There’s this girl I used to know. She was stubborn. She was so stubborn sometimes she’d catch her mum giving her a ‘where I from carry this one come’ look.
Send her to fetch water and she’d disappear for hours on end, most likely standing by someone’s window watching movies.
At some point she had fifty pairs of socks. Her mother sold socks in her shop, so as soon as one pair was dirty, instead of washing she’d stuff them inside a sofa and take a new one. She had a thriving business; take items from her mother’s shop to school and sell to her class mates. The money went into her pocket.
Wash clothes? That was a long thing. School uniforms were only washed on Sunday night.
It was so bad that at some point she began to suspect herself of witchcraft. Think of every childhood mischief: pilfer meat from a pot of soup, lick powdered milk, steal 10 kobo from mummy’s purse, lie about where she was coming from; she did all.
I’m sure every one of us has met a child like this at some point. The one that always seems to be on the wrong side of her parents/guardians. And if she’s not unlucky, there’s no adult to guide her.
I was lucky (stop acting like you didn’t know the girl was me), I had a mother that wasn’t a saint: pick pin, kneel down, hands up and close your eyes, ride okada; name it, I had done it. Not counting the innumerable strokes of cane my palm experienced.
Most importantly however, my mum never gave up on me.
These tips I share with you come from experience. Because they worked. I’m a well-adjusted, self-confident adult. ‘The stubbornness’ softened into firmness of character and resolve, I like to think.
Very often a parent comes to my mother to complain about an errant child. ‘E no dey hear word.’ ‘E no dey gree wash plate/cloth.’ ‘E go go play from morning till night.’ ‘I don tire for am. Cane no dey do am anything.’ And my mum would tell them the story of her daughter who was all those things and more. Except the cane bit. My mum’s caning is ever effective.
So, here are 9 tips for you:
- Do not threaten punishment unless you intend to carry it out. It might work at first but once the child realizes ‘I’ll flog you o’ is going to end there, the words lose their effect.
- Not every offence should be punished, even when it should be. Sometimes, just have a talk. Ask most adults, you’ll hear stuff like, ‘The talk was more difficult to take than the punishment.’
- If you have to punish, especially smaller kids, let it come immediately. Don’t carry over and combine it with tomorrow’s infraction.
- Employ other punishments beyond caning. Pick-pin has been proven to be extremely effective. I hear that ‘naughty corner’ works too. A friend says it’s magic if you know how to use it.
- Do not call your child names. What does this have to do with discipline?
- When sending them on errands, do not suggest. ‘Kola, are you not going to wash plates?’ I f you want Kola to wash the plates, tell Kola to wash the plates.
- You’ll get angry. Don’t punish in anger. Know any friends who ended up with scars from punishments? That is anger.
- Love the child. The same hand you discipline with should be the same hand you draw close with. Buy little gifts. Help with homework.
- Pray for your child. The day I almost had a turnaround (I didn’t quite achieve it sha), was the day I overheard my mum praying for me. She had tears in her voice and I could feel the sincerity from where I was standing. I almost went to kneel beside her and shout, ‘Lord I believe!’ but at 11 I knew what would follow. I wouldn’t just owe my mum good behavior I’d owe Jesus too and if there’s anything I’d learnt from church, it was never make God a promise you can’t keep. Pray for your child. Prayer works.
Now, children are different. There are those ones that you’ll talk to and they’ll listen, take instant correction and never repeat the action again. My brother was one of such children. I never saw my mum punish him.
There are also the ones that just want to test you. If you are firm, they’ll back down.
Then there are those children that are a trial, that seem to be in a contest to see how long it will take you to kill them. They need the most love. And the best way to show that love is to take that ‘rebellion’ and channel it productively without killing their spirit.
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