Dealing with Child Abuse: Physical Abuse

Beating/spanking a child is customary to we Nigerians, which as one, I’ll plead the fifth…


“If the fear of pankere is the beginning of wisdom, the child has not seen a four-headed koboko”

Child abuse is a vicious act against the rights of a child. It is when a parent, caregiver or guardian, through action or inaction, encourages acts that cause harm, injury, or death to the child. Child abuse presents in form of physical, emotional, sexual and mental/psychological abuse.

Child Abuse tends to happen for a long time in several of our communities and awareness towards it is poor. Caregivers are expected to care for and protect a child entrusted to them and a failure in that role can set back the proper development of the child.

Physical Abuse

This is when the caregiver harms the child physically. This can be done by using any part of the body, or with a tool, to inflict pain/injury on such child by punching, slapping, beating, kicking, biting, burning or even shaking the child. The caregiver may not have intended to harm or hurt the child, but the injury may have resulted from overly harsh physical punishment.

Beating/spanking a child is customary to we Nigerians, which as one, I’ll plead the fifth. Parents are physically bigger and stronger, thus, when a parent tries to get their children to behave better or concur with their perspective by beating them, they may be encouraging their children that hitting people who are smaller or weaker is an acceptable way of getting what you want from them.

The Effects:

  • Emotional effects caused by child abuse can result in long-term and short-term consequences. This can ultimately affect a child’s upbringing and development.
  • Children can experience a condition called Reactive attachment disorder which presents as markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness that usually begins before the age of 5 years. RAD can present as a persistent failure to start or respond in a developmentally appropriate fashion to most social situations.
  • Shaken baby syndrome is a common form of child abuse that often results in permanent neurological damage. It is as a result of increased pressure in the skull after bleeding in the brain as well as damage to the spinal cord and neck, and rib or bone fractures.
  • Impaired brain development: Important regions of the brain may fail to form or grow properly, resulting in impaired development. These alterations in brain maturation have long-term consequences for cognitive, language, and academic abilities and a reduction in lifespan
  • Poor physical health: In addition to possible immediate adverse physical effects, household dysfunction, and childhood maltreatment is strongly associated with many chronic physical and psychological effects, including subsequent ill-health in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, with higher rates of chronic conditions, high-risk health behaviors.

Beating a child may modify bad behavior but damage them and your relationship with them in the long run!

How do you correct a child?

There are many strange reasons why parents beat their children beyond frustration, tiredness, and anger. When parents don’t have the patience to deal with what their kids are dishing out, hitting the child may induce a form of relief that may be relishing. And this defective pleasure may drive the parent to hit the child more or even harder and chances are high that it may be overdone.

Soon, you’ll find it easy to hit your child for even the slightest things because you will have become addicted to that rush of relief you get from hitting someone defenseless and this feels eerily good despite not intending to feel so from the outset

Good parenting requires a skill set that imbibes good behavior without physical abuse. It utilizes strategies that involve shaping behavior with patience and proper communication.

Kids don’t understand adult complex communication set, they are not aware your cold stare can mean different things! And when they begin to understand, it is after gradual and repetitive efforts, and they may conform out of fright and not understanding. Why would you want to compound this fear by getting physical?

Excellent means to deal with your child/children include:

  • Leading by example
  • Focusing on communicating in a language the child understands
  • Showing them the consequences of their actions in simple/correlative but clear explanations
  • Loving and caring can never be enough, never get tired of trying
  • Educating guardians you leave your children with to conform to your methods, don’t forget it takes a village to raise a child, though, especially in Africa.

Stay tuned for updates on other forms of abuse and how to deal with them.

Dr. Abdullah-Enifeni Fatima is a wife and mother who is very passionate about childcare. She currently practices at the pediatric department of a general hospital in Lagos State. When she has the time, she enjoys watching horror and crime related movies.


Author: Dr Ahmad Abdullah, MBBS, MSc Clinical Pathology

Ahmad is a father, a husband and a poet. He was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He earned his medical degree from the University of Juba, currently in South Sudan. He is interested in medical research and currently practicing in Lagos, Nigeria.

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