Bayo Ajibola

TO CANE OR NOT TO CANE? That is a question most loving parents with children ask themselves every now and then. For some the answer to this question comes easy. Its almost like a default mindset they swish to probably because of their social or religious background. But for some parents its not as easy as that. Without any doubt it is a very controversial topic.

It is a big topic, one I’ve been putting off for a while. I used to think that disciplining kids was a no brainer. Buy a cane and whip their little bottoms when they step out of line. It’s the Asian way. It’s how we were disciplined and seems like it worked relatively well looking at our low crime rate and all.

It’s cathartic (especially when you’re really frustrated), acts as a deterrence and basically shows them who’s boss. It’s about RESPECT, you know, because we frown on kids addressing us by our first names and threatening to call social services when they get caned for acting like a brat. Whoever wields the cane wields the power, right? But what happens when they are big enough to wrestle it from your hands?

Some parents wear it like a badge of honor, like “you won’t see my kids doing that because very well-acquainted with Mr Cane LOL“. Methinks your reign of terror will come to an abrupt end once your 7-feet tall little boy becomes Mr cane-destroyer.

The past two years, we haven’t really needed to formulate a discipline blueprint yet. Repeated explanations worked well enough to establish boundaries. For the really dangerous stuff like playing with electrical sockets, we just needed to cordon off those areas. However, Tru is slowly entering the stage of testing those boundaries intentionally. Whenever we tell him not to do something, he watches us with a glint in his eye while inching closer and closer to it. Some days, he goes for the kill and laughs maniacally like “haha, I got away with jumping into the tub fully clothed right after I took my shower.”

Therein lies the dilemma. He’s obviously trying to see if we’re serious about making good our promises and threats. So that means when he does something he’s not supposed to do, the ball is in my court to follow through with the appropriate discipline. I’m cool with that. The problem is finding an effective method of discipline.

To be honest, I’m reluctant to use the cane. I know the debate rages on among Christian camps like how we must apply the rod of correction to drive away foolishness. But my reasons for not using the cane are twofold.

1. I HATED being caned and it wasn’t even that effective. I would be so upset for so many days after every *correction* that it would just eat me up inside. After that, I would go out of my way to see how many times I could get away with being bad without getting caned because it was the only way to feel like I won. That I beat the system.

2. I’m not going for deterrence. I want them to grow up to do what is right, not just avoid doing what is wrong. I want them to understand what it means to be helpful and generous and kind, to love people and be the bigger person and NOT feel proud that they managed to escape punishment when they made a mistake.

I’ve been reading up extensively on all the various theories of disciplining children and I’ve come to only one conclusion. You’ve got to take into account the kid’s temperament, their intention and their actions while maintaining a semblance of consistency and fairness.

This is virtually impossible with multiple kids because what works for one kid may not work for the rest. But if you employ different methods for each kid, it comes across as terribly unfair. There’s just no way around it. My dad used to say that there’s no such thing as fairness and I used to say that it’s a convenient excuse for partiality but now, I’m starting to agree.

We’ve come up with a few guidelines for now. The naughty corner seems to work for Tru but it mostly acts as a timeout chair so that he can calm down and stop being in a frenzy. And we do it only when he willfully disobeys us or is being mean. Like when he smashed the phone into Kirsten’s face because he was upset, he got naughty-cornered good and proper while she got a bloody nose. Fair? I don’t know.

Also, we’ll make sure we discipline the kids in private. Which means that the rest of the kids don’t know what’s going on in the room and for all they know, we could be having a party. Hopefully, they don’t trade notes like who gets what next time.

And the thing is, kids are kids. They’re expected to mess up, destroy stuff, lose stuff, fight, lie their way out of trouble, be selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed. We’re expected to teach them by being the opposite. I’m just not sure I want to be upset with them all the time over everything. I mean, we still make mistakes ourselves and sometimes we learn the hard way.

As long as they grow up to know what is right and try their best to do it, I think I would have done a respectable job of parenting.

Am sure you do have your own views regarding this controversial topic. So if you got any tips for discipline? Come on, share a little.

Bayo Ajibola

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