Bringing up a child the African way- Thuku Muthui

Parents do not whip their children anymore. Not with the law, children’s rights activists, straight talk and well, more potent threats like no T.V, no bouncing castles and grounding.

I wonder ‘has the West influenced us that much, to the point a good thrashing is considered outdated?’

Over the past few months I have been out of the city, living in a semi-urban set up with lots of children below ten. The settlement has life, noise and is composed of young parents; parents in their mid-twenties with either one or two kids.  Surprisingly, I have not seen them cane their kids the way my mother and other women her age did to us as children. I wondered ‘is it that we were very naughty or have parents changed?’

It’s a decade and a half since my time; time could have brought up docile millennial children who do not behave like the unruly village boys and girls we were. This morning however something great happened. I consider it great, even epic due to the impact it has left on me. It feels so 1998 at the moment.

I understand the boy of about 7 was sent to buy breakfast; milk at 30/- shillings, bread at 50/- shillings and four eggs at 48/- shillings. That added up to 128/- shillings and from a 200/- shillings note, he gave his mother a change of 50/- shillings. Asked about the other 22/- shillings, he said there was no other change from the shopkeeper. The mother, being a stout disciplinarian and Christian, walked the boy to the shop, the story was replayed. The boy for a second time, before the shopkeeper, denied receiving more than fifty shillings. A search warrant was granted and the 22/- shillings were recovered from the shorts’ pocket, and boy, did it rain.

You lied to me and repeated it!” the mother grew big and ugly. Imaginary horns grew on her temples and she unleashed the African Mother spirit.

She reminded me of my own mother who couldn’t whip us quietly. The mistake is repeated over and over again and all wrongs you did since the last beating was re-read out loud.

Last time you brought all your playmates to our kitchen and a whole tin of sugar disappeared. You think word of what you did to Wa-Mathenge’s Orchard didn’t get to me! Kiondo giki. Ukungunda unjathimure(Basket! You will inhale and sneeze me out.)”

There, in broad daylight, 2017, the boy received a 1998 beating.

It started with a shoe, then a stick and ended with a slap. Children gathered round the scene for a free episode of Fire and Blood. Parents watched the drama unfold in a distance.  The few who despised the act were too shy to stop it. The mother was a true reincarnate of our parents. Other parents were rejoicing, they had gotten a mentor and caning their own will not be hard again.

“Shush! Let me hear a cry from that mouth.” The boy realizing that death is always lurking close, kept quiet and ran for the house amidst jeers from his playmates. He was the example many parents will use for their children over the next few months.

The relationship between him and the mother has not been broken and by any chance it has been empowered. Whipping is caring. It is nurturing a new generation of people who value virtues, honesty and good conduct. It is the love behind the whacks of 2000 that has propelled us this far. On the other hand, caning your child defines who the boss is. It removes the need for embarrassing dialogue in supermarkets or parties.

A child today will pick up something unwanted from the shelves in the supermarket and pull off a tantrum that will cause the mother or father to dig into their already depleted pockets to afford it, for the sake of peace.

Mum, I want this Ben Ten toy,” a child will say, pick up the toy and throw it inside the shopping basket.

No dear, you already have that,” the mother will try to reject.

No. No. I want this one.”

The mother will return the toy to the shelf and move forward, expecting the boy to follow along. The boy will not move an inch and instead will puff up his cheeks and become angry to the point of throwing merchandise from the shelves to the floor.

Come over here, Allen,” the mother will call the boy. (Allen sounds like a good name for such a character, he he.)

No. I want it. I want it Mum!”

The mother, totally embarrassed will give in to the boy’s wishes and forego buying that extra pack of baby diapers for the baby at home. An older man in the queue will nauseate totally disturbed at how the new generation of parents is soft. He will wish for death not to see another demeaning episode all that could be avoided by a proper whacking.

A common scenario is at church. There is always that child who keeps pushing between the pews and disturbing the peace. This child makes noise, cries out loudly and needlessly and interrupts the program. Sometimes the pastor is forced to ask the guardian to escort the child outside.

My mother was such a stout disciplinarian that it only took a single stare to get us quiet and calm. Children are not smart enough to understand straight talk alone; coupling it up with sessions of ceta-paracetamol will yield miracles.

Fatherhood in an African context does not require men to spend quality time with their children. What better thing does this yield other than loss of emotional connection and bond between fathers and children?

He is the provider, in terms of money, clothes and bills. Being there to watch children grow is giving life; you will know when they are molting through stages of growth. You see them walk through uncertainty, pain and happiness. You are there to sing with them in times of joy and to pick them up when they fall. The children will remind you of yourself. They will also motivate you to work extra hard, and years will sail by quickly.

In terms of rectifying bad behavior, a parent who is closer to the children will notice a trend before it forms into a habit and cull it. We will even be talking of establishing a value pack, seeing and nurturing talents in children. Most of my friends who are my age can attest to the fact that they never received a beating from their fathers. I talk of a good thrash because it was one of the purest ways parental love was expressed. It is also the most vivid memory of childhood we have.

I really cannot wait for those children. I hope the forests will not be gone by then.





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