01 Aug
fearfull and crying child before dental treatment

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Having spent most of my life in England and Nigeria I have noticed a few significant differences in the way both countries raise their kids. Talking about the way kids are brought up is often a very sensitive subject. Most of us are familiar with the defensive statement “don’t tell me how to bring up my kids!” said by parents when they are confronted with any form of criticism about their child’s behaviour.

At first I thought this trend was universal, but the truth is this response is common particularly among American and European parents.

In Nigeria for example, it is not a strange occurence for a child misbehaving in public to be spanked by an absolute stranger, while his mother looks on appreciating the fact that this person she doesn’t know was kind enough to discipline her child.

If this incident was to happen in England, the stranger would be arrested for ‘child abuse’.

It is differences such as these that throw light on the impact that culture has on a societies way of life.

In England kids believe they should be free to do whatever they want, speak to their parents how they feel like it, and their parents don’t need to be thanked because they are only putting up with it and taking care of them because that is their role as parents.

This once again stems from the culture of the society. The law in England is so particular about childrens rights and child abuse that parents have run out of ideas on how to bring up their kids without getting on the wrong side of the law. TV shows such as “Supernanny” emphasise this trend, where it is common to see kids shouting and insulting their parents, spitting and throwing things at them, hitting, slapping, and displaying all sorts of aggressive behaviour. I often joke that a show like “Supernanny” wouldn’t be very successful in Nigeria, because each episode would only be 5 minutes long. The child would shout at his mom, get spanked by Aunty Iyabo (the Nigerian Supernanny), and he would be well behaved for the rest of the scene. Mission accomplished.

Nigerian parents are firm believers in the “spare the rod spoil the child” philosophy. Even within the educational system most schools are expected to smack their children when they get out of hand, for reasons ranging from disrupting a class to not doing homework. This practice is unheard of in an English institution and the thought would be met with immediate outrage. By contrast English parents follow the “my child’s happiness is what matters” philosophy; so even if a child has misbehaved, it is more important that the child does not end up crying or throwing a tantrum, than for the child to be properly disciplined for his/her actions.

The defining difference between the parenting techniques of the English and Nigerians really boils down to their attitude towards discipline and respect.

In England when a child misbehaves (s)he is likely to get grounded. The parent would send the child up to their room, sit them in a naughty corner, seize their mobile phone, ban them from watching TV, using the internet, and relieve them of their video games for several hours.

This sort of punishment is clearly not a sufficient enough deterent for bad behaviour, because if you think about it, for kids of certain personalities the attention gotten from misbehaving is well worth the repremand of being sent to their room – where they can play with their toys after being naughty.

To be honest a lot of the disciplinary methods the English use just wouldn’t work in Nigeria. Seizing the mobile phone wouldn’t make a difference because the kid probably didn’t have any credit in the first place. Depriving the child of the internet, TV and video games wouldn’t be effective either; because there would probably be a power cut in the next few minutes and the kids are quite accustomed to the frequent lack of electricity.

Spanking and punishments that create actual discomfort though, are a universal solution when applied to discipline. Nigerians have recognised this, and when it is put into practice the truth is one cannot deny its effectiveness.

As a child I received many spankings. In fact its amazing that I’m here proclaiming the benefits of being spanked because as you can imagine I hated it at the time. But when I think about the impact that this discipline had on my life, I cannot help but feel thankful.

I remember very vividly that if I was to step out of line when out with my parents, all my dad had to do was give me a certain look; and without the exchange of words I somehow automatically knew that I was doing something wrong. My mind would flash back to previous smacks and I would find myself asking the question “do i want to get spanked?” and my body would respond with the immediate answer, “no”; and regardless of the pleasure I was deriving from misbehaving, an angelic spirit would seemingly return, steering me back on to the path of righteousness – for fear that I would regret my actions. Its worth noting that all this would take place in the space of about 2 seconds.

Contrasting this with the English way of life it is not difficult for me to see why the control parents have over their kids has gotten out of hand. A child can walk out and slam the door in the middle of a conversation, smash objects in the house and report their parents to the police claiming they are being maltreated. Instances such as this are almost unheard of in Nigeria. Most kids wouldn’t have the nerve to talk back to a significantly older sibling, let alone their parents.

The truth is parents in England are not really allowed to parent their kids. What they can and cannot do is more or less spelt out by the government, and the parents feel that they need to make sure their kids are happy so that they don’t get in some kind of trouble with the authorities. At 16 if a child wants to move out the government is likely to provide him/her with a flat and a bit of money for upkeep; this prospect alone ensures that a lot of kids hold on to the threat of “leaving home”, so that their parents bend to their will for the sake of maintaining contact.

Its one thing to criticise, but I won’t leave you hanging without making a significant point.

Speaking as a parent myself I recognise that there is a thin line between discipline and child abuse. Beating a child out of anger with fists and all kinds of objects isn’t something I would do to a child. If my aim is to “teach”, then my approach needs to consider the childs level of understanding right from wrong, knowing the childs personality, and being calm enough show the child what s(he) has done wrong.

Using 2 fingers to smack a 3 year old child across the arm for example wouldn’t kill or leave a scar; and doing this early on in life goes a long way, because later on the threat alone of being smacked is often sufficient enough to send a clear message – when compared to “your gonna get grounded”.

I will admit that i am generalizing. In a topic such as this it is very difficult to make a strong point without generalizing to some degree. But I will end with what I consider to be a substantial conclusion.

If what matters to you most is your childs “happiness”, you are going to make a lot of bad choices in your efforts to fulfill this. Parenting is not about making your child happy; there is a time and a place for that. What matters most is “teaching” a child the way that (s)he should grow – to recognise right from wrong, develop self control, and amongst other things realise that there is no reason to throw a fit when things don’t go their way. Parenting is about equipping a child with the tools they will need to function independently when they go on to face life outside the nest.

A key element missing in the story is “balance”, and on that note it would be fair to say that much can be learned from both societies.

Even though the Nigerian method is more likely to generate respect and submission to authority; the English way of life is better able to create a relationship where the childs opinion and feelings are taken into account.

An extreme Nigerian is in danger of bringing up a child that lives in the constant fear of doing something wrong. An extreme English parent is in danger of bringing up a child that is spoilt and only happy when he gets things his way.

There is nothing wrong with being friends with your kids; but in the early stages of growth the child doesn’t a friend, (s)he needs a parent.


Click Here To Read More Of The NIGERIA vs ENGLAND Series 


Posted by on August 1, 2011 in TRUTH


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  1. Bianca Clarke

    August 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    V. good article. As the mother of an (at times rather unruly) 18month old i wonder whether smacking is the right thing to do. I have this sense that smacking justifies violent behaviour, but then again doing nothing justifies the poor behaviour! Sometimes im not sure what is right and what is wrong. Its hard work being a parent! Hard work! But looking back on what i have just written i am thinking, smacking is ok, when the child is being naughty as it is in response to the bad behaviour, Its when smacking and abuse is out of the blue that may lead the child to become violent in the future and justify violent behaviour….?!….As i said, parenting = hard work!!!!


      August 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      @Bianca, That is a very important point to emphasize, that smacking should be done when a child is naughty rather than out of the blue. Very often parents result to spanking when they are frustrated and irritated, which may not even be as a result of a child’s ‘bad behaviour’. This should be recognised as a flaw in the personality of the parent – call it impatience or intolerance – both of which are very important characteristics to avoid in an effort to teach a growing child that still has a lot to learn.

      As they say there is no “parenting handbook”, but we can learn from the mistakes of society, and encourage each other to keep putting in the hard work that’s needed to bring up a person of integrity.

  2. toni

    August 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    i truly agree that a balance is what is necessary, and also i think a strong sense of culture is important so i think if parents instilled strong sense of culture.

  3. Seni

    August 1, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    absolute rubbish. You tried to be objective towards the end but it was too late. This article is such a typical Nigerian conversation, it is what we all say “I’m happy my parents beat me blah blah blah… There is absolutely no standard or general rule to how one raises a child neither is there a balance on how to train them. And I don’t know what world you live in but Nigerians kids are very ill-behaved and have one of the lowest moral standards known to man. The only difference is- Nigerians parents are so blind to it- cos they delude themselves with the ‘imaginary’ training they presume they gave their children i.e- no mentoring, just beating and shouting. In the parts of England and America I’ve seen, I’ve come across way more well behaved kids than badly behaved ones. So I guess, it is just you and the environment you put yourself in.

    This article should have been about raising kids-full stop not the silly, baseless comparisons of Nigerian kids to British kids.

    Btw, I live in Nigeria and it is very strange for a complete stranger to smack some else’s child. I have never ever seen that happen before.
    My point is there should never be a “these people are doing it right while these other people are wrong or should we smack our kids or not”. Every child’s personality is different and should be handled differently, for example: A kid that’s naughty and doing silly things just to seek attention or assurance shouldn’t be beaten but embraced and taught kindness through actions. I see alot of parents beat their children in anger not out of love even though that’s what they claim. The truth is at that moment (most of the time), when you reach out to lay your hands on that child, it is because you are frustrated, you don’t know what else to do and your first instinct is to slap the child.
    I have seen parents hit their children for reasons like ‘the child put him/herself in danger’ and I can understand that because, that beating was not out of anger, embarrassment or frustration e.t.c but purely to teach a lesson.

    And just to add, I strongly believe that no beating has saved anybody’s life on this planet. What saves people and what differentiates people is the environment they grow up in. If you want the best for your children- put them in great schools, be diplomatic, have them take extra lessons at home under your watchful eye, engage their time in sports, music, languages and productive things, make sure they are always around the type of people you want them to be like- therefore, choose you church/mosque, schools, parties, holidays e.t.c carefully, tell them right from wrong and most importantly- LEAD BY EXAMPLE. If you don’t always talk so loudly on the phone and around your friends, maybe your child wouldn’t turn out to be someone who is naturally loud and screams and seeks attention in public. Maybe if you don’t hit your child the minute you feel angry or frustrated, you child might actually not turn out to be stubborn and defensive. Maybe if you genuinely don’t eat fatty food, then your child wouldn’t either. Every human being on this planet is a product of what they have seen and heard. Your child is no different. So save yourself the trouble of hitting your children and nagging all day. SHOW them the way forward.
    I must say though, I have nothing against beating children, I was beaten too. I know it doesn’t destroy but the real question is, does it build them up (really?)
    Can you truthfully say that the reason you ended up well is because of the beating, strictness and shouting you got cos I can bet you, you are what you are today because of the things you have seen from the day you were born till now.

    • Joel Che

      August 2, 2011 at 5:53 am


      I am in full agreement with you. I am a parent and I have noticed that the only times I feel like spanking is when I lose my temper. It is never triggered by the gravity of what the child has actually done. Thankfully, I have never hit my child even when I lost my temper.

      Raising kids is hard. It is even harder as an African parent, raised by Africans in Africa and trying to raise a kid in Europe with one of the parents being European. Our base parenting skills or expectations of what makes a good child comes from our own culture. Children are supposed to say “thank you”, “please” and respect others by their actions etc. That is what is expected of each Cameroonian child and failure to act like that in our society is grave. In our society it shows disrespect of Elders (which is a cornerstone to African societies) and it shows off your parents as having done a bad job. I can see why African parents result to a direct approach to stop the behavior rather than attempts to explain.

      In the west however, certainly where I am, adults are not offended if your kid doesn’t say please or thank you as much as they would in Africa. So as a parent you don’t feel as much shame and are less likely embarrassed. Western societies are not built on respect for elders. This is an individualistic society with individual competition. It is much more important here to explain things to children and make sure they understand than to spank them into behaving in a way that does not give them any benefit in society. Remember that most kids in Africa (at least in the villages which is where our culture has always come from) learned from their parents by being there and doing jobs that their parents did. They were in the farms with their fathers and in the kitchen, watering hole with mothers and thatched the roofs in the dry season with their parents. Learning took place not by explaining things but by observing your parents work and doing the work yourself. In African urban areas and in the west, you don’t take your child to the office. They learn by you explaining and not by spanking.

      We all have to adjust. Our parents methods just won’t do for our children. They don’t live in that world anymore. I will repeat: raising kids is hard. It is even harder as an African parent, raised by Africans in Africa and trying to raise a kid in Europe with one of the parents being European

  4. Inter nigerian chick

    August 1, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    This is so true! As a nigerian girl raised overseas, my parents continued to discipline us, the nigerian way. I believe the community approach to raising children is so much more effective than what our world has turned to. I would not imagine not being strict with my children in the future. I really want to focus more on reasons why we are to uphold certain belief, rules-so instead of thinking ‘what can i get away with?’ the child can think ‘this is why i stay true to this’

    Loved reading your article!

  5. Jim Simpson

    August 2, 2011 at 1:21 am

    I am a father of two children, ages 6 weeks, and 6 years old. When my eldest, Raven my son, gets out of hand I use time out as a warning, and if it keeps getting out of hand i will bust his ass. I also teach my son please, thank you, and yes and no ma’am/ sir, My mother raised me the same way and I think I am a reasonable adjusted member of society. Sometimes kids need a physical reminder of why we do behave. Every child does respond differently to things so keep that in mind also.


    August 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Given the responses I suppose I should develop my theory of ‘balance’ a bit further. 

    Let me begin by establishing that the comparison between Nigerian and English parenting is simply a medium used to illustrate a point about parenting techniques. 

    On a general level. Nigeria is a country that is in support of spanking as a form of discipline. England is a country that is completely against it, and prefers ‘talking’ to kids.  

    Of course you will find parents from both countries who will have different approaches. But let us for the sake of the discussion view things in a more general sense.  As said in the article, the only way we can have a discussion on the subject is if we generalise to some degree; and as seni revealed, we all have different experiences so we are limited in terms of what we can say even on a general level. 

    So with that introduction in mind I will attempt to build on that foundation in light of the issues that have been raised. My response may be long, but I hope it will be well worth the read.

    I believe that one of the first things that a young child should learn is “obedience”. 

    First and foremost this obedience should be unquestioned, immediate, and should not “require” an explanation. 

    I say this for a number of reasons.

    When a baby is born it doesn’t have a choice about “anything”. It can’t walk, so it stays where its put; it wears whatever clothes the parents put on it etc.  Frankly, every single decision in the first stages of life are made “on behalf of the baby”

    As the baby grows it starts to move around, develop a sense of the environment and then it becomes more eager to make its own decisions.

    It is important to note that every baby grows up “selfish”, regardless of its environment. When a child cries the parent responds to its wants, needs, and ultimately fulfills its desires. So a child does not grow up automatically considerate of other peoples feelings, or if it wakes up its mother at an inconvenient time at night. When it cries “something happens” – and the parent tries to make sure that the baby “gets what it wants”.

    This is necessary in the first stages of life, where the child is fed on demand, changed etc.

    In fact as a parent you will discover that a baby only cries for a specific number of reasons – hunger, fear, discomfort and attention (I stand corrected) and the more time you spend with your child at an early stage you will begin to understand the reasons why they cry, when they cry – within a certain marginal degree of error.

    This stage of development is mostly outside of your control. But once one understands what we might call the “baby psychology”, one can begin to respond to things on a more strategic level.

    Ill use my kids as examples.

    I have a 4 year old, Rayne; and an 8 month old, Tianna.

    When Tianna was about 2 or 3 weeks old, my partner and I decided to teach her the difference between day and night. When it was 8 pm we would give her a bath – with her crying through out the entire process – after which she would be fed, and totally exhausted from crying would often fall asleep at her moms breast. At this point all the lights are switched off, or occasionally made really dull, and she would be asleep until she awoke again for her next meal later on in the night – which would be had with the lights still off and with her being put back to sleep afterwards.

    We carried on this routine of only giving her a bath at night, having her meal, switching off the lights, no noise etc; and it reaped some pretty interesting results.

    By the time she was 3 months old, Tianna was sleeping throughout the night from 9pm till about 7am; and at 8 months old this is her standard routine.

    Once we discovered at 3 months that Tianna was actually “capable” of sleeping throughout the night. We began to realise that on the occasions when she did wake up, it wasnt because she was hungry (because she didnt eat) it was because she wanted to play and we had responded to her the ‘very second’ she had made a few sounds to get our attention. Understanding this, we decided to ignore her for the first few minutes when she began making sounds, and we discovered that she would often fall back asleep unless there was some other problem.

    The ignoring technique was also effective “just after” she had had her shower and eaten; because (going back to my earlier point) once we eliminated hunger and discomfort, we are only left with fear and attention as to her reasons for her still being awake at that time. We knew she wasnt afraid of the dark (because she sleeps in the dark every night – plus we were always with her in the room) , so more often that not, if she was awake after her meal and shower, it was because she would rather play than go to sleep. When ignored she would fall asleep in roughly 15 minutes or less.

    Between 3 and 8 months Tianna has only woken up a handful of times in the middle night. She is comfortable being put to bed after a shower, even when she is still wide awake and the lights are off; and this I attribute to our understanding of a “babies psychology” and understanding “Tianna as a person”.

    The point I am trying to make with this particular illustration is that on occasion there are ways that one can effect “discipline” in a child from an early stage through the use of routines, and other psychological methods. I believe this should be applied throughout the early stages of a babies life I.e from birth – 1year; and is a stage where I believe a parent should “never” spank the child – regardless of the reason.

    Tianna at 8 months grabs for everything within her reach (often outside of her reach too) which has resulted in drinks being knocked over on the table and a whole list of other annoying circumstances – but because of the fact that I understand that she is barely a toddler, I have no justification for losing my temper with her, because of the innocent mindset she has about her actions.

    But just to amplify Senis point, I will go further to say that a parent should actually “never” react to any circumstance because of a loss of temper. This doesn’t just apply to spanking children, but rather to life in general. People as a rule dont make rational decisions when they have lost their tempers; so that mind set for any decision making “especially with regards to spanking a child” should not be entertained; and is in fact a flaw in the personality of the individual.

    Now lets move on to the age group I think requires an introduction to spanking; and I will begin once again by emphasising my earlier statement which refers in particular to kids above a year old –

    “I believe that one of the first things that a child should learn is “obedience”. 

    First and foremost this obedience should be unquestioned, immediate, and should not “require” an explanation.”

    By the time a child begins to slowly creep and cross over the 18month gap, routine is still important; but it becomes less effective, and harder to maintain, now that the child has developed a larger control of its actions.

    So at this point the child needs to “obey” its parents. It needs to obey because there are things that it does not know, and is ‘incapable of understanding.’ And this where I feel the English method falls apart.

    Generally speaking an English child refuses to obey an instruction unless it “understands and agrees” with what the parent is saying. So the child generally gets its way or throws a tantrum.

    If a child for example wants to touch a naked wire. You are going to have a difficult time explaining to a 2 year old the fact that there is a current flowing through the wire, and if he touches it there is a possibility that he will receive an electric shock, causing his heart to stop, which may result in death.

    Let us even assume that the child is clever or enough to understand this concept. And after he has understood he insists on touching the wire regardless of the explanation.

    The supernanny method – would be to carry the child away from the danger, and if the child is persistent, this process of carrying the child away would happen several times. In my view not only is this a “game” to most children, it really does not address the fundamental issue, which is the fact that the child is disobedient.

    A successful episode of supernanny is likely to end with a statement like “it only takes me an hour and a half to put tom to bed, it used to take me 4 hours”. This may be an improvement, but the fact that he only runs out of bed 20 times a night instead of the usual 60 is still a testament that the parent is more under the childs control than the other way around.

    Compare this with with the Nigerian philosophy of “Obey before complaint” – where culturally the child is expected to do what the parent says “first” and then complain afterwards.

    But once again the latter half is where the Nigerian method also falls apart – because the child obeys for fear of getting spanked, but the parents are really not interested in entertaining any form of complaints. So they often have no real perspective of the way their kids actually feels.

    When my daughter Rayne was about 2 years old we stayed in a place that had a spiral staircase. There was a gate at the top of the stairs, but once opened it was essentially a death trap if a child decided to run around in that vicinity.

    In my view this is a perfect avenue to introduce spanking, depending on the personality of your child.

    My prescribed method – take the child away and say don’t go there. Take the child away again and tell her “if you go there again I will spank you”. If the threat is insufficient (and it usually is if the child has been spanked in the past) then the child receives a spanking. Lets say 3 solid smacks with 2 fingers across his arm. Child cries – and you leave him to cry for a bit – then you draw her towards you, offer some comfort and explain to the child (not just the fact that the area is dangerous) but the fact that she was spanked because she ‘did not obey’ mummy/Daddys instructions.

    Even within this prescription there is still room for error. I would not recommend telling a 2 year old that if he/she does something (s)he will get spanked; and then you dont follow through with the threat. This sends an entirely different message – it tells the child that even though you have promised a spanking, it does not necessarily mean that it will happen, and a mischievous child will often test this boundary. But if as a parent you are consistent, the child will immediately be able to tell the difference between a game and when “no means no”.

    Now let me try and tie all of this in while addressing the points raised.

    @Seni…… Leading by example is always a wise way to live your life; but in practice this is not always effective “in every scenario” when it comes to children. A parent can lead by example and eat vegetables and other healthy meals; but if a child was to insist on its own diet program. It would consist on sweets for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, chocolate and buscuits for dinner.

    A parent cannot afford to allow a child to make certain decisions on its own, simply because the child is ill informed and is surrounded by all kinds of other “living examples” – friends, teachers, family and everyone on television.

    How do you lead by example when sending a 2 year old to bed? By going to bed early yourself so that your child will follow suit? Personally I would not see the wisdom in that approach.

    Your theory of Leading by example assumes that just because you have set a good example that means that your child will be inspired to be like you. In reality children want to do what is fun or pleasurable, so if you walk into a shop and lead with the example of not grabbing a chocolate and eating it on the spot, it would be naïve to assume that a child would do the same without needing to be told.

    These points bring us back full circle to the theory of balance.

    If I was to break parenting down in a sentence. I would say that parenting is about taking a child through a transition of “total dependence” to “independence”.

    This process needs to be fully under the control of the parent; even more so in a society where the government dangles the opportunity of early independence to its teenagers.

    Spanking is not a hard and fast rule for every situation; and if your reason for spanking is because of a loss of temper, then it would be difficult to make a proper distinction of when to do so as a parent.

    On a general note I will say though that a child that is consistently disobedient and just generally wants to get its own way “needs to be spanked” – and this is not limited to life threatening situations.

    How many Nigerian kids suffer from ADHD “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” – a disease that has supposedly swept the American and European nations?

    The symptoms of the disorder are – having difficulty focussing, talking non stop, struggling to follow instructions, not listening when spoken to, being impatient, blurting inapproproate comments and a whole list of other characteristics that kids get spanked for Nigeria.

    In my view I am yet to believe that ADHD even exists. All those kids need is a good spanking; and I would experiment with that first before concluding that they have some sort of psychological disorder – which in my view is far less likely.

    Ill end with one last word.


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      August 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm

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