CHILD BEATING: Abuse or Necessary Means of Rearing? [Archives:1998/01/Culture]

January 5 1998

Athena Al-Absi, Yemen Times
Means of Punishment A teacher father of three sons aged 5, 3, and 2 years punishes his children by using a thundering voice, beating their buttocks, slapping their faces, or simply glaring. “I use a belt or a stick,” he said. “We beat them with a qat stick, a belt, use a lighted match, or frighten them with fire,” admitted the illiterate gas station attendant and his wife as to how they punish their 3 girls and 4 boys.
Reasons for Punishment The teacher does not punish his eldest son often. It is only when he misbehaves such as playing with an electrical appliance, following his father around the house, insisting on going to see his friends while the family has other engagements, going out of the apartment or playing on the balcony, etc. “It is especially annoying when he wants to go chewing qat with me or when he is jealous of his brothers and wants me to buy things just for him.” The mother, a housewife, gave an example. “Once when we were having dinner at a restaurant, our eldest threw a tantrum. When my husband tried to stop him, he smashed a valuable crystal vase on the ground. So his father had to beat him up violently in front of all the people there.” “I don’t beat him unless he comments a horrible mistake,” said the wife. “I get really angry when he gets up in the middle of the night, insists on going to see our relatives, and keeps crying. I try to calm him down for sometimes more than two hours. If this doesn’t work, I have to beat him.”
“Most of the time we beat them because they create problems with our neighbors, they lock the neighbors’ house doors from the outside, beat each other, or beat their pals in the neighborhood,” the gas-station attendant and his wife said as they justified punishing their kids. “They sit in the street the whole day, they do not obey their father, they break our neighbor’s windows and do a lot of mischief.” “When my husband chews qat, he does not want his kids to be with him in the same room. He wants them to stay at home to avoid making problems outside.”
Age Range The teacher said, “I started punishing my son after he became 4 years old.” He added, “I think that a child should be physically punished up to the age of 12 or 13 years because after puberty a son must be treated as a man who has his own independent personality.” His wife added, “after that age, I believe we just have to advise him to help the growth of his character.” The gas-station attendant’s wife disclosed that she and her husband started to beat their children from the age of one year till they are as old as 12 for the boys or 18 for the girls or when they get married.
Punishing in Front of Others “My husband becomes more violent while chewing qat, but he very rarely beats his son in front of his pals,” said the teacher’s wife. However, she added, “I usually beat him at home and not in the street, but when there is need, I beat him in front of other people. For example, when I once bought toys for him and his brothers, he angrily asked me to keep his and return his brothers’ back. I then had to beat him in front of all the people in the market.” “In order to educate my son, I am ready to beat him at home, in the street, or at the school to make them realize their faults,” revealed the gas-station attendant. “Isn’t this our role as parents?” she asked indisputably.
Who is More Severe? “I am violent when the occasion merits it, but my husband is more strict and usually beats them up,” admitted the teacher’s wife. “I really beat him much but his father beats him much more,” said the wife of the gas-station attendant. However, she said that the father is more violent in beating his children.
Is it a Suitable Means of Bringing UP Children? “It does work,” said the teacher’s wife. “When my kid started to behave badly, becoming selfish, dominating his younger brothers, and crying to get attention, it was only possible to correct him with punishment. He started to give up some of his bad habits.” “When you beat them, they behave themselves. But later on, they begin to make trouble again and for that we have to beat them continuously. They do not learn unless they are beaten,” announced the gas-station attendant’s wife knowingly. “Beating is necessary to educate them,” added her husband.
Injuries “Once, my husband punished our son with a lit match, seriously injuring him. We had take him to a hospital for treatment,” recalled the teacher’s wife, sadly. On her part, the gas-station attendant’s wife said: “For me, I’ve never injured them. Once, while my husband was beating one of our sons, he ran away and fell down the stairs, breaking his arm. His father refused to take him to a hospital. I begged him to do so, but he was adamant. I went to my neighbor and asked her to have her husband convince my husband to take the boy to hospital. My husband, though, refused. At the end he agreed after the boy had been injured for about 7 hours.”
Psychological Consequences The teacher’s wife said: “Lately, my eldest became more annoying and his father had to beat him many times. The kid has become withdrawn and doesn’t talk with his father and is not the first one who runs to meet him when he comes back from work as he used to. Instead, he goes back to his room whenever his father comes into the house. “My husband and I began to realize the problem. So he began to take him for a walk or to play in city parks. We started to pay more attention to him, to have him less punished, and to take him out with us. Personally, I was against not allowing him to join us but his father asserts that the kid should learn to obey his parents.” The gas-station attendant’s wife affirmed that none of her children suffer from any psychological condition as a consequence of beating. “I’ve never heard about something called psychological condition,” she said quizzically, adding, “I don’t think that my children complain about such cases.” But, she said: “they started to refuse to go to school, saying that they are not feeling well.” When the parents beat up the elder sons, they would take revenge by beating their younger brothers. Well, I don’t believe in what we see in films or television.
Impartiality “I treat my three sons equally, unless one of them becomes more annoying, then he deserves more punishment,” commented the teacher’s wife. “I treat them equally. But I beat them hard because they always make trouble with the neighbors,” said the gas-station attendant’s wife. “We beat them with the same stick because we want people to appreciate the way our children are brought up,” commented her husband.
Yemen Times has visited one of the preparatory schools in Sana’a and there we came by two tragical cases of kids who have been awfully beaten up by their parents. The first case was of two brothers studying in the same class. They were usually seen injured, with their faces wounded and sometimes burned. They did not talk about their problem and when teachers asked them how they got injured, they pretended that they fell down or something of this sort. The teachers, knowing about their problem, tried to talk with their father who refused to meet them. Moreover, he threw the medicines the teachers bought to treat the boys. “What happened after that” says one of the teachers “was that their uncle came to take their files and when we asked them why, he said that they stole 10,000 Riyals from their father and therefore they had to be taken back to their village where they would not continue their study.” The second case was of a boy whose mother-in-law used to treat him badly. Despite that his father was a highly cultured person, he usually practiced his sadistic pleasure on his son, beating him with sharp objects. As a result of that, the boy became very annoying and even aquired bad behaviors like stealing money.