, withdrawn therefore affecting normal and healthy mental development . Parents boast about how their children are well mannered, no sir. You child is scared. People don’t realise how traumatic it is for kids and some kids tend to bed wet as a sign of psychological trauma.

Psychologist Alice Miller said:

What becomes of this forbidden and therefore unexpressed anger in children after being beaten? Unfortunately it does not disappear but is transformed with time into a more or less conscious hatred directed against either self or substitute persons. A hatred that will seek to discharge itself in various permissible and suitable ways as an adult.

Corporal punishment in schools or at home has been banned in 8 countries in Africa and 56 countries throughout the world. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child does not condone it, reiterating, “We shall ensure that no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Violence against children disguised as discipline should stop. I have two toddlers and they drive me crazy. I admit I have spanked my four year old son and I felt terrible. I have learnt we yield better results by sitting down and talking to them. They can read tones and understand the difference between playful mummy and stern disciplinary tone. Children are more intelligent than we realise. You are just a bully for hitting a vulnerable child who can’t even retaliate. If your neighbor refuses to agree with with you, do you beat them? Or when you have problems with your partner do yo beat them or you sit down and talk it out. So why must children suffer humiliation and physical harm?

Corporal punishment is a vicious cycle from one generation to another. Some may argue it is part of our culture and it has worked for years. Ever wondered why Africa has the most dictators in the world? We believe in absolute control with a thirst for hierarchical respect. Ruling with strict heavy handedness to instill fear. Most African parents feel they have the right to beat their children because they own them. The gag is, they don’t own them. To be honest this why they hit children to have absolute control and conform to what they assume is best without considering the emotional needs of a child. Lazy parenting. Tyranny comes from that line of thinking. Maybe that is why so many of us are functional alcoholics, do you know the amount of subconscious emotional trauma repressed in your mind? The question is, are you really yourself or a sub-person molded by a whip? Is it really part of our culture as black people?

Dr. Stacey Patton tends to disagree. She blatantly states that corporal punishment never existed in our culture precolonial era. She is an assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Morgan State University and the author of the book “Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America”

She says:

There is no evidence that ritualistic physical punishment of children existed in pre-colonial West African cultures, where children were viewed as sacred and purer than adults, and sometimes even as reincarnated ancestors or gods.

As victims of imperialism we have accustomed to colonialists violence and intergrated it with parental beliefs. Stacey wrote in a New York Times opinion article,

The truth is that white supremacy has done a masterful job of getting black people to continue its trauma work and call it “love.”

So many of my people still believe in corporal punishment and I don’t blame them. It’s how we all grew up. It is a normalised form of disciplinary measure. A survey from my Twitter account shows that we still have a long way to go as shown in the image below

People from Twitter said there is a difference between disciplinary hidings and abuse. If it comes from love and does not leave bodily marks or scars, it’s okay. Translation, abuse but don’t leave evidence. Again, the whole logic is evaded, it is more of the mental trauma it brings than physical pain.

Clergy believers will argue saying the Bible condones corporal punishment with the proverbial, spare the rod, spoil the child. Let me remind you that’s it’s the same Bible that says if children are rebellious they should be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21). We can not reproduce the Old testament Mosaic convenant world. Jesus never taught corporal punishment on children. Instead he taught us to love and protect them.

Nirvana Reginald Gayle has worked at Child Protective Services in Los Angeles County for 25 years and also a church minister for 20 years, wrote in THE TRUTH ABOUT SPARE THE ROD

In other words throughout scripture the rod was symbolic and representative of strength, power and spiritual transformation. So the real meaning of “spare the rod and spoil the child,” is that if you spare the rod of spiritual knowledge, insight and transformation to your child, they’ll be spoiled rotten.” In other words, without spiritual knowledge your children will be worthless. They need spiritual knowledge and insight in order to be the very best that they can be. Without this “rod” of strength, insight and spiritual awareness they’ll be lost in the world and of no good to anyone

The Bible ridden with metaphorical innuendos is subject to critic. So is selective Christianity. The Bible condones slavery too but that was an old testament convenant so this argument doesn’t really suffice. It’s is not okay to beat children and I was shocked by studies that children get spanked from the age 2? C’mon people this sits right with you? Talk to your children please and I don’t mean yelling and berating them. Calm but stern. Don’t lash out at them, after all, they are but just children. They are so many other alternative disciplinary technics.

I believe we can become a better and improved generation of parents. Children deserve to be protected. We live to unlearn.

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