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Child discipline and abuse

Late last year, there was a news report on an alleged defilement as well as an alleged attempt to conceal the matter. It was at this point the conscience of the country rose and moved into action.

Immediately, there was a campaign: Ghanaian Against Child Abuse. Never mind, that we live in a country where authorities only wake up to solve the consequences of the situations that confront us and then return to sleep to wait for another calamity. Never mind that the root causes that gave an impetus to the problems will still remain the same.

The messages in the campaign are to urge all and sundry to stand against child abuse. Over the years there have been reports in the media about how parents, guardians as well as teachers in the course of disciplining children or wards for one wrong or the other, ended up harming them.

Although, this is quite unfortunate, it cannot be taken to mean that disciplining children should ever be misconstrued to mean abuses. The line between abuses and discipline should be drawn so as not to create a negative impression that when a child is spanked or canned on the buttocks for refusing to do his or her homework or refusing to obey rules and regulations that have been instituted by school authorities or parents.

The lines between discipline and abuse can be drawn from the definitions of the two words. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, (8TH EDITION), abuse is the unfair, cruel or violent treatment of somebody. Whereas, discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules and orders and punishing them if they do not.

It’s said that bend a tree when it is young. Responsible adulthood is a consequence of proper childhood discipline. Most of the juvenile crimes that are reported in the news lately are as a result of the indulgence of parents towards the naughtiness and mischief of children while they were growing up.

As much there’s a campaign to create the awareness about child abuse, there should not be a moment to lose sight of the fact that some of the scenes could lend acceptance and approval of mischief and naughtiness. One of such scenes is the one that showed a boy tiptoeing to ostensibly dip his finger into a saucepan of soup that was simmering on fire. While he was at it, the saucepan of soup fell like Humpty Dumpty – an action that drew his mother’s attention – who came inspecting the boy’s arms and legs for possible burns.

One may argue that the above line of thought is carrying the issue to a ridiculous extreme. It’s better to discipline a child than wait for that child to grow up and think that the world must bow to his or her whims and caprices.

In fact, the Good Old Bible (King James Version) in Proverbs Chapter Twenty-nine, verses fifteen and seventeen respectively states: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame; correct thy son and he shall give thee rest, yea he shall give delight unto thy soul.

No one would want to associate with a child who brings shame to his or her community or parents – not even the child rights advocate who claim to love children.

Thus as there’s a campaign for children not to be abused, there should be embedded in the messages of the campaign that as much as children cannot be abused, children especially adolescents must also learn that there’s the need for them to be responsible – rights go with responsibilities.

Again, the campaign must advocate for adequate budgetary allocations for the agencies that are responsible for child protection. It’s high time campaigns of such nature called on policy makers to increase budgetary allocations as well as its prompt release to the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection and its allied agencies; otherwise, the campaign will one day die off when there’s donor fatigue.

It’s worthy of mentioning that as a nation, we must find ways of solving our own problems instead of being supported by international agencies and donor partners. Is that not what the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo keeps promoting?


By Alex Blege

The writer is a freelance journalist. [email protected]


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