By calling it discipline

Yemisi comments on a case of child abuse in the UK and views on child “discipline” in Nigeria.

Yes, it hurts me personally and in every humane way possible when children undergoing abuse are not believed when they finally find the courage to speak out. It also hurts me to no end that in the part of the continent I come from, people define ‘child abuse’ in a different way and conveniently brush it aside by calling it discipline!

It is indeed sad that some Nigerians consider this case as ‘culture clash’ and even racial discrimination!

To many Nigerians, it is considered normal for pastors to accuse children of witchcraft and slap them in churches. It is considered OK  for prophets to take children to beach sides and beat them mercilessly while their parents shout “Hallelujah”, under the ‘acceptable disguise’ of casting out evil spirits from the children.

And it’s much the same in the US, thanks to people like Michael and Debi Pearl in books like To Train Up a Child. Libby Anne summarizes some of their teachings on “discipline.”

The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of “every child” (p.2) for “Christians and non-Christians” (p.5) and for “every transgression” (p.1). Parents who don’t whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are “creating a Nazi” (p.45).

On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up.” On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.

On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard “a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside.”

On p.44 they say not to let the child’s crying while being hit to “cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.” On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is “totally broken.”

On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

On p.46 the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being whipped, whip them anyway. And “if you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher.” “Defeat him totally.”  On p.80 they recommend giving a child having a tantrum “a swift forceful spanking.” On the same page they say to whip small children on their bare skin until they stop screaming. “Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same.” They say to continue whipping until their crying turns into a “wounded, submissive whimper.”

They’re religious, so that gives their advice that extra respectability. If they weren’t religious, who would see them as anything other than sadists?

Back to Yemisi:

In the case of this couple, I would ask, were there injury marks on the bodies of the children? The article said there were, to quote the article-

 Revealing scars the eldest said her mother had hit her with a cable, a broom, and a hoover and her father had dangled her by her feet down the stairwell of the house, tied her hands behind her back and her legs together ‘to get the devilish spirits out’, prosecutor Emma Smith said.
Her sister, who was seven at the time, had a stick shaped bruise of her thigh and after a few months in care, she drew a series of pictures showing her dad beating her and her being left home alone and including a speech bubble saying “I’m hungry”.

These are PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL indications of child abuse.

Should the geographical location, race or skin colour of children determine whether the children have been abused? No, every child matters! If such abuses would never be tolerated from white parents, why should it be tolerated because the parents of the children concerned are black?

No children should be abused, not in London or Lagos or Memphis or Sedro-Woolley.




  1. says

    The abuse described reads very much the same as Adrian Peterson’s abuse of his son – the whipping, the humiliation, etc. I endured physical abuse from my parents when I was a kid, but nothing I experienced even begins to compare with the horrors being described.

    It boggles the mind that people can even begin to think this way. Even more appalling, I’ve seen those who defend such violence against children say anyone who did the same to an adult should be criminally charged, just not when a child is a victim. In their minds, it’s only wrong when the victims can defend themselves.

  2. Ed says

    The Pearls are out of their damn minds. Not that their criminal advice on the dangerous abuse of older children capable of understanding verbal instruction is anything other than horrific, but their ideas about babies show an especially bizarre mentality. They seem to not even understand what a baby is, or what transgressions and punishments are.

    A crying infant is not committing a misdeed or trying to bother anyone. It’s merely following instinct. Whipping a baby isn’t any kind of training or punishment, but mere brutality. Pain doesn’t make any living thing more likely to calm down and certainly isn’t a sleep aid. Next time one of the Pearls have insomnia, the other should beat them with an extension cord and see if this helps.

    These supporters of extreme corporal punishment and their followers are nauseating to me. I’m against all corporal punishment, but I don’t know any supporters of it who advocate anything bordering on this. It would have been seen as extreme and irresponsible by most people even when parenting styles were generally more strict.

    People who abuse children because they won’t control their temper and get away with it because of public indifference are bad enough. But these people are systematically training torturers and calling it virtuous.

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