How Parents Discipline Their Children in Africa

Africa is a large, diverse landmass that encompasses a vast range of peoples, cultures, religions and languages. Depending on the region and even family, child disciplinary methods vary across the continent. In most areas, children are given responsibility for household chores, looking after younger children and even earning a living for the family. As such, in many cases African children are more responsible and may have more freedom than children in the West.

Household Responsibilities

Children in many African households share the responsibility of household chores such as cooking, cleaning, fetching groceries and running errands. In many cases, older children must take care of younger children while parents are busy working or caring for infants. In poorer regions and families, children may even be responsible for working and bringing home an income that helps the family to survive. Hence, if children do not fulfill their responsibilities, it can affect the whole family. Parents may discipline a child by giving him more household chores or making him responsible for overseeing the chores and activities of younger children in the family.


Like children in any culture or area on the planet, African children will get an earful from the parents, grandparents or other guardians if they step out of line. Children might get a scolding for being rude or disrespectful to elders, hitting another child or not doing what they are supposed to. A scolding may be the first warning of disciplinary action and include threats of having to do more household chores, losing playtime, taking away a toy or pocket money or even a smack.

Classroom Discipline

A 2003 study published by the Christian publication Koers notes that classroom discipline was important in improving children's education in South Africa 3. In some cases youth who had been involved in liberation and apartheid struggles showed arrogance toward adults when they finally enrolled in school. This included not following teacher instructions, not completing homework assignments and refusing to participate adequately at school. Disciplinary methods such as detention after school; having to repeat classes or assignments; and losing privileges, such as time for sports, helped to improve how the children behaved at school, enhancing their learning experience.

Corporal Punishment

Unlike the West, physical punishment is still an acceptable part of child discipline in much of Africa. A smack on the hand or bottom, or a ruler or stick on the hand, is commonplace and seen as necessary to teach and mold children who show misconduct. In some cases, children are severely beaten or even flogged as a disciplinary action. The BBC reports that in 2010 this prompted a legal bill in Nigeria to make corporal punishment that causes "grievous harm" against children a criminal offense. Even with such a bill, some physical disciplinary methods will still be prevalent across Africa. It will be difficult to enforce this law, except in severe cases.

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