March 22, 2023

Is Caribbean style discipline cruelty to children?

article-2613651-1D5D636500000578-455_634x460By Ralph Seeram From KNEWS

The video went viral of the mother inflicting some serious lashes with a belt on her daughter. It went on and on for over eight minutes. It became a subject for National discussion in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.

It has provoked conflicting arguments in the public, outrage as well as support on Social Media, mainly Facebook, and nostalgia for some of us including this writer on “cut ass” we received as kids.

By now most of you probably know what I am speaking about, the Trinidadian mother inflicting a merciless beating on her daughter for posting semi nude pictures of herself on Facebook. Now this is nothing new among adults on Facebook, but it’s a different matter when it comes from a 12-year-old child.

So what is the appropriate punishment or discipline? Where does discipline end and cruelty begin?

This has been a major issue for parents from the Caribbean. What is considered discipline in some quarters in the Caribbean, is deemed child abuse in North America. Parents were jailed and even had their children taken from them.

In the video which the mother recorded to post on the Internet to “shame” her daughter, she is seen unleashing the beating with the buckle on the child, watching in the camera and giving her reasons for the “shaming”. At one point the mother seemed to be enjoying her action.

I watched the video, and I think she definitely crossed the line from discipline to cruelty. If the beating was for a minute or so this video would not have gone viral; it is the length and severity of the beating. For more than eight minutes she inflicted the lashes as the child cowered and begged. This was a woman who had lost control of herself and was venting her pent up frustration with the daughter in that severe beating.

After the video went viral, the elder daughter along with the offending child in question made video and posted it on the Internet to explain the mothers action. The 12-year-old was a problem child, “hardears” and “own way”, not listening to her mother. According to her sister, the mother had to intervene in this manner, ‘before she come home with a belly’ (pregnancy).

She emphasized that her mother was a very loving mother. I don’t think anyone would question the mother’s love for her daughter, who was implementing “tough love” the way she was taught, and therein laid the problem.

Most of us receive some “licks” from our parents in our youth. I received my share in school and at home. We were taught that way and the cycle continued with some of us, as can be seen from the many that praised the mother’s action.

The mother in interviews with the media in Trinidad said that she is prepared to go to jail, and would do it all over again. It shows you how this form of corporal punished or child abuse is ingrained in us. She still doesn’t get it; that it was not the form of the discipline, but the length of the severe beating.

I can’t imagine being so cruel to my daughter. In fact believe it or not, I never laid a hand on my daughter who is now an adult.

Some argue, mainly in North America, that whipping in your youth creates emotional scars in adulthood, I don’t subscribe to that view. I think it is a load of nonsense made up by Western psychologists. I do agree that there are alternative forms of punishments. To drive fear in the child does not really resolve the issues, and that is what we were taught, fear; not to identify the problem, not to see if it’s a pattern of behaviour, and the reasons behind it. No just “licks”.

My old headmaster, Mr. Charles gave me six wild cane lashes on my behind across the desk (anybody remember those days) for possessing a pen knife. He asked no question. Why I had a knife, the dangers of carrying a penknife etc. Six lashes. Next day in the classroom I had a knife in my pocket. Even the educated ones did not know better.

Those of us in the Diaspora, especially in the U S, know that whipping your child is considered child abuse and you can go to jail. In fact here in Florida, if the child appears in school with any marks that suggest an injury, the teacher is required by law to report it to the police. If the teacher does not, he can be charged also.

So you look to alternative forms to discipline your kids here, some of it can be ridiculous. Let’s take my four and a half years grandson for instance. Guess what is his punishment for disobedience? Loss of privilege of his iPhone and Kindle, no computer. I am serious, but it works.

I can understand the mother’s motivation behind the discipline, the frustration with a disobedient child, and being a single parent does not help. She executed discipline the way she was taught, as a last resort. I get that, the question for those in the Caribbean is where does “tuff love” end and cruelty begins. At what point you cross the line? In fact can we define that line; is it fixed or flexible. It’s going to be never ending debate.

One thing I know for sure in North America is the child loses computer or T.V privileges for being disobedient; in the Caribbean is “licks in yuh tail”.

Ralph Seeram can be reached at email: [email protected]

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Link to Daily Mail story with photographs and video:

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