I could barely contain my shock as I
watched a well grown man in his right senses use an electric wire to whip a
three year old. My heart broke and bled for her as I watched in horror and so
helpless to stop him. I ached as the little girl wailed. Another shop owner
rushed over and snatched the child from his grip stopping him from inflicting
more pains on her. Tears rolled down my check and I shudder at such extreme act
of discipline. When all was over, I asked another shop owner, “is he the father
of the girl?” Yes, the man answered and hissed saying – “child abuse” under his
breathe. “Yes oh” I echoed, this is real child abuse! What was the little
girl’s offense? I guess you are asking?  She carried the bottled water a
customer dropped on the chair while pricing some wares near her father’s

I felt lazy leaving the house
that eventful Saturday as the sun was high and scorching. It took every ounce
of will in me to leave the soothing comfort of the couch in my home to go
shopping for the materials I needed for my latest handcraft – Ankara bangles, earrings and
. Weekends were my free days, and there was need to restock
without further delay. At the market,  as I was bargaining the price of
some of the items I needed,  a little girl (not more than 3 years) playing
around, picked a fellow shopper’s bottled water. “No, no bring it!” the lady
said to her. The shopper’s protest drew the attention of the man in the next
kiosk the little girl ran into. He paused from arranging the wares and clinched
his jaws in anger on realizing that the shopper was referring to his daughter.
As the girl attempted to return the bottle, the man now enraged took an
electric wire, grabbed the girl and lashed her mercilessly. I shudder every
time I recall that scene. Such uncontrolled anger over an innocent act and no
one to hold him accountable! What would have been the fate of that little girl
if no one was watching? I just could not stop wondering.

As Africans, the rod is the
best form of discipline and we often do not subscribe to the “discussion and
grounding” act of discipline. We believe in “not sparing the rod”. Looking back
at our early days, you will agree with me that so many times our parents would
have finished using their hands on our “butts” or “back” when we erred
 before remembering to discuss the offense . Bare hands and cane were
supposedly the best and fastest way to drive home the discipline message. We
could never equate the offense and discipline meted out, even when we had
defaulted. My childish mind never accepted it as “fair”. When my mother found
herself in a place she could not openly chastise or use the “hand”, she would
pass the message with her eye. My brothers and I could interpret what each
repeated “blink” of the eye meant and I bet you, the action will follow later
and in appropriate proportion.

How do we draw the line between child abuse and discipline? How
can we equate appropriate discipline or punishment to a wrong deed?

As I drove home from the market
that day, I kept thinking of the little girl and the beatings she received for
an innocent act/play. Who knows if she was thirsty or just playing with a
fanciful bottle?  I know the answers to these questions differ and borders
on the different lessons/forms of discipline we experienced from our
upbringing, home and background. Whatever our conclusions may be, let us know
that some acts of discipline are child abuse which can maim the child
physically and psychologically for life if not identified and the needed
healing received.
The irony of this painful
episode is that as soon as the “deliverer” (the lady that saved the little girl
from her father’s beatings) dropped her, she ran to the same man – father,
sniffing and pushing to be carried, and guess what?  He pushed her aside!
He must have expected her to say – “daddy I am sorry”! Wickedness in the heart
of a man is truly unfathomable.

In disciplining our children,
may it not be like a slave master beating up an erring slave or a fight with
our age mate. Let’s always administer discipline with love and the goal should
be to correct and ensure that the right lessons are learnt without any

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    February 3, 2013 at 8:38 am

    So very true

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