I know some homeschooling mums homeschool for reasons to do with race or culture or religion and they are all very personal issues that can be complicated so it’s difficult to have an opinion. As we are in Nigeria, which has a black majority I don’t have to confront a race issue but when I went back to the UK funnily enough I did.
I attended a black homeschool fair I’d been invited to. Partly because it was the only homeschool fair I knew of. I would have gone to any homeschool fair available. I was also looking forward to it because I figured culturally I would also have stuff in common with the other mums there too.
Anyway, both of my sons started acting up at this fair. It was like the devil took them. They were bored and I guess felt the strangeness of the place anyway they made a helluva lot of noise and all the other parents looked at me like I didn’t know the first thing about parenting (all their kids were sitting quietly staring at my kids with their mouths open) and to cut a long story short I had to leave. *sigh*
A male friend who was there by sheer coincidence took all of this very seriously. He has four sons up to the age of 18 and can set his watch by them (but he beats them). He came to tell me how horrified he was by my sons’ behaviour and that I should not call myself a homeschooler if I can’t keep my kids in line. Then he came to my house the next day to show me how to keep my kids in line. (By then I was quite broken like those parents on Supernanny).
Now for the race part. In that in telling me off my friend berated me that you cannot not discipline your black sons properly because whereas a white wayward kid might be tolerated by society, your sons will end up in prison and be treated harshly by the system and fail to find employment and fail at everything else and then well – at this point it’s looking pretty bad, huh.
And so I was forced to confront the race issue. He even said I had no excuse because corporal punishment is still the ‘norm’ in Nigeria. I could ‘beat’ my kids without worrying about the authorities.
And so far I’d been avoiding smacking them -bar the odd tap. But now I was told that because of a racist society I needed to step it up. And it really set me thinking. I don’t want my boys to be automatons and I don’t think physical chastisement is the only way to go and I don’t agree with the kind of chastisement I got which involved slippers, belts, canes and once a cling film box that left nasty cuts on my arm from the metal edging but I think every parent has to make a personal choice and each child is different. I can’t say physical punishment didn’t do me any harm because I was often afraid of my mum even well into adulthood and out of fear I lied to her and kept things from her when sometimes I would have done better to confide in her. However, I did pretty well at school and socially and kept well away from trouble.
So I really don’t know what the answer is. Since this advice, I have been a lot more aware of discipline. I even bought ‘To Train Up a Child’ even though that’s a bit too extreme for me and I don’t find that level of discipline necessary – I still like having expressive, impulsive kids because these qualities are also my strengths but I have implemented time out in a more consistent manner with the three year old and applied it to the 18 month old with surprisingly effective results. I have nipped boisterous or disrespectful behaviour in the bud and yes, sometimes I have given a smack to the three year old on his hand or quickly tugged his ear to get his attention. An ear tug makes them surprisingly and immediately present in the way yelling doesn’t. I have pretty much stopped shouting as a result. I have also started sitting training, which is a way for me to know that they are safe and quiet while I get on with something else, rather than following me from room to room whining.
Disciplining my kids is definitely a work in progress and my mind is not made up. What do you do for discipline and why?