So, about the ‘calm down’ boy.
Last week, a video went viral. It was of a little boy being threatened with punishment by his mother. He was crying and begging and telling her to “Calm down”.
If you are a typical Nigerian, you would understand why the video went viral. Nigerians found it hilarious. This little boy was negotiating himself out of trouble. He was saying anything to hoodwink his mother.
After I watched the video, I held my breath.
One, two, three….
Thereafter,I checked social media. It had started. People who do not know this boy or the family he comes from were up in arms.
Child abuse. Child abuse. Again, child abuse.
“This child is being abused. He is terrified. His mother is abusing him. Nigerian mothers are abusive.”
I rolled my eyes.
I read serious threads of people forensically tearing the video. If a white person protested, I would not be appalled. Indeed, spanking kids is considered abuse in some Western countries. If you live in a country where children do not get spanked, the video would be appalling to you. In a setting like that, it would be child abuse.
But the definition of child abuse is not a blanket one. It is the reason why some places allow controlled spanking.
In Nigeria, paddling a child or spanking is not seen as child abuse. Specifically, Nigerians largely see this as training kids to be obedient.
Why do we want kids to be obedient? Kids are kids. They sometimes do not have a sense of consequence when they do certain things.
There was a day my first son who is quite heavy decided to stand inside the wash hand basin in the bathroom to play. I was alarmed. It is a small space. It is slippery. He can easily fall off. It is also porcelain. It can crack. I know of someone who had a bad injury on a toilet that got broken. In fact, this deep cut let to her death.
So, it was not a smart thing to get into the wash hand basin. He was supposed to have been using the toilet. So, if I had not had an inexplicable urge to check him out, I would not have known. Also, I had told him not to do that in the past. He chose to disobey. The consequence could have been costly.
So, most parents have good reasons to ask for obedience.
As a parent, I try to give the kids reasons. But they always feel like I am exaggerating or trying to scare them with a worst case scenario. All I know is that till these kids become adults; I must ensure that I keep them safe even from themselves.
This is why Nigerian parents spank. You learn that disobedience can have a consequence and the spanking is the mildest of consequences. Blanket obedience from kids is reassuring. But it is also surface area for misbehaving adults to exploit.
And it can also be excessive and unnecessary.
I have written against spanking many times because I feel there are more effective ways of guiding kids than beating them. But I am a Nigerian. It will take eternity for Nigerians to disregard physical punishment.
Now back to our calm down boy.
Did we witness child abuse? Was the boy so terrified because he knew just how bad his mum’s punishments get? Look, this was a few minutes of the kid’s life. No one can say anything categorically.
The undelivered threat of koboko sends my son to spasms of fear. He will cry like his neck is being cut. And there is no koboko in sight.
What was clear to me was that he knew he had done a punishable offence and was trying to talk his way out of it. Another thing I want to say is that abused kids are not that talkative. Imagine it from the way we were raised in the 80s. Indeed, I dared not to speak to my parents in that manner.
Telling a parent to “calm down” would be like slapping the parent. This boy seemed to have the sort of relationship with his mother that permitted dialogue. He was even demonstrating how he wanted her to be calm. (The part that had him sitting with his legs stretched out). Tell me if that isn’t a child that has freedom of expression at home.
I personally did not see an abused boy. I heard the mother’s tongue in cheek responses which were geared more to hear what he had to say for himself than a willingness to spank him.
When will we stop picking up ‘Oyinbo’ templates and juxtaposing with ours so we can say that they know more of what they are doing generally than we do? I have never generally looked at a white person raised differently from me as better adjusted to life than I am. We are raised differently according to how life is where we are. Different is not necessarily bad.
Now to reiterate, I don’t really think that spanking makes the difference. There are many ways to teach kids consequences that will be just as effective. But I must say; I did not think that the video of this little boy was evidence of child abuse.
Nigerians, calm down. Nothing alarming to see over here.
Video credit: https://youtu.be/apz4GKQh418