|Picture taken from interestinglife.info|
I think this follows on nicely from the previous post. The other day I was leaving church and amidst all the shouts of ‘buy your ‘daily manna’!’ and ‘buy your anointing oil!’ and ‘air fresheners for your car!’ (We sell all sorts in church these days; I sometimes wonder what Jesus would do if he visited), I heard one seller call out ‘how to beat your children!’ I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn’t have heard right surely. ‘How to beat your children?!’ I guessed it was a parenting book of some sort but as the crowd kept pressing against me I had no choice but to ignore the shouts and move on. I kept thinking about that book though, and what the contents could be. I started to think that actually, I could write that book. Well, not the exact book itself but one with the same title. Why? Because I’ve had so much experience. Not with beating kids obviously (as I have none) but with growing up in a house where beating was the preferred way of discipline.
For those that think beating/smacking/flogging kids is more or less child abuse, you can stop reading now. I’m just joking. I think some parents do in fact take discipline too far. I was in church (again) the other day sitting next to some woman with a somewhat restless and ill-mannered kid. He looked about four. This woman kept trying to pray and get into the service but her son just wouldn’t let her be (don’t ask me what I was doing watching them). In the end, she lost it and started shouting at him and hitting him with her shoe! In the middle of a church service! When I recovered from the shock of what I was seeing, I begged her to stop. To me, she was only making things worse by beating the poor boy; whereas before she was the only one he was disturbing, now he was disturbing quite a few more people with his screams!
I think back to what it was like growing up in our house. My dad was one of those disciplinarians whose mere presence just made you behave. I only remember him flogging me twice. The first time was when I was about five. My dad bought a new mattress for me and my sister’s bed, and for some unfathomable reason, we decided to rip the mattress apart. I still maintain till today that my sister started it, and I only followed her lead, but the fact that she’s younger than me did not help my case. So, my dad flogged us. I can’t give you the details because I don’t want you to think he’s a monster or anything like that but just take my word for it that it was pretty bad...
The second time was when I went to a neighbour’s house and stayed there the whole day, playing. Now you might be wondering, ‘he flogged you just for that?’But you see we had this family in our neighbourhood that were notorious for being ‘bad’. The kids were always out and about at parties, getting expelled, and doing other stuff unruly teenagers do. So, it was kind of an unspoken rule that you didn’t associate with them. For some reason, I decided to ignore that rule that day, and I went to their house to play. My mum eventually found me and took me home to await my dad’s return. I’ll leave what happened next to your imagination. I love my dad.
My mum however, was the main disciplinarian in our family. In fact, she was known for disciplining all the kids in the neighbourhood (something you would only encounter in Africa). Even though I hated it at the time, now I’m older, I feel like my mum had the right balance between being a fun mum and being a disciplinarian. I remember she would keep us entertained by telling us stories, teaching us songs, and playing games with us. She was never too big to be a kid around us. But whenever we ‘forgot’ that she was our mum, and stepped out of line, she was quick to remind us! I won’t bore you with all the stories of when she flogged us, but one particular story springs to mind. I honestly cannot remember what I did wrong that day, but I remember crying. A lot. For some reason, even after the pain of the flogging had subsided, the tears kept coming. I think I may have been struggling with feelings that perhaps my mum didn’t love me after all, and I was adopted (I was about six, mind). In the end, whether she felt guilty, or the sniffling was beginning to irritate her, I don’t know. But my mum did something I will never forget till the day I die. She called me, held me in her arms and apologised. No, she didn’t say ’I’m sorry I flogged you’, it was more like ‘OK, sorry. Stop crying.’ But it was more than enough to make me think, ‘Woohoo! I wasn’t adopted after all!’ (By the way, I am in no way suggesting that adopted kids are maltreated by their parents).
Sometimes I think about what kind of parent I’d be; I’ve found myself fluctuating between promising never to lay hands on my kids, to deciding to beat them as and when I deem fit (after all my parents beat me and I turned out OK, I think. Plus even the Bible does not condone sparing the rod.) A friend of mine grew up in a household where the parents never for once touched the kids, and they all turned out well. I think they were just naturally good. I hope my kids are like that...