Thin Line Between Discipline And Child Abuse


“Pim pim”. The horn of a car sounded. He went to the garage and asked the boys “Who touched the horn of the car?” The boys looked at each other confused. They had been playing hide and seek round the car that had just been bought for their mum. “We did not touch the horn”.…


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“Pim pim”. The horn of a car sounded.

He went to the garage and asked the boys “Who touched the horn of the car?”

The boys looked at each other confused. They had been playing hide and seek round the car that had just been bought for their mum.

“We did not touch the horn”. They chorused.

“One of you touched the horn of the car”. He insisted.

“We did not press the horn, daddy”.

“Get me my belt”. He called out to the maid.

The maid ran quickly to get the belt before she fell on the wrong side as well.

He wrapped the belt round his hand and asked the same question again but their responses remained the same.

He whipped the elder of the two with the belt and asked “Why are you lying?”

“I am not lying, daddy. I did not press the horn”. He cried.

He got whipped continuously as he cried and insisted that he did not press the horn of the car.

His tears and pleading fell on deaf ears. His father continued whipping him as the belt tore into his skin.

Three people stood afar with tears in their eyes. The maid, his younger brother and his elder sister. They knew until he accepted that he committed the deed, he wasn’t going to be let alone.

His mum tried to stop the beating but who was she to stop her husband from disciplining his son. The look on his face told her better and she stepped back.

“It is okay”. She said when she could not bear it any more.

The lashing continued all the same.

The boy cried so much he started coughing. “I pressed the horn, daddy. I pressed the horn”.

The beating stopped immediately.

He would later confess to his siblings and the maid that he did not press the horn but he had to lie that he did.

The maid applied a salve to his wounds. The belt had cut his skin in so many places.

The house was situated on a cul-de-sac and all cars made a U-turn right in front of the house. The honk heard could have been from any car passing on the street.

Did the ten year old boy lie about touching the horn of the newly acquired car? Did a car passing by their house honk at that particular time? No one knows till date.

Could there have been a better way to discipline the boy? Was the thrashing justifiable? Was the boy’s loss of self-confidence worth the value of the car?

Where exactly do you draw the line between discipline and child abuse?

I leave the judgement to you.


“Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.”

  • Haim Ginott, Child psychologist

“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.”

  • Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady of the United States


  1. Olayinka
    I grew up in a home where corporal punishment was very very rare. In fact, I can only recollect my dad beating me one time. My mother never raised her hand on any of her five children. She had the look of death that could show you how disappointing your action is. My father would talk you to death. So it was better to avoid getting on his wrong side. The talks stung a lot but he would as quickly as he scolded you befriend you again.
    I do understand that some parents do not have the patience to work out less violent ways to deal with recalcitrant children but beating your ward like a criminal will never achieve the result. It’s horrible. It’s a monstrous thing to do.
    1. Olubukola
      You are blessed to have such parents. Some of us had it the hard way. The whole hog. Belts, hose, shoe, slaps etc.

      Yes, it is horrible and truly a monstrous thing beating your child like a criminal.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your experience.

  2. Gemini
    Was hoping I’d one day write something similar to this. This piece was beautifully written. There is always a better way to discipline children and no, the thrashing ain’t justifiable….and no again, the boy’s loss of self confidence worth more than the value of three Lamborghini…
    I like to think this was why Americans ain’t allowed to thrash their kids. Can we ever say Africans behave better and are more well mannered than Americans? NO.

    I grew up in a responsible family. Although my dad did not rule with a leather belt, much of the “discipline” came from my mum. In a very harsh unloving way. She’d throw things, use her stilettos, cut my net to get in through the window when I locked the door, call me names…very sick stuffs. And hardly a day passed by without her reminding me she could choke the life out of me because she was my mother. I felt unloved, I pissed her off with the silliest of things. I grew up knowing that I’ll never be the first daughter she wanted; Perfect. She was a perfectionist. She wanted me to be her right hand man, there was no room for mistakes. I was to be a “hard worker”; never wanting to wash my clothes with the washing machine when in fact there’s a washing machine…She expected pretence, but I couldn’t pretend. Ask me annoying rhetorical questions to make me feel bad about myself, embarrass me before visitors, the list goes on.

    I read shaa..always have been an avid reader. I helped myself, built my esteem and moved with positive people. People who saw the good in me. One of the books that changed my life for good was, “Self- Esteem” by Akin Odebunmi…I am 19 and I am doing pretty good for someone who was never allowed to have a childhood. Now, this is not me trying to exonerate myself from all the blames, but I’ve got to survive and if I have to, I’d also have to keep reminding myself that It wasn’t my fault what had happened when I was 7 or what had, two months ago, what happens now, or what’ll years later. You don’t get over the memories because they are always there, but you could decide they’d be productive. They remind me of what I’d love to be; a social psychologist helping children and adults find themselves in whatever sort of relationship., and who I wouldn’t want to be to my children.

    Sometimes it’s hard to hate her, not because of the society’s obsession with motherhood, but because it’s hard to hate knowing she mustn’t have done all that for hate, although she had, with hate.

    1. Olayinka
      Do you know how much admiration I feel for you? So young and so brave. You fought through what would have torn many children apart all by yourself and look at you. Thank you for not sinking under the murky waters of low self esteem. And thank you for choosing to help other children.
    2. Kad
      God bless you my dear and give you more strength to help others. The fact that you see reason to still love her notwithstanding is awesome.
    3. Olubukola
      I had tears in my eyes as I read your experiences. You are just 5 years older than my first daughter and like said, I admire you. To be able to lift your head high regardless of the hurt and pain is so mean feat.

      True that the memories will always be there. Sometimes, I relate some of these experiences as jokes now and peeps around me feel I should be traumatized. I decided not to. And yes, I decided to make such memories productive.

      The memories will make you stronger. I love that it is spurring you to help other children. I am PROUD of you.

  3. JoyGirl
    Many Nigerian children are abused in the name of discipline and it’s just sad. I had an older cousin who used to beat me just for his amusement. He’d beat me and force me to smile in between the tears. My other relatives in the house then thought (and still think) it was funny so they bring it up when they visit and they laugh. I never laugh cos there’s nothing funny about it and I hate it when they laugh. I think it’s a good thing he’s dead sef
  4. Whispering Hope
    What this write up did is present somewhat of a “scale of abuse”. I just read it out loud to a room full of friends here and just like everyone else we unconsciously began to check the “abuse-meter” to see where we stand on the scale. One person said, “dem beat that pikin sha…so tay e com need to lie to save imsef”, my other friend said, “I remember when dem bulala me with wire” and another person said ” meeeehn, I was lucky then, na only slap I dey chop”. I like the point raised by , all the punishments naija children received and still receive till date has not made us the best individuals in the world. You are the strongest of all…to rise above bullying and help others, that is commendable. God will bless and strengthen you.As for @joygirl …you really cracked me up…no be you kill am jor,nothing do you @olubukola Thank you for such a thought provoking piece.
  5. Laye
    This write up definitely explains my childhood ….I was odd ..or so I think,because I was like the only one getting beaten by my mum..I got to a stage that I wantes to please my parents ..probably so that they would give me some attention …but it always fails …I remember many a times I was so very insulted because I fail to take 1st during primary school ….Life was really hard …when you feel/know your parents hated you …I had elder siblings but I was the one sent out at 10pm to buy things… were they even concern about my safety?…that I don’t know …..
    unfortunately… I lost my elder sister at 14 …life became worst ….my parents wanted me to just magically become a photocopy of her …..she was always the perfect one ..she didn’t deserve death …I thought I did …my life was worthless to them ..they would always yell and complain how I can’t do the things she did …I was being compared to the dead …I thought about suicide many times …I became more rebellious as a result …I wish they know that what all they did hurts so much …my confidence shrunk…I can’t remember a day I didn’t cry ..secretly …now I’m 17 ..about to get into the university of Lagos …I just want to leave and go far …where they can’t reach me to hurt me …and I hope one day …they would realize all these ……maybe it won’t be too late then
    1. sara
      Wow! Firstly, u dnt deserve any of those mean treatments.
      Getting into Uni won’t take it away, but it’ll give u time to think and act on ur self confidence.
      Uni was also the way out for me.
  6. Olubukola
    You don’t deserve death. I am glad you are about to leave for the university. Take your mind off them and put all your energy into school. Uni was my escape route as well. I did not care what course I was admitted to read. I just wanted “out”.

    Build up your confidence ‘cos you are special and have a bright future ahead. I don’t subscribe to trying hard to please them because they would never be satisfied with your best.

    They would realize one day, I assure you. You may not become the best of friends but you will forgive them.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your experience.

  7. Olukyode-O
    The sad part of these many beatings is that it steams from the frustration of being a Nigerian parent in the present ‘Nigeria’. Theres’s no outlet for them to vent and so they release it all on the defenseless children. Very sad.
    1. Olubukola Post author
      I wish I could believe what you said above. Unfortunately, I don’t.
      Reason: I am also a parent and the present “Nigeria” is even worse than the “Nigeria” of our parents. The frustration hasn’t abated but I know not to transfer my anger of being a parent in the present “Nigeria” on my kids. The situation of the country ain’t their fault and I had a choice of either having kids or not.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. sara
    Let me just say mine, I was very sickly as a child, and most of my childhood I was reminded that I was ugly, bad luck or maybe possessed. It seemed like my presence tore a wall between my parents then , and dat I was way too high maintenance.
    To crown it all I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a bright kid while my elder ones were “perfect”.
    Everytime I fell ill, I got scared, not because it almost always felt like it’ll b my last but because I knew i’d get beaten and insulted until I got well again.
    I still have some scars, and as much as i’d love to say i’m over it, i’m not.
    Many times I have to remind myself that it’s not my fault I have the skin condition I do, or that my immune system isn’t exactly A1 and that I am beautiful
    1. Olubukola Post author
      I have just one response to you….Psalm 139: 1-24. Emphasis on verse 14.

      They can say what they feel about you, they can tell you what they think you are but I am glad that you continue to remind yourself of that who made you says you are.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your experience.


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