Tue | Aug 22, 2017

We were taught to hit

Published:Wednesday | March 9, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Until now, I never understood where some men got this notion that women could, and should, be hit. It's such a spineless, cruel act that sickens me to the very core. Cowardly, insecure men hit their women. Immature men who communicate poorly hit their women. Men who know their power is superficial hit their women. Men frustrated with their inadequacies hit their women.

In my mind, when a man hit a woman, my cry of outrage used to be: "Damn it! She isn't his child."

On Monday, after hearing about an incident where a Jamaican boy hit a Jamaican girl, my outcry was "She isn't his child," and even as I said it, I realised just how wrong the basis of my utterance was.

Hitting a woman is no more or less acceptable than hitting a child. Hitting a child is no different from Massa whipping the slave.

I was once of the view that children should be spanked. That when a child did something wrong, the most effective way of ensuring that they never repeated the wrong was to beat them until they learnt the lesson. Through no fault of their own, that's the way our parents disciplined us, and the way their parents disciplined them. We got spanked at home and at school as punishment for our every transgression.

As I look back, it is my belief that we are worse off for it. By beating a child, you teach them that physical violence is the way to resolve problems.

I vividly remember an incident in primary school where a teacher beat a boy for hitting a girl, and it just made no sense to me. How could the infringement and the punishment be exactly alike?

I got spanked, and I can remember the wave of emotions that welled up inside me every time I did. I felt shame when the beatings were in public, and my fear was real every time my mother told me to go for the yellow strap. Sometimes what I felt was rage. With every blow, my mind thought of a million equally cruel ways to extract revenge.

If I got flogged and thought I didn't deserve it, there was emotional pain that hurt more than the beating. How could someone who I loved and trusted be trying to inflict such pain upon me? Sadistically requiring that I not only take the licks, but also insisting that I show it hurt by bawling.

 

UNNECESSARY PUNISHMENT

 

And even with all those blows, I never thought I had it that bad. I had friends whose parents would slap them across the face. One girl's aunt would burn her with the iron. Another's father used to plait the cords of old appliances and whip her. Our generation, and those before, got cruel and gave unnecessary punishment.

I will never do that to my children.

Kids are testy, and they do some things that undoubtedly need stiff penalties, but I beg you, don't resort to beating. Let's start the conversation with each other about alternate means of punishment. We can't do what we aren't taught, and we haven't been taught to parent and, specifically, how to discipline.

Perhaps in PTA meetings, school administrators could give practical suggestions of humane ways to correct children. Most of us frown on the naughty corner and grounding, because we don't think they work. But neither does beating. There must be an alternative. Saying beating is the only way to teach our kids is no different from a man saying beating his wife is the only way she will learn.

An outright ban on corporal punishment in schools would be one of the best decisions taken by the Ministry of Education. There has got to be a better way to discipline children. Let's find ways to ensure our kids know they did wrong, without hurting them and breaking their spirits.

Today's article was spurred by a very crude and cruel video making the social media rounds involving two children. I, too, am enraged by what I hear it contains, but I ask that we stop sharing the video, and videos like it.

I ask that responsible media houses stop showing the faces of both these little ones. Consider the futures of the children involved. Consider if it were your child; would you want the world watching your daughter get beat up - even to sympathise?

Under the guise of concern, we share the video around as if we are doing good. We aren't. By sharing the video, you have revealed the girl's identity, exposed her to ridicule and humiliation, and fed one more person's sick appetite for seeing filth. Stop sharing the video.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.