Wednesday 29 July 2020

Thought Picnic: When to bin the traditional hand-me-down rags of parental control

I was quite distressed

A few days ago, a video clip of a boy negotiating with his mother went viral. To many, it was pure entertainment, I, however, was very distressed by it that I do not intend to share it to propagate the scenario.
We have no backstory to the episode, but from what I could glean, the boy had done something wrong, probably seriously wrong for which there was to be some severe retribution. The boy crying with terror showing on his face, and in his terror was pleading with his mother to calm down, take a rest, or have a break before she unleashed her anger on him.
Some commentary suggested the boy was smart and trying to run rings around his mother. That is possible, especially when you know the kind of parents you have, you adopt strategies to escape their ire. The conversation mostly controlled by the boy was instructive and reflective, his mother is no doubt prone to irrational anger venting her frustration with severe punishments, else she would not have been advised to calm down.
Awareness lost to expediency
Towards the end, he asked to be given the last chance, the last chance in the world. That scared me like the boy could consider doing himself harm than face the wrath of his mother. None of this got through to his mother, she was insistent on beating him because somehow the boy had probably handled and broken something he was not supposed to touch. At the same time, he asked if his mother was videoing him.
This boy is aware, very much aware of himself and his failings, I am not sure his mother who decided to make a global show of his distress is half as much. In my view, a boy so mentally alert even at the imminent threat of harsh retribution needs to be dealt with in another way. The times when corporal punishment was the only tool parents, guardians or teachers had to command and demand the unflinching ultimate respect and fear of their wards is fast becoming useless.
Find better discipline tools
Corporal punishment is for mules and whatever your religious leanings, I would suggest it be the last resort having exhausted everything else and there is much to do, much more to learn to do to adapt to looking for more useful means of instruction than inflicting pain and nursing bleeding welts on the buttocks. The deprivation of freedoms or privileges with the prerogative of mercy is novel and yet effective.
I have watched some parents brutalise their wards in the quest for discipline and correction, sadly, the children now approaching middle-age are estranged, they do not have a wholesome relationship with their parents and that is sad. No, children do not outlive the cruelty meted out to them by their presumed protectors. Those who appear to do so are simply being pragmatic and able to compartmentalise usually for their own peace of mind in spite of and despite what they have suffered.
The future is a harsh judge
If you want a useful voice in the lives of your children, not so much to command or instruct them, but to have the honour of being approached from guidance when they are at crucial junctures of their walk of life, you need to review the hand-me-down rags of bad parenting and break that vicious generational cycle of visiting trauma instead of counsel.
Watch the child grow and begin to use reason and conversation, offer autonomy with good guidance on how to use the responsibility they have been offered, make mercy and forgiveness with consideration visible in times of disappointment or conflict. Find the expression of love beyond the provision of shelter, protection, sustenance and education, by being a bit emotional, because it shows you’re human and approachable. You can even give a hug and said the occasional “I love you, child.”, from deep in your heart.
You cannot tell how much that would mean to a child and how that would redound to their development in adulthood. These are the kinds of circumstances that make for good parent-child friendship and takes away the need for the child to scheme with cunning when they know they can trust you with anything going on in their lives.
Consider new possibilities
I am a man in my fifties, I have looked at many things about my relationship with my parents and other guardians. One uncle stands out as the one who gave me both the time and nurturing, we have one of the tightest relationships that even my parents would envy.
I would not be ambitious as to suggest how anyone should raise their children, but if you are going to make a public spectacle of them, ensure you are not making a worse spectacle of yourself in the process. Whilst many might agree with what she was about to do, I have no praise, commendation or encouragement, my disappointment cannot be more palpable for those who cannot learn from history, especially their own personal history are destined to repeat the failings of the past more worse than the precedent.
We can agree to disagree, but do not completely dismiss this perspective, I think it matters along with everything else in the toolbox of child-rearing. Thank you.
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