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Tosin Akingboye:" Spare The Rod And Spoil The child"


Spare the rod and spoil the child

Anybody who was born in the 1980’s & early 1990’s can testify that their parents used the statement above (and its variations) a lot.



As the second child of the family, I still maintain the fact that my elder sister and I suffered the suffering of the two younger ones. My mum is a teacher who decided not to use canes on us… just words. It got to a point in our young lives that we agreed we would prefer caning or punishment to words. I still believe there was a mental file that my mum was documenting all our errors back then. I mean I would break a plate in November and she would refer to the floor I refused to sweep in January! No correlation right? That was my mum!

Now that I think back, it was a very effective way of discipline for us…we could forget caning but the words? No! Although there was one caning I can never forget – I was in SSS1 (13 years ago) and I snuck out to go to a toaster’s birthday party one Saturday afternoon. Mum & Dad had gone for an owambe and I foolishly thought it would last all afternoon. I left my younger sisters at home and off I went! Three hours later, I came back and met my parents at home; I greeted my dad at the balcony and he answered well. I entered into the house and saw my mum (at this point, I thought I would faint from the words she would say) and greeted her. Funny enough, she answered well and asked where I was coming from, I decided not to lie and I told her the truth. She even asked if I enjoyed myself and I answered yes. I should have suspected that she was up to something when she asked what I would like her to prepare for dinner but I didn’t. I was very happy that I was free – how wrong was I!

The next morning, as we all woke up, I greeted my dad and apologized for the previous day, he answered my greeting and I believed it was all over. I went to my mum’s room and greeted her; the next thing I knew, she brought out a rope – yes! A rope… the kind that people use to fetch water. The rope was even blue (I can never forget the colour). Let me just say my eyes were watery throughout the church service that Sunday.

That was the last time she caned me, and one of the very few times she did – but that experience can’t be forgotten! I still believe that she & my dad decided to play “good cop, bad cop” on that matter.



The several other times, she and my dad used words that sunk in. What was worse was that these words were in our Akure dialect or Yoruba language so the words were really painful! There was a time my dad called me oponu (idiot in English) one school morning because I did something very silly (no, I can’t say what I did but it was just too silly) I cried in the car from our house gate to my school gate, the driver couldn’t console me. I don’t think I would have been that pained if he had just said idiot.

This was a method that worked well for my parents. I mean, even my youngest sister who doesn’t send anybody gets affected by words – words of threat of taking away her phone or confiscating her Korean series DVD!

However, I had friends who viewed caning as a daily experience. I had classmates who would come to school with marks on their bodies almost everyday but hey! it worked for them, or didn’t it?! There was a particular classmate of mine in primary school whose mum was also a teacher in the school; the poor boy was a caning practice for almost all teachers and the mother allowed it.

I am not here to approve a method of discipline for kids but like someone once said, “know what works for your kids and use it very well.”

I learnt how to manage soup as young as 8 years old –  thanks to my mum’s firmness. My immediate younger sister (who was 5 years old at the time) and I just developed the habit out of nowhere. We would eat all the soup and leave the swallow (eba/pounded yam/fufu/amala) or request for another serving of soup. My mum tolerated it for a while because she thought we would stop it but no, we didn’t! One fateful afternoon, she made eba & okra (ila-asepo). As she was about to serve us, she told us clearly that she would give us another serving of soup but both of us thought she was joking. Lo and behold; half of eba was gone but soup was already finished. With puppy eyes we went to meet her, only for her to tell us “e ma je eba yen be ni o, e de ma je tan” (you will eat the eba like that and you must finish it). My people, we went back and pushed the eba down with water. She insisted that we sit in front of her and finish the food.

Maybe caning would have helped us, maybe not but we learnt our lesson that day and she didn’t have to raise her hands. My point is, there is no standard operating manual when it comes to parenting! Kids are different and they respond to disciplinary methods in different ways, at different times. Misbehaviour in public earned my sisters & I a few abaras (smacks with the palm) in the middle of the back that our hands could not reach. Words would have been useless at that point.

However, I noticed a very important thing that my mum and dad (occasionally for dad though) used to do. After caning, they would come to us, pacify and let us know that they caned us not because they didn’t love us but because we did something very wrong.

Parenting is a very tough job – a job that no one pays you for, but a job with a very great responsibility. May we be the best parents we can be!

On a lighter note, let us share the funny/painful/ridiculous disciplinary methods we had as kids.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Warrengoldswain
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