Mrs Omotilewe Ibirogba, Director, Directorate for Citizens Rights, Lagos State, in this interview, declares that beating up children to the extent of inflicting bodily harm is a totally unacceptable method of correction. She therefore suggests other means among sundry issues.
By Josephine Agbonkhese
WHERE do we draw the line between child correction and abuse?
I’ll first refer us to the Child Rights Law of Lagos State (2007). Section 1 of that law says the best interest of the child is always paramount. There are various forms of correcting a child and none should amount to any physical harm. What we recommend nowadays is that the child be denied some privileges.
You can say to the child, “You’re not going out over the weekend”, “You’re not watching television throughout this week”, “You’re not getting this drink, thing or that”, etc., as a form of correction.
That’s the modern day form of correction; using anything that is paramount to the child. Anything that involves inflicting pain on the child is deeply frowned against. Children have rights, as discussed under the Child Rights Law, and that, every parent should know.
You mean a Nigerian parent can also get punished by law, just like in western countries, for beating up a child?
It is punishable if the child received some kind of injury. It is even worse if the child now begins to suffer from some kind of mental challenge due to the beating.
If severe beating is an offence, then how does a parent deal with a totally unrepentant recalcitrant child?
The truth is that, these days, we do not say “do as I say” but “do as I do” because children actually look at you and emulate whatever you do. So, if a child is becoming too stubborn, sometimes, it’s a cry for help. You may need to sit down and counsel the child, and along the line, you’ll find out why he or she is acting up. What we advise parents to do is to be very close to their children and instill particular values in them from when they are very young.
What could be the effect of excessive spanking on a child’s psychology?
A child who is beaten up regularly, after a while, finds such beating meaningless; the whole purpose becomes defeated. Such child becomes so hardened that the discipline does not mean anything anymore. The child will also become withdrawn and begin to avoid the parents.
So, what such parent is unknowingly doing is keeping that child farther and farther away because the child doesn’t know when you’re going to bring out a cane and use on him. And some also, because they are hurting inside, they become very horrible to other people and also try to inflict pains on other children.
In extreme cases, this has forced some children to leave home. But because they can’t get good jobs or fend for themselves, they end up as street children or get caught up with bus conductors. And you know, the first thing these people do with these children is put them on drugs. Before you know it, their lives are destroyed.
That said, I want to state that every person below the age of 18 should be in a home environment.
Some parents aren’t exactly into beating but the words they use on children are worse on their psyche. Is this form of correction accepted by law?
We call that emotional abuse. That falls under domestic violence and such a child, according to the law, should be removed from such abusive environment and placed in another because it can totally affect his or her development and self-esteem.
Effect on society in general
Children are our future. If we have children who are already wounded emotionally and their psyche is bad already, we’re going to have a whole generation of distraught adults who will not be able to keep up the society. Such children are most likely going to abuse their own spouses and children when they grow up; that’s how the cycle continues.