Discipline vs Abuse - an African child's perspective

Assured Angel By Assured Angel, 20th Jun 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Kids

The debate rages on about what constitutes abuse and whether parents should be allowed to smack their children. There have been incidents where kids have called the police when smacked by their parents. Although many people may say that there is no difference between abuse and discipline, I believe there is a line and I will tell you why drawing on my own experience.

Discipline in an African household - a child's perspective

When I was little, I was quite the brat. I would start arguments, scream blue murder and terrorise my younger siblings...just because I was the eldest and I could. As a result, I saw the bitter end of the “rod of discipline” more often than I should. But soon, the threat of discipline literally put the fear of God I realise just how fortunate I am to have parents who cared enough about me, about my welfare and my character to discipline me when it was necessary. I do not talk about it much, not because I am ashamed, but because I have not been asked...till now...kind of. If you asked me if I was subject to some strong discipline, I would say yes. If you asked me if I received the odd smack or caning, I would say yes. Was it deserved? Definitely. Did it mean that I was abused or suffered violence at home? The answer is a categorical no. So what is the difference between discipline and abuse? Where do you draw the line between correction and violence? Having the Bible as a reference makes this distinction easier. As well as the verses listed below, the key verse that is taken into consideration is in Job 5 v17 where it says “Blessed is the man who God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” As it says later on in Hebrews 12v9-11 that “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Okay, there’s a lot of Scripture but there is a point to it. The Bible is a foundation many African families use.

When we talk about what discipline, what is the first thing that comes to you? Caning by headmaster? A smack from your parents? A tongue-lashing from your teacher? Well in this sense, it means to bring into line, to correct and to train. But looking at the real meaning of the word, it goes deeper than that. The Latin root for discipline is to teach. It is where the word ‘disciple’ comes from. When properly done using a multi-faceted approach, it helps teach and reinforce desired behaviour. It is through discipline that one can learn self-control, competence and yes, morality.
So we come to violence. Straight away, you can see that the stem of the word is ‘violate.’ It has several definitions – all negative. The two that stood out for me were:

Damage through distortion
An unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws

THAT is the difference between discipline and violence. I am not denying that violence takes place. It does and a lot of it goes unreported. I am not saying we as a people are perfect. When it comes to the children, it is mainly to discipline and teach right behaviours and not always to abuse. It helps to instil a good work ethic, motivation and a sense of morality. That is why I believe it when 65 countries were studied, the happiest people came from an African country namely Nigeria, check this article out on the BBC website. What do they put it down to?, Well look at this website and quote and let me know your thoughts.... It is due to “God and music...we believe in being our brother’s keeper.” This comes out of a strong family network in which discipline is an integral part not violence. How can violent people be happy? You tell me...


Abuse, Africa, African, Discipline, Morality, Violence

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author avatar Assured Angel
Talented and experienced freelance writer/ businesswoman with a legal background whose engaging, confident but professional attitude is reflected in her writing.
I have also written extensively (over 100 articles) and continue to do soon many subj...(more)

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author avatar Sherry
22nd Jun 2010 (#)

I agree, there is a difference between discipline and abuse. A child without discipline is a juvenile delinquent. Not all children respond to the same type of discipline, a parent must find what works with each individual child. In any case a child must learn that there are consequences for their behavior.

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author avatar Assured Angel
25th Jun 2010 (#)

Thanks Sherry I agree. It is just that people fail to make the distinction.

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