What you need to know:
- From an informal poll conducted by the Saturday Magazine, opinion is split on corporal punishment on children at home — incorrectly known as spanking — to discipline errant little ones.
- We did establish, though, that the younger generation of parents are not as keen on spanking as compared to their older counterparts.
We all know this adage: Spare the rod, spoil the child. Some of us were raised on corporal punishment, which includes caning, flogging, slapping, and pinching.
It is not widely accepted these days as a form of punishment, though. In 2001, the Kenyan government banned corporal punishment in schools, calling it a violation of children’s rights, labelling it cruel and degrading to children.
From an informal poll conducted by the Saturday Magazine, opinion is split on corporal punishment on children at home — incorrectly known as spanking — to discipline errant little ones.
We polled 10 parents of children below the age of 12. Seven of them readily agreed that spanking is a necessary and non-negotiable way to correct unacceptable behaviour. Liz, 40 and married mother-of-three, said, rather memorably, that “it’s important to instil fear.
If you must, tie them to a tree and beat the demons out.” Liz has spanked her children from as early as they were one.
Last resort Two parents said spanking was a punishment of last resort. One parent said she never has, and does not intend to spank any of her three children. For such parents, dialogue, timeouts, or sending them to bed without food worked as effectively.
The type of “rod” mentioned ranged from an open palm to a broom stick, sandals, leather belts, even electric and TV cables. This depended majorly on the age of the child and the severity of the ill behaviour.
There did not seem to be a “pattern” in the opinions we gathered: It is not that single parents are more severe in their spanking than those from a two-parent home. Or that parents with more than two children are more willing to impatiently reach for the rod than those with fewer. Or that the sex of the errant child determined the regularity of punishment. We did establish, though, that the younger generation of parents are not as keen on spanking as compared to their older counterparts.
Also, most fathers would rather issue a stern warning or stare down their children. “Let their mother spank them,” says Mbugua, 35 and the father of two daughters aged nine and six. “My father was an old school disciplinarian who never hesitated to beat me and my siblings senseless. I vowed to never wield the same fear-borne power on my children.”
Mbugua’s response shifts the focus to an age-old argument that spanking damages the trust and love between children and their parents/caregivers. Spanking, it is said, blinds the children to the lessons the parents seek to impart when they are punishing them. Most important, it is said that children who are frequently and severely spanked grow up with fear and resentment, and aggression towards their parents, caregivers and, in some instances, society and its authority.
This argument is moot, says professor of psychiatry Eric Slade. “Evidence from several academic research studies suggests that the impact of spanking on children’s later emotional and behavioural wellbeing largely depends on other factors besides the spanking, per se.”
According to Slade, the quality of family life and the circumstances that lead up to and follow punishment are much more influential than whether or not punishment involves a spanking. “The main reason for this, and one that many parents understand intuitively, is that the real impact of punishment stems from how a parent delivers it and from how a child reacts to it and perceives it.”