I remember as if yesterday, though many moons ago. Coming from school, was a poor innocent little boy, aka me. If you know Barrouallie well, you would know that there is always someone with a radio or set, playing, apparently, for the whole community. Poorsah had just released a song, where, in it, he was assisting a lady to pick a coconut broom, for the conveyed purpose of tidying her dirty yard. As a child, I took it as stated. Growing up in a rural area, it was easy to identify with that circumstance. In those days, one would sweep their yard with either a bamboo broom, a latanye broom from St. Lucia or the dried stem of a coconut bunch, after the fruits were jettisoned by forces of age, permitted retrieval or the contributions of praedial larcenists.
Such was the voice or the artist, so sweet was the melody, so captivating was the music, that one could barely wait for the impending lyric, “and she underneath me and shouting”, just to join in unison on this glorious arrangement. “Go right up in dey” were the words that followed. This was bellowed by the youth, old enough to know that the broom was not a low hanging article, but too young to recognize the innuendo connotated by adults.
“What kinda song you singing there?”, were the stern words of my grandmother. This malfeasance was immediately counterbalanced by a Classic Vincy Licking (CVL). I tried to flee the onslaught by running around a corner, only to be long-stopped by my partially lame grandmother who resumed the barrage. Believe it or not, this may have been my first practical lesson in Pythagoras theorem. By the time I got to secondary school, it was not difficult to grasp that on a right-angled triangle, the sum of the squares on the opposite and adjacent sides were equal to the square of the diagonal distance. Such was the impact of the CVL.
After discussing various aspects of the CVL, today’s article goes on to discuss the impact of corporal punishment and suggested alternatives. I hope that readers will enjoy it and that it may add, amicably, to the discourse on discipline.
Classic Vincy Licking (CVL)
Vincy parents beat while asking questions. Notwithstanding, you are not allowed to answer those questions. “Par yo bin?” “whey me tell yo?”. Do not respond. Ironically, these questions are followed up with the further question “Eh?” This may seem like a probe for information. Again, I beg you, I beseech you, I plea with you, DO NOT RESPOND. If per chance stupor gets the better of you, to the extent that you respond, the next question would be,” Oh, yo giving me back-answer?” The beating then moves to 3rd gear, just for your stupidity.
While other Caribbean beaters give you a lash for every word that they utter, Vincy disciplinarians give you a lash for every syllable; prefix, suffix and ‘middlefix’. In these instances, the big words flow like the amazon. Just when you thought mommy ‘nyam’ her school fee, you realized that it was she, Mr. Collins and Mr. Webster that wrote the dictionary. Yes, ‘both’ three of them. Words are slowly and clearly enunciated. “Mek u so kan-tan-ga-rus?” That was seven lashes easy so. Be warned, now is not the right time to tell them that the word is cantankerous, neither must you interject that the word ‘both’ is used to group two entities. Moreover, it is not an opportune moment to be editing grammar; just so the beating gone to fourth gear for your brightness.
It is times like these that light bulbs go off in your heads; basically, anything to stop the hiding. Of all the ideas that could come to your head, please, pretty please, do not lay down and play dead! That only works on National Geographic. If you try to play dead in the midst of a CVL, you are likely to hear, “Oh yo dead?… Yo nah dead yet.” By then you would realise that the beating moved from 4th gear to 6th, skipping 5th in the process.
In a CVL, one is often given a vivid tour of their paternal lineage. You may hear disparaging comments such as, “Yo jus like yo wutlis dardy”. Over time, I have come to discover that daddy and dardy do not equate to the same meaning. A daddy is a lovely father, while a dardy, apparently, is a father that is an insufficient contributor to the welfare of the ensemble, be it physical, emotional, material or financial. Note well, providing the requisite support to a child but none to the other parent would not facilitate an upgrade to daddy status.
On a serious note, let us take a closer look at corporal punishment. The next section is written on the premise that readers have an understanding of corporal punishment. It briefly discusses its pros and cons.
The Impact of Corporal Punishment
Beating is generally used to reinforce certain behaviours or to correct wrongful actions or attitudes. While it can be successful in the short term, over time the child may resort to the initial behavior, even worsening over time. Moreover, psychologists argue that beating can cause long term damaging impacts. Kids can become traumatized and even develop various mental disorders.
While the intention of a parent, ward or teacher may be good, corporal punishment can easily escalate into ill-treatment. In worse case scenarios, the behavior is learnt and replicated, even in inappropriate situations, such as in families, or among peers. In addition to injury, corporal punishment can propagate antisocial behaviours and can fuel long-term aggression among victims.
Under the guise of not ‘sparing the rod and spoiling the child’, minors are subject to disproportionate physical punishment and the attendant ineffective moral guidance. While it can be effective to some extent, it can be substituted by other techniques. These include regulating privileges, rewarding positive behavior, having chats/reasoning with children or giving them extra duties. These are not fool proof techniques and should be used appropriately, tailor-made for each specific child.
In addition, sanctions must not be transferred to other recipients that have kept true. Sarah Pool, a character in Louis Bennett’s New Scholar, brings her son to school for the first time. Among her admonitions was the following:
“Teck time wid him, yaw, Teacher –If him rude an start fi raveDis beat anodder bwoy, an himWi frighten an behave”
(Louise Bennett (1993), New Scholar, Aunty Roachy Seh)
As comical as this may seem, there are instances where Peter pays for Paul. This is not right. Guilty parties ought to receive their own sanctions. Punishment must not be transferrable.
This article took a brief look at behavioral modification, particularly through the medium of corporal punishment. While the author does not express a stance on this methodology, he briefly outlined the advantages and disadvantage of this mode. In anecdotes based on his upbringing, the author builds the argument, that children must be made to understand where they have transgressed and why they are being disciplined. The meted discipline should be tailor-made and age-specific. Peter must not pay for Paul. More importantly, the extent of the punishment should not exceed the level of violation. That is when it becomes abuse. Abuse is easily replicated, continuing a cycle of degenerate conduct and proliferating recalcitrant behaviour.