Spare the rod and spoil the child

Mother rebuking her child for being disobient.

By Farayi Mungoshi

LAST week I wrote about sensitising our children on abuse and how children at a particular ECD centre in Chitungwiza had been asked to draw a picture of their parents fighting.
I felt it was wrong but couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong. I asked a few parents and cousins who also felt it was wrong, but when I asked what exactly was wrong, they also couldn’t pinpoint.
Lawyer Rumbi Venge said it was generally raising awareness, that children need to be sensitised on the topic of abuse.
While I agreed to the need to raise awareness among our children, I did not agree with the teaching method.
Because all it takes is one picture to set a child on a path that can either liberate or imprison him/her.
Should our ‘need’, as Africans, to be accepted by the West determine how we raise our children?
We have always believed that when a child does something very bad, a little whipping should do the trick to set the errant child back on track.
It was never considered abuse until someone from another country came and told us children should not be disciplined in such a manner; but it has worked for centuries prior that.
The question hence would be: When does disciplining a child become abuse?
I recall a period in my early years when my mother would tell on me to my father whenever I did something very bad.
The old man would take his belt and give me a good whipping but I could always tell in his eyes that he was performing an unsavoury task and should he take the disciplining a bit too far, mother would come pounding on the bathroom door telling him to stop.
Together, they had a partnership, agreement and understanding of how I should be raised up and, I must say, it worked.
To date, I can tell you the number of times my mother and father ever disciplined me in such a manner but I can’t tell you how many lashings I got at high school because they were far too many.
Today, it is hard because you can get conflicting views between parents — the mother believes a child needs such disciplining whereas the father sees it as abuse.
Once the child picks up on that, he/she can manipulate the situation however he/she wants to, pitting father against mother and vice versa.
And because of this thing called ‘equal rights’ that most people don’t really understand, we find parents fighting – divorce rates go up, and the children get crazier.
Some rights are self-destructive, as eventually you will not be able to control your children.
We see it all the time whenever some of our relatives come visiting from abroad with their children.
Some of these relatives cannot even control their own children because they say: “Ndiwo mutemo wacho, togozviita sei.”
But then, there are others who when they speak, the children listen, sit down and behave.
Through my observations, I have noticed that children listen when parents put up a united front. It just depends on the picture you put in front of your children.
We wonder why lots of Africans (blacks in particular) feel inferior and have very low self-esteem, yet we fail to realise that we have been receiving negative pictures about who we are for centuries now.
The positive pictures have long been turned into myth. Very few remember tales of a once glorious Africa when Egypt was a superpower.
What we see is poverty, pain and suffering and when we compare these images to the Western ones, we tell ourselves we are so behind; we are so useless that there is no coming out of this, but the truth is, our future is in our hands.
All we have to do is look away from the image Westerners have painted of Africa and paint a new image for ourselves.
It does not have to start with spaceships and going into outer space. No, but it can start with that child at ECD.
Let us accept who we are first before we beg to be accepted by others.


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