Keywords: Disciplinary methods, abuse, discipline, punishment, reinforcement, Nigeria.

Introduction.

Disciplinary Methods in Nigeria. What does to discipline and abuse mean? Biblical quotes and meaning of discipline. How do Nigerians discipline their children? Complications from poor disciplinary methods. What are the right disciplinary methods?

In all cultures people have formulated different methods of imparting discipline into their offspring. Disciplinary methods are mostly influenced by culture and religion of the people. Some of these methods are good, while many are detrimental to the child development, physically, psychologically and cognitively. And many of these detrimental methods have not been able to survive the test of time.

What does discipline and abuse mean?

Discipline is a method parents use to decrease unwanted behaviours and increase wanted behaviours and compliance in children. In disciplining a child, the aim is to teach the child what are good and bad behaviours. Another aim is to teach the child self control. Discipline is a very important aspect of parenting.  And teachers are also expected to instill discipline in children.

Concerning abuse, the aim is to badly hurt the child while causing severe physical and psychological damage to the child. The child could also be cognitively damaged.

Types of abuse.

 Physical abuse: This is also known as corporal punishment. It is consciously inflicting physical injury on the child, because it involves physical application of pain after an unwanted behavior. Physical abuse involves striking the child with the hand, a stick, belt, etc. It can also involve using obnoxious substances such as pepper, etc. on different body parts of the child.

Physical neglect: Parents also make use of deprivation method to correct unwanted behaviours from their children. Some deprive their children food, medications, and even shelter. For example, the parents may deprive the child food for certain number of days. Some parents chase the child out of the house without caring where the child gets shelter.

Psychological abuse: This is another form of abuse used in behavioural corrections. The child is belittled, shamed and called all sorts of names. These names include idiot, good for nothing child, goat head, etc. Many of those who make use of this form of abuse see it as a disciplinary measure that will make the child stop the bad behavior. Some believe that it will impart wisdom on the child.

The difference between discipline and abuse.

Discipline apart from correcting the child, it also helps the child to know what is right and what is wrong. Concerning abuse, apart from inflicting physical psychological and cognitive  harm, the child doesn’t get to know what the right behavior is.

What the Bible says about corrective measures.

There is this saying that is so famously quoted by those who believe in using abuse as corrective measures. They claim that the Bible makes the quote “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Unfortunately, this quotation does not exist anywhere in the Bible. The saying came from a 17th century poem written by Samuel Butler, with the title Hudibras.

Some actual quotes from the Bible.

Old Testament quotes includes, Proverbs 13:24a – “Who so ever spares the rod hates their children.” Proverb 23:13b – “If you punish children with the rod, they will not die.”  Proverbs 29:15a – A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom.

New Testament quotes includes Colossians 3:21 – “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Interpretations of these quotes.

Over the years many religious scholars and human rights activists have tried to explain the meaning of the quotes. Due to this the meanings of these quotes have changed over the years. Many of the interpreters believe that children should not be abused on the pretext of what the Bible says.

Argument against corporal punishment:

These people believe that the Bible verses should be taken together with the surrounding paragraphs. So, the complete version of Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

The word rod –

This is an object used by shepherds and it usually has a hook like end. And the Shepherd holds this rod as he walks in front of the sheep leading the way. The rod is used to direct any straying sheep, back to the flock. It is not used to hit the stray sheep. But there can still be a few stubborn sheep that still do not join the flock after the gentle direction. For these sheep, the hook end of the rod is used pull them back to the path.  The hook does not harm the sheep.

The rod is also used as a weapon against wild animals that came to attack the sheep. This rod was used to hit wolves, lions, etc. not on the sheep.  The Hebrew people see the rod as an extension of the hand. So the Hebrew rod is used to lead, direct and protect.

The word discipline –

From the Hebrew interpretation, the word discipline actually comes from the word, Disciple. So discipline means to correct, to instruct or teach.

Comparing the Old and New Testaments.

It may seem that the two are contradicting each other when it comes to child correction. This will only be so, if the Old Testament was supporting corporal punishment for an erring child.  But if the Old Testament was referring to correcting or instructing an erring child, then the two parts of the Bible will be in harmony.

How do Nigerians discipline their children?

The methods Nigerian use in disciplining their children comes from their culture and religious beliefs. In the original culture of Nigerians, the extended family system was the norm. So everybody watched out for everyone else. But today, this system is fast eroding to the practice of individualism and the nuclear family system. Even though the average Nigerian loves children, when it comes to correcting a child, Nigerians still practice some of those abusive methods describe above.

The disciplinary methods used:

So the typical Nigerian parent will use physical abuse or corporal punishment to correct an erring child. This includes beating, whipping, knocked on the head, etc. Some children have some parts of their bodies burnt, or have red hot chili pepper rubbed on their eyes or into the vaginas. Many are deprived of one or two meals, or sent out of the house without caring where they will go to next. Cursing is seen as a norm, because many parents believe that shaming a child will impart wisdom on the child.

The effects of the extended family system:

The extended family system helped to curtail the excesses that could have arisen from these corrective practices. So the grandparents and other relatives in the house or in the compound were always available to bridge some of these excesses. Thus, even when the parents hit or flog their children it wasn’t to inflict injury.

But with the nuclear family system now in place, that cushioning effect from the relatives is lost. Many children end up having injuries, some hospitalized and few die from the injuries.

The role of religion:

All Christians in Nigeria believe in the adage of spare the rod and spoil the child. This has gone a long way to perpetrate the use of corporal punishment and other forms of obnoxious corrective methods. Most Nigerians don’t even know that such an adage does not exist in the Bible. Countries that brought Christianity to Nigeria have banned corporal punishments and all types of abusive behavioural corrective measures.

The role of culture:

Most parents today just keep repeating what they saw their parents use. They are not mindful that the effects of the extended family system are no more there to protect the child. This is because they cannot practice what they do not know. One cannot give what one doesn’t have.

Unfortunately for parents, the world is now a global village. So they cannot continue to hide under the cloak of culture to continue abusing their children.

Complications of poor disciplinary methods.

Corporal punishment and all other forms of abuse can affect the child physically, psychologically, socially and cognitively. And at the beginning of the use of abuse, it may seem that it is working in curbing bad behaviours. But the continuous use of abuse will make the child develop means of hiding the bad behaviours from the parents.

Physically, these forms of abuse can cause injuries both externally and internally. Some can even maim the child for life, or cause death to the child.

Psychologically, many research studies have proved continuously, that children, who are abuse, can breakdown with mental illnesses. These include depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. Abused children are at high risk of dying by suicide, as children and even in adulthood. They are more likely to abuse drugs to cope with the abuse.

Socially, these children exhibit aggression, conduct disorders and other forms of delinquency. They are more likely to use aggression to settle issues, because that is what their parents have taught them. Even as adults, they are more likely to abuse their partners and their children in domestic violence. With conduct disorder, these children can grow up having antsocial personality disorder. Thus they can easily go into cults and crime. From which they can get in trouble with the law, kill people or get killed.  And in the Nigeria of today, many Nigerian children cannot be said to be better behaved than their Caucasian counterparts.

Cognitively, majority do not do well academically. They end up with poor grades and some will drop out of school. But for those who go ahead to go higher in education, they never really reach their full potentials.

Proper disciplinary methods.              

There are different types of disciplinary methods, this includes punishment and reward. And they are specifically used as teaching and corrective measures. For effective discipline, it is good to mix punishment with reward.

The child must know the reason for the discipline and it must be immediately following the misbehavior. Then after the disciplinary measure, there should be a talk between the parent and the child on best practices. The parents must let the child know their expectations, giving reasons. If it is an older child, the parent should listen to the child on his/her view on the matter. The parent should be firm in most cases, but occasionally allow for some common grounds.

These corrective measures help the child to form the habits of good behaviours. Once the habits are formed, they are difficult to extinguish. And good disciplinary methods go together with good parenting methods.

Punishment.

This is an act that decreases behaviour. Here, the parents can get the child to do something that he would not want to do. By getting the child to do what he does not like doing, can get him to stop the bad behaviour. For example, the parent can tell the child to write an apology like ‘I am sorry it will not happen again’ -50 times. This works well for young children. For older children the parent can tell the child that he must wash the car for the next one month.

Or the parents can deprive the child of something the child likes. For example, if the child likes going out to spend some time with his/her friends, the parent can deprive the child this opportunity for a certain period of time. This works well for older children. For the younger child, especially toddlers, the parent can do time out. The parent can remove the child from that place the child is enjoying, to a corner of the room and let the child stay there for a few minutes.

Reward or reinforcement.

Here, the parents will commend the child whose behaviour is meeting expectations. These commendations can come as praises, kisses, hugs or giving token such as little money or gifts. For example, the parents can encourage the child with little gifts at the end of every school year’s good report sheet. This will ensure that the child will strive hard to maintain the good academic result. For the very young children, the parents can give a snack after the child successfully takes a nap.

Or when a child behaves well, the parent can reduce certain restrictions. For example, if a child has done well in an assignment or chores given, the number of chores can be reduced.

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