A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Why Do We Hit? A child
By Ngozi Nwabineli

Proverbs 13:24 
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”  


When I was little, I was an aggressive upstart.  I would start arguments, scream blue murder and terrorize my younger siblings...just because I was the eldest and I could. As a result, I saw the bitter end of the “rod of discipline” more often than I should.  But soon, the threat of discipline literally put the fear of God in me, and I realized just how fortunate I was to have parents who cared enough about me, about my welfare and my character to discipline me when it was necessary.  I do not talk about it much, not because I am ashamed, but because I have not been asked...till now...kind of. 


If you asked me if I was subjected to some strong discipline, I would say yes.  If you asked me if I received the odd smack or caning, I would say yes.  Was it deserved? Definitely.  Did it mean that I was abused or suffered violence at home? The answer is a categorical no.  So what is the difference between discipline and abuse?  Where do you draw the line between correction and violence? 


Having the Bible as a reference makes this distinction easier. As well as the verses listed below, the key verse that is taken into consideration is in Job Chapter 5 v. 17 where it says “Blessed is the man who God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” As it says later on in Hebrews Chapter 12, vs 9-11, "...we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”   Okay, there’s a lot of scripture but there is a point to it.  Religion and the bible often form the foundation that many African families build upon when it comes to their ideas of discipline.


When we talk about what discipline, what is the first thing that comes to you?  Caning by headmaster?  A smack from your parents?  A tongue-lashing from your teacher?  Well in this sense, it means to bring into line, to correct and to train.  But looking at the real meaning of the word, it goes deeper than that.  The Latin root for discipline is to teach.  It is where the word ‘disciple’ comes from. When properly done, using a multifaceted approach, discipline helps teach and reinforce desired behaviour.  It is through discipline that one can learn self-control, competence and yes, morality.


So, we now come to violence.  Straight away, you can see that the stem of the word is ‘violate.’ It has several definitions – all negative.  The two that stood out for me were:

  • Damage through distortion
  • An unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws



THAT is the difference between discipline and violence.  I am not denying that violence takes place.  It does and a lot of it goes unreported.  When it comes to the children, hitting is mainly to discipline and teach right behaviors and not always to abuse.  It helps to instill a good work ethic, motivation and a sense of morality.  That is why I believe it when 65 countries were studied, the happiest people came from an African country namely Nigeria.  What do they put it down to? Well, look at the quotes on this website and let me know your thoughts....It is due to “God and music...we believe in being our brother’s keeper.”  This comes out of a strong family network in which discipline is an integral part, not violence.  How can violent people be happy?  You tell me.