DISCIPLINE: THE AFRICAN REPRIMAND SYSTEM OR THE WESTERN APPROACH


Growing up, I wasn’t the most docile chap to be around. I wouldn’t say I was a troublemaker, but I did have a penchant for overstepping my boundaries. I could trust that when this happens, there’s always the scolding and the spanking to set me straight. At first, I learnt to take notice of the acts that got me into trouble and avoid them, but as I grew older, I realized the reprimands came based on the intent behind my actions and not necessarily the acts. This profound discovery made me understand the lesson behind each reprimand, internalize the values I was being punished for, and shy away from them for good.

The African Reprimand System is a system of discipline steeped in value learning. It attempts to imprint in the minds of kids that there’s a painful punishment for breaking ethical values of life. This system attempts to practice the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ verse from the bible. Proponent of this system believes the pain of disciplining the child is hard to bear for the parents and guardians, but it is necessary to avert future pain and disgrace from the society that an undisciplined child might bring on the family.

Though the African Reprimand System has thrived and survived thousands of years, it often comes under harsh criticism which has heightened in recent years. Many of the critics of the African Reprimand System claim this style of disciplining usually ignores the emotional and mental state of a kid, especially in their formative years. They argue that it only leaves the kids to believe in the power of brute force to effect changes around them rather than verbally communicating the need for change. The critics claim the approach leads to over-disciplining in kids which causes the kids to revolt against everything the discipline was supposed to instil in them the moment they can break away from the ‘shackles’ of their parents or guardians. They favour the much more liberal and relaxed Western Approach of disciplining kids. In their opinion, this method will ensure the kids better understand they are being disciplined because they are loved by their parents/guardians.

The Western Approach to discipline is rooted in an emotional and mental balance for kids. This approach believes kids will listen to their guardians/parents if they have better emotional and mental connection. Proponent of this approach believes if a child feels violated emotionally, he/she will most likely act out as a means of fighting back and do the opposite of everything his/her guardian/parent might try to teach him/her. They believe this approach will help the parents/guardians foster a better relationship with their kids which will be based on communication.

Critics of the Western Approach to disciplining kids point out that kids raised on this approach are usually badly behaved and must re-learn basic human ethics and values when they become adults. They claim it also makes them feel entitled as they believe life should be nicer to them. Critics of this approach believe without the fear of reprimand and consequences, delinquencies will be festered in a child.

With the influx of African migrants into Europe and America, most African parents who were brought up through tough love are at a crossroad on which approach is best for training their kids rightly. They will have to find a way to merge the African Reprimand System, which they have come to rely on for most of their adult life, with the Western Approach to ensure they don’t break any laws, while also ensuring their kids are ingrained with the right values and discipline laden with emotional and mental support they will need on their journey to adulthood.

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