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Memoirs of a Mum: Are You Raising Disciplined Children? – Chinwe Kalu

Memoirs of a Mum: Are You Raising Disciplined Children? – Chinwe Kalu

Enforcing discipline is fast taking the back seat in most homes. Or am I old school? What is this I see all around me? Am I overreacting? Am I the only one seeing all the mess? I watch the way younger mums allow themselves to be overwhelmed by their children and I am exasperated.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the mum children would describe as ‘The Witch’ but I will not tolerate bad behaviour. What is bad behaviour in my books? Anything that makes others around a child uncomfortable or unhappy is bad behaviour. The others could be siblings, other children in school, the nannies, adults, mummy or daddy. I just will not take it.

Take for instance, kids being fussy about food. In my opinion, except there is allergic reaction involved, it is bad behaviour to reject a meal set before a child. Remember the Ethiopian kids of old. Even as I write this piece, there are millions of children who don’t have enough to eat. No child of mine rejects a meal set before them. I know friends with three kids who will make a different meal for each child, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I will not do it. As a result, my children always ate anything I put before them – beans, eba, vegetables, etc.

It was not a function of not knowing their preferences but the convenience as well as the nutritious value of the food I made for them. Now that they are older, they can afford to be fussier because I am not the cook. Even then, I still complain, because it is now a function of cost. One person cannot have sandwiches, another cereal and another pancakes and yet another fried bacon and eggs. It just does not make economic sense. Remember, I have four children. A better win-win deal is that they come together to agree on what they all would like to eat, come to a consensus, then we make the meal. In this consensus, some are more satisfied than others but the agreement stands because they understand there will be other meals and they can have their way then.

What about the cane issue. I am not a proponent for the cane but I believe that it drives the message home if properly used. A younger friend of mine prefers to call the ‘cane’ a ‘paddle.’ She also prefers using the term ‘spanking’ to ‘beating.’ I guess it sounds better.  When my children erred, I would take them into my room and explain to them why they had to get the cane. We would agree that their crime deserved the cane, then, I would proceed to cane them. I don’t know who hurt more, me or them, but I had to do it. It was always the last resort and whenever I used it, it worked. I would not get a repeat performance of such behaviour. I did not need to go through the process ever again because the ‘cane’ or ‘paddle’ drove the message home.

I think the cane is useful for children under 10, as long as it is not used too often. It should be used in extreme cases when the child needs to understand that the unwanted behaviour is totally unacceptable. In using it, please beat on the bottom, legs or palms. Avoid the torso area, back or face. It is better to use the cane than to slap your children with your hands on the face or back. Your hands are tools for loving your children not beating them. Like I have emphasized, it should be a last resort for extreme cases of misbehaviour for children less than ten years old. If you wield the cane too often, children begin to get thick skinned, thinking, ‘After all, she’ll only beat me.’ You don’t want to get to that ugly point with your children. Older children simply become rebellious instead of changing undesired behaviour. So, using the cane or paddle requires wisdom.

What about children fighting? How did I get that under control? One of those fateful days, two of them got into a fight, I just locked them into a room and asked them to start fighting. They were shocked. You should have seen the looks on their faces. I said to them, ‘You must fight today.’ When they saw I was serious, they began to beg me. Crying, they told me, ‘Mummy, we don’t want to fight.’ I told them, ‘I thought you liked fighting, please fight now, let me watch.’ They cried louder, ‘Mummy, please we don’t want to fight.’ I eventually left them in the room, and guess what they did; they cried till they got bored and fell asleep. It minimized the fights in my home. I am a genius mum, don’t you think?

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My general attitude to disciplining children is, ‘You are my child, I will not take unacceptable behaviour from you.’ Once that has been established, then unacceptable behaviour must be punished. Otherwise, I send wrong signals. Recently, a friend of mine told me of a family that travelled on holiday to Dubai without one of the children as a form of discipline or punishment. The signal is sent to all the children, ‘this behaviour will not be tolerated’.

So, what kind of children are you raising? Parenting is for mature people. It will never be convenient. Raising disciplined children is hard work for parents, not the maids or relatives, or teachers and Sunday school teachers. These people can only enforce what you have instilled in your children. Otherwise, they have nothing to work with and they will not do it for us.

Stop being putty with your children. We must not allow our children to hold us to ransom and then become tomorrow’s problems. We are mummies, let’s rise up to the challenge and raise responsible children that we can be proud of.  It’s hard work, but we can!

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