Spanking of children is practically an African (and Nigerian) pastime. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ is one of our most loved phrases. Spanking we believe is an integral part of the child-rearing experience and if we exclude it, we risk rearing a generation of spoilt, uncultured hooligans.
There has, however, been a shift in opinion in the last decade or two. School, which used to be right beside the parents in the use of corporal punishment is shifting gear. A number of schools in Nigeria are banning the use of corporal punishment as a whole, branding it outdated and unnecessary. Some parents are also jumping on the train, only using corporal punishment in the most extreme situations or refusing to use it altogether. Some, on the other hand, are adamant about the benefits of corporal punishment, citing it as the traditional way. It’s a tricky subject that doesn’t have a wrong or right answer.
Anyone who attended a school that made use of corporal punishment can recall a time (or many times) when it was abused. This has led to a number of people believing that corporal punishment is a tool of punishment that only the parent is entitled to use. While some people endured the most extreme forms of corporal punishment at school, they defend it till this day as a tool that shaped them into better people. Others went through the same experience and now brand it as a barbaric act.
The key to child discipline is a balance. Corporal punishment should never be a tool of child abuse or exploitation. The key to raising a responsible and well-rounded adult is not by creating a perpetual sense of fear in them but rather a sense of responsibility. Whether a child should receive corporal punishment in school is up to the parent. If the parent doesn’t want corporal punishment administered in school, he or she should create a system of accountability and yes, adequate punishment when needed. If the parent does decide that corporal punishment should be administered in school, it should be ensured that it is not excessive or abusive and that the child is able to speak up if it crosses that line.
Corporal punishment at home is another chapter in itself. Again, the key is a balance, whether the child is receiving corporal punishment or not, a sense of responsibility has to be created. If corporal punishment is administered, it should (again) not be excessive and shouldn’t be a form of stress relief for the parent.