Stop it! Brutal punishment kills your child’s self-esteem
Posted Sunday, September 29 2013 at 00:00
No matter what wrong the child has done, do not kick him or her around in bitterness. It’s important to tell them what the right thing to do is, not just to say what the wrong thing is.
In his chilling account to police at Seeta Police Station, nine-year-old Rodin Baale narrated how he and his eight-year-old sister Nina Nabiryo were burnt several times by their mother Agnes Galiwango Nansubuga using polyethene bag. As he showed the police the gruesome wounds, Baale said, “I was burnt because I stole Shs5,000 to replace a friend’s ball which got spoilt as we played in the neighbourhood.”
He went on to talk about another incident, “We gave paraffin to our neighbours and mummy burnt us using a hot flat iron. She first put it in the socket as if she was going to iron clothes.” Nansubuga did not deny burning her only son and daughter but in defence, she said it was out of anger that was forced to burn the very fruits of her womb. All this transpired earlier this month.
A similar incident happened in May. It involved 34-year old Agnes Nyapendi a resident of Amagoro village in Tororo District, who set alight her 12-year-old daughter’s hands after the little girl was accused of stealing some home stuff by a neighbour.
The mother said she wanted to teach her daughter a lesson against theft. In punishing her, Nyapendi tied her daughter’s hands together, poured paraffin on them and lit a match.
Several cases of parents, guardians or child caretakers administering all sorts of punishments to children for wrongdoing are many. Most of them go unreported.
A mother’s take
Prossy Mbabazi, a mother of two, says that children need to be corrected when they do wrong but parents or child caretakers should mind how they exercise that. “Children should be disciplined but not necessarily punished,” she says, noting that punishing children is making them pay for the wrong they have done while disciplining a child is guiding that child to do right. “Punishing is usually done in rage and can be harmful to the child,” stresses Mbabazi. “Besides, when a child is merely punished, that child won’t learn anything out of it but may instead take offence.”
Talk to them
She also notes that parents need to take into account the age of the child before any act of disciplining is done. “By all accounts, teenage children should not be beaten,” she says. Instead Mbabazi argues that parents should take time to understand them. “If you know your children, by the time they are 13, talking – not beating them would bring about the change in behaviour you would want to see in them.” This, she states, would also work well for children below the age of five. “At that age, children are often inquisitive, they are seeking to learn and are teachable. So, explaining to them why they should not do certain things can be enough for them to change and do or behave the way you would want them to.”
A little spanking
Mbabazi, however, notes that sometimes children can prove to be stubborn and, therefore, spanking can be helpful. “As a parent, you should know when to pull out the rod – when for instance you have talked to the child and they have not listened but continuously do the same thing you warned them against.”
But even then Mbabazi notes that parents and child caretakers should not act in anger as this might cause unintended harm to the child.
She emphasises that a cane should not be used on the children all the time because when that happens, the children will get used to the beating and it will not bring about the desired behaviour change.
Do not do it in front of friends
Beatrice Kakembo, a counsellor with Inspirations Counselling and Practicing Services Centre, Nsambya discourages beating and anything that inflicts body pain on a child in the name of punishing them. “Besides, causing bodily harm to the child, it affects their self-esteem,” she warns. “A child may begin to feel inferior, especially when he or she is beaten in public or before their friends.”
This, Kakembo says, other than causing psychological pain to the child, doesn’t necessarily lead to change of behaviour. “They may stop doing what they have been doing but it won’t be ingrained in them that what they did was wrong.”
Provide for their rights
Lillian Mwandha, the Deputy Registrar of the High Court (Family Division) says that Article 24 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda criminalises punishing children. “It’s inhuman and the Article provides that there should be no dehumanising act of any kind to any human being,” she says. “That doesn’t stop a parent from disciplining their children,” she stresses.
Mwandha says, though, that the parents may need to first understand why their children behave the way they do. “Are they taking money because they are not fed?” she wonders, noting that there is no ground rule for disciplining children but it varies from one family to another.
Mind your language
Kakembo, urges parents to promote dialogue with their children. “Let the child know what wrong they did and allow the child to explain himself,” she says adding that it is important that the child understands that by disciplining them, one is not just taking advantage of them for being young but that actually they did wrong. “Let the children appreciate why they are being disciplined. Otherwise the child will say ‘I won’t do that because I will be beaten’. That doesn’t help the child and it’s not what you would want as a parent,” she says.