Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi
Celestine Anyango’s daughter, Sophie started making comments about ‘spanking’ and she could not figure out where she had even ever heard the term. She is three years old and totally unreliable as a witness.
But one thing Anyango knew is that it could not be from their polite and hard working house help, who was best friends with her daughter, she felt jealous. That is, until one Wednesday morning.
“If I hadn’t seen it with my eyes, I wouldn’t have believed she was capable of doing what she did then,” she says. As is their usual routine, the housegirl prepared the baby for school while she took care of everything else.
“I opened the door to our room, stepped out and was just going to call the housegirl to bring Sophie into the dining room, so I could give her cereals when I was stopped short by what I saw,” she remembers. With her balled up fist, the housegirl hit Sophie on the thigh. Really hard. There was a vicious look on her face as she did so.
Confused and furious at the same time,Celestine demanded an explanation with slightly raised tone. The help said it was because Sophie spit on her while she tried to make her wear her school shoes. She says nobody is allowed to spank her child apart from her and her husband and she had made this clear to the help when she first came to the house.
“The only thing I allowed her to do when Sophie tested her boundaries was to give her a timeout. I explicitly told her then never to raise her hand on my daughter,” she says. But Florence Kiptum thinks otherwise. She believes that once you bring a housegirl to your home, it means you have trusted her to take care of your child, and it should be in all aspects, including discipline.
Therefore, if spanking is one of your ways of disciplining your child, then that should be consistent even when you are not at home. She argues that although a house help is not a replacement for a parent, she is an active role model the child can feel comfortable with and at the same time grow with at home when her mother is away.
“I allow my trusted housegirl to spank my children as she sees fit, because I don’t want them to fall off the radar or feel like they can misbehave since their mother is not around. Discipline has to be consistent, and if your housegirl is a level-headed person, she should be allowed to do it,” says the mother of four, between ages four and 12.
Vincent Chacha, a parenting coach, says spanking is a natural way of teaching children to behave properly, and it is intended to be a little painful for the benefit of the child. However, there are experts, who argue that spanking a child is abusive and for that reason, this method of punishment has been outlawed in some countries.
He says whether the housegirl or any other person should be allowed to spank your child is a hot topic. But in his opinion, parents who embrace spanking themselves, can allow their housegirl to continue with the same method of discipline. This is only if they can be trusted to do it, especially with the increased cases of housegirls mistreating children.
But to get yourself out of the dilemma of whether you should let your house help discipline your child or not, make a point of being home with your child most of the time.
Refusing to allow your housegirl to discipline your children, especially if they are predominantly raised by her, Chacha says could give birth to discipline issues with your child, who will disrespect her knowing she wouldn’t do anything.
“Even if it is not spanking, parents should find a way in which the housegirl can instil discipline in their children. Otherwise, if the children do not pay attention to her, it would be unrealistic to expect that, in the event of bad behaviour, she would effectively be able to bring the children into line,” he offers.