21 February 2018

Nigeria: Is Corporal Punishment Important?

Teacher's Diary

I wrote specifically some years ago about the urgent need to discontinue the use of cane! As we all know that all children misbehave and actually act badly from time to time. Teachers and parents want to stamp out bad behaviour and do so in different ways. Beating, slapping, hitting, thumping, pinching and shoving may not be effective ways to do so. These actions describe physical child abuse, or more precisely corporal punishment. Corporal punishment has been outlawed in 44 countries to date, Nigeria is not one of them.

You may not be guilty of inflicting forms of emotional maltreatment, sexual abuse or neglect on your child. It may just be that you are too fond of using the cane! In your vicinity, a cane is sure to nestle somewhere and you have them in various lengths and girths! You may even be the cane-bank where other teachers or neighbours borrow from! More often than not, this method of discipline only reinforces violence. It fosters rebellion, banishment and humiliation. From carefully chosen information, I have culled out the following suggestions that you may want to reach for rather than the cane.

Role model the right examples and behave in ways that you want your children to behave. Children are good imitators, they'd use the language you use and act the way you do.

Invite your class/child to set the ground rules for your class/home. This session should also include drafting the penalties for breaking the rules. Be sure to promptly apply the penalty when child breaks the rules.

Neither permissiveness nor strictness works in matters of disciplining. Set boundaries for children so that they know how far they can stretch the limits. For instance you may declare in our home that, 'no TV for more than two hours and beyond 8pm on week days'.

Spend time with child whether you're a teacher or parent. Do you know your student's/child's problems? Do you realise that they have concerns, fears, difficulties and anxieties? Your adolescent student or child in particular has issues!

Encourage your student/child to speak freely with you. Be liberal and accommodating of their sheer childishness or youthfulness. This would help them to feel secure and build their trust in you.

Does your child feel that you listen to him/her? Find out from them if they feel that you hear and value them. It may be hard for parents and teachers to always find this quality time. You'd have to create interludes during lessons, meals and chores to foster communication.

Younger children may sometimes need 'time out' when they've misbehaved. For this, you'd ask them to remain in a quiet (safe) place away from others for some time. This gives you time to cool off and your child time to think about their behaviour.

After time out, discuss the issue with the child. Reiterate or re-establish what is the acceptable behaviour and why. Apply the penalty for the wrong done, for example you may take away a favourite toy or activity.

Praise child when he/she has done well. Reward good behaviour and discuss with your student or child the positive emotions this brings them and you.

Rather than 'time out', you may find 'time in' more beneficial. It's a particularly useful method for the much more sensitive child. Time in is said to help you teach your student or child emotional self-management. Time in is very effective before a child's melt down begins.

To apply time in you'd need to be vigilant and proactive. When you see the signs of disruptive emotions or negative behaviour brewing, step into the scene quietly and tactfully, and just 'be there' for the child. De-escalate the issue or concern, and take away the stressor.

Employing time in assures the child that you are non-condemning, that you are understanding and that you value him. Some parents and teachers feel that time out may be more humiliating therefore, they prefer to use time in.

Remain positive but non-threatening and non-condoning of bad, unacceptable behaviour. A quiet, unyielding demeanour is more powerful than a ranting, threatening front. Your child would soon come to respect your unyielding stance on sound ethics and behaviour.

If your child/student proves to be too challenging, you may want to seek professional assistance. A good school counsellor with years of experience may be able to help. Make more use of school counsellors!

Omoru writes from the UK


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