At What Point does Child Discipline Become Child Abuse? A Nigerian’s Perspective

by Tobiloba Funsized Adeola

Do not be alarmed when methods intended to prevent future unwanted behaviour, results in actual or potential harm to a child. 

Based on true life stories, here’s a quick one. 

My mom is late; thanks for the sympathy. My siblings and I had a mother as children who morphed from teenage to early adulthood. It wasn’t the same for my baby sis. 

She was just 6 when she lost her mom, so we (my siblings and I) took up the role without applying. A few weeks ago, my 11-year-old sister asked to go out alone, and I refused. It was a few blocks from supervision, and her response was,  “What kind of overprotective mom are you?” 

Before this day, she had commended me in front of my friend that I was transitioning from a good mom to a better mom. Who pulled the trigger? 

The unvoiced thought about children is that they are Robots pro max. In explicit terms, robots who are made up of body, soul, and mind. And the only semblance they have with adults is being covered with skin, which is absolutely comical.

We don’t exactly label a child as a robot, but this thought is exhibited in how adults relate with a child or children.

Importantly, grasp with your right hand the idea that a child is as human as you. And on your left hand, carefully handle the breakable tray of facts that they haven’t experienced much or lived as long as you have. You are not “ancient of days.” Going on, child discipline is in the spotlight. 

Child discipline 

Discipline is training that corrects, moulds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. 

Discipline is also imparting knowledge and skill, in other words, to teach. The meaning of discipline is never-ending, but children are the primary recipients. We’ve already come to terms with the expression, “Different strokes for different folks.” 

Child discipline in Nigeria emphasises the meaning and examples of discipline to a child. Well, you are either familiar via experience, videos, stories, or articles explaining the narrative broadcasted about African mothers. As far as they are concerned, they are “best in giving” child discipline. Lol. 

As a product of an African mother and training, Child discipline in Nigeria isn’t terrifying. Okay, point of correction, it isn’t entirely terrifying. But, it’s significant to support the notion that there’s a limit to everything. And soft training is valid.

Although, it’s considered chiefly and approved when relating with adults. Why? I was born in the ’90s, and I can’t say much about that, nor can I comprehend the inspiration. But, I believe that children deserve soft training or discipline. Do you? 

Regardless of how experienced an individual is in training children, child discipline in Nigeria or anywhere is not, has never been, and will never be a synonym for child abuse. So, yeah, it’s about time to move the train to child abuse. 

Read also: Tips to build self discipline as a Nigerian.

Child Abuse 

Abuse is to treat to injure or damage. Abuse is improper or excessive treatment. 

In Nigeria, children are distinguished as future leaders, not future soldiers. Child abuse in Nigeria is consciously and unconsciously exposing a child to maltreatment, violence, threatening situations, or activities.

A child needs guidance and help, not earning a first-class degree in war engagements. This is not specifically to point out that child abuse comes in different shapes, colors, and nationalities. No! Please take it as clarity backed up by what is witnessed, heard, encountered, and categorised as child abuse in Nigeria. 

As a Nigerian who was born, bred, and still growing in Nigeria and hasn’t experienced other nations, even for someone who has toured continents. You can only explicitly explain child abuse or child discipline in Nigeria. 

Growing up, could you differentiate between discipline and abuse? How were your friends in the neighbourhood disciplined? In school, how did some teachers make a switch from child discipline to child abuse in Nigeria? 

As an individual, How were you raised? If you ask me, Na who I go ask? Okay, that’s a two seconds joke. So, let’s fire on to the burning issue. 

Read also: How to improve a child’s brain capacity.

How are Children Raised in Nigeria

This is not an exaggeration or an intentional plot to soil Nigeria. Lifestyles are distinguished to each nation. And yes, children are raised in diverse ways everywhere. To be transparent about the question, How are children raised in Nigeria?

A reasonable response would be, “fair enough.” Like every other nation, children are raised in bad and good ways. 

There’s no room or land for argument because real estate is now big money. If you were raised well, amazing. And, if your encounters are still traumatising, sending you brown envelopes of hugs.

It’s only in validating other people’s experiences (say, for example, I didn’t go through this, but I know where you’re coming from) that you know what goes on around you. 

Now, We didn’t all go through similar training. But what styles did your parents or guardians utilise? That’s what’s next. 

Read also: How to overcome childhood trauma.

Nigerian Parenting Styles 

In reference to no book, just physical interviews, here are a few tales narrated by Nigerians in Nigeria. Each style mentioned below is termed from a personal view, but there’s an expository version of the Nigerian parenting styles listed. 

  1. The terminators (My child won’t go through what I went through)

From Adedeji, 23

My mom was from a broke family. From the history heard, they were unfortunately poor. She was particular about us living large, but it was backed up by pretense. She was in denial too. We attended family events and went to good schools, but she borrowed a lot to maintain that lifestyle. Thankfully, we were two; my sister and I.

Reminiscing this morning after being dressed for school, 11-year-old me went to play ball in the compound. The landlord seized my shoes, and it was the first time she got embarrassed in front of my sister and me.

It had been ongoing, from us sneaking home so late to avoiding some streets. But I wasn’t exactly aware of the issue. And that was where she drew the line. She worked harder to pay the debts but died a month before my 14th birthday, and that’s how we became orphans. The family took my sister and I in, and we had to unlearn what we imbibed as a norm. 

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  1. The classics (I will do it as my parent did it since I turned out well)

From Lateefah, 30

I’ve been married twice. How come? All thanks to my mother’s naivety. Although, I must commend her; she’s a good woman. My dad is my mother’s third husband. This story is a very long Romcom, but I’d share the short version. My first hubby was my mom’s choice. And the second, the love of my life, is my dad and I’s chosen one.

The cliche narrative is marrying for money. My mom chose the first hubby for me because he listened to his mother word for word, perfect for a mummy’s boy. She talked about him with intense candour and praise, but I gave in after she fell gravely ill. My mom was sure she saw heaven and wanted me to honour her last wish. I got married, and my mom was still alive. I took in and had a miscarriage, and my mother didn’t disappear from the earth.

To be honest, my mom is very much alive. But her mistake was inheriting from her mother the trait of an already planned-out life for her daughters. Sadly, I was the only girl she had, so she was sure her way was my perfect ending. It took understanding for her to back off, but it wasn’t so easy. 

  1. The ghosts (I don’t know this parenting, so I’ll parent, you will too.) 

From Oyin, 28

This is a flashback because my parents and I are in a good place. I used to be a huge fan of how we lived as a family. My mom did what she wanted. My dad went his way. I did my thing too. But, I lived more with neighbours that have now transitioned to family friends.

It was a liberal lifestyle that wasn’t befitting of any child. I felt so free, and everybody in my neighbourhood knew Oyin and her family. People gossiped about my parents a lot, but as long as we were all happy, no one blinked. But, life, they say is not a bed of roses or lilies. I was barely 13 when I had a near-death experience, and my parents were gone for weeks.

It was mostly an unaccountable movement that If I decided to flee, my parents wouldn’t know. Thankfully, the neighbours that watched me while they were gone were God-sent. I didn’t share with them, but they were genuinely observant and conscious of my development.

When my parents returned, they finished them. I had never seen these couples speak with anyone that way, ever. My mom gradually began to stay around and give a detailed account of her movement. My dad joined when I stopped receiving his gifts. It was a lonely and awful year for me. But things got better. And now, we move. Lol.

Read also: Parenting Tips for Nigerians.

  1. The oppressed (I’m not your parent, fix up)

From Gerald, 30

It was in social studies class at basic 6 when I discovered the meaning of an orphan. I fought that day and, later at night, watched the son of my guardian get treated for the injury I was privileged to inflict on him. My punishment was going to bed with all the pain I endured from the fight. 

We are not still close-knit, but we’ve put behind our unpleasant memories. My guardians helped how they knew best, and I’m thankful. I honestly could never wish my childhood on the worst villain in history. I’m still in awe that their son nor I died. Therapy is working, and I say that because I’m finally opening up to becoming a husband and a parent. 

  1. The optimist (We’ll keep trying till we get it right) 

From Lade, 28

“Parents, listen to your children. We are the leaders of tomorrow.” My parents disagreed a lot; one time, my dad even hit my mom, but you see, they listened to my three siblings and I. I’m uncertain how comfortable that was for them, but they believed so much in the quoted line and followed it like an anthem to shape our lives.

You’d watch my dad apologize to my mom exactly as my younger brother explains and wonder if he got jazzed. I’ve never seen adults listen to children in that manner. Don’t get me wrong, there were times we tried it their way, but they were result-oriented. Did it work? Did it make things better? Did it initiate joy?

My brother got awarded a scholarship after I told my parents how I’d prefer they listen to my brother’s wishes over their pre-planned ideas. They disagreed initially but gave in, and things turned out best. I’m thankful for the gift of my parents every day. 

Child Discipline vs. Child Abuse in Nigeria 

The child should be guided but not to the point of damage or harm. There might be a moral lesson, but some things can mess up a child forever. For example, training a child to be responsible for their things and going extreme to the point of locking them out in the dark, in the den of mosquitoes, to implement responsibility. God abeg. 

Some good things are good for adults but bad for a child. You know of alcohol that is rated 18 and movies that are PG 13,15, or 18. The excuse that it is good might make it count as imparting knowledge, but some activities or things are unconsciously exposing a child to violence.

If you’re unsure, don’t involve the child. Say you take a male child to the streets, garage, or under the bridge to emphasise how boys who are disobedient turn out. Easy; it’s not that deep. He could subsequently run to those places for safety if he can’t deal anymore. 

Bottom Line 

There are no perfect parents. There are no award-winning Nigerian parenting styles. But, you have to be open-minded. This is another individual aside from yourself you are training. 

It is not a woman’s duty, nor is it a man’s profession. It takes effort, time, and patience. If you ever heard anyone fabricate a good tale of nurturing children that involved no error, they lied. However, there are good parents and bad parents. Child discipline in Nigeria can be sustained in a soft style. Children don’t listen, accepted! Some are generously obedient, approved! 

But child abuse in Nigeria doesn’t have to persist from generation to generation. Learn, unlearn and relearn; parenting is not a war zone. We are rooting for you to do better as you transition from a child to a parent. You, too, can accomplish healthy Nigerian parenting styles. 

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About Author

Avatar of Tobiloba Funsized Adeola
Tobiloba Funsized Adeola
Tobiloba Funsized Adeola is a part time drama queen who cuts across being a visionary content writer, story teller and poet.
She loves to blend ideas, thoughts and experiences, sharing them for the world to consume.

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