The other day in the playground, two children ages about six were fighting over a ball. The bigger one had it under his arm while the smaller one kicked, scratched and snatched at his clothing, his screams bouncing off the swings and slides.
The bigger one’s mother comes to mediate. She is Nigerian. She makes her son give his ball and tells him to share. Smaller boy runs off triumphant. After a while, bigger boy goes to retrieve his ball. Smaller boy starts with the scratching and kicking and screaming again. Smaller boy’s older brother intervenes, making him give back the ball. Smaller boy screams some more.
Bigger boy’s mother makes him share again and while we are all watching, smaller boy runs towards the fence and throws the ball into the road, laughing maniacally.
What do you think the best way to handle this would have been?
As I left the playground that same evening, a group of three Yoruba women are walking behind me (a bit of a non sequitur but they took over one part of the playground and whipped out puff puff, chin chin, meat pies…it was like a party. Very nice ladies. More on this later). One of their children kicked up a fuss about leaving, screaming every few steps and throwing his books on the ground. He was big too, around eight. The women ignored him. He got louder, ripping his shirt out of his trousers. The ignored him still. He threw an object at his mother’s feet.
His mother turned around and unleashed a stream of Yoruba at him. “Are you stupid?” she asked. The boy’s shoulders shook as he tried to contain himself. She said something else in Yoruba again. “Oya,” she said. “Hold your mouth.” The last I saw of them as they rounded the bend, the boy was holding his lips between an index finger and a thumb, sobbing.
Would you go for a more serious punishment if your child throws an object at you?
Another day at the GPs’ surgery, this mixed race kid – heavy kid, what Igbo people refer to as ‘O furu afu’ stomped about the whole place. His mother tried in vain to catching him as he raced in the corridors (forbidden) knocking on the offices (forbidden) and slamming the doors (forbidden). He pushed open the doors leading to the outside and escaped, and a black man who had been sitting quietly by the door gave chase. Almost instantly, the boy ran back in and the man followed, peeling the bark from a switch in his hand. He flexed it. The boy took two steps back.
“Sit down,” he said. The boy ran to his mother and sat down. When the man, his father, went to speak to the receptionists, the boy stood again and ran outside. His father walked out and the next thing we heard was ‘piam! piam!’ and wailing started up.
We went to see the doctor when it was our turn and on our way out, my son started running towards the doors. “Come back,” I said in Igbo. He stopped and turned around, waiting for me to catch up. “Stand here,” I said again in Igbo, as I reached for the hand sanitizer by the reception. He took a sidestep towards the door, and another, still watching me.
“Did you not hear your mother say you should wait here?” the man said in Igbo, presenting the switch. My son froze.
Would you let a stranger whip/punish your child?