Rose, my youngest daughter, was so stubborn. I can’t tell you the sheer number of times I found her taking her sister’s clothes, wearing them without her permission, and getting them dirty, refusing to clean them after. I couldn’t help but feel she was so spoiled. I resorted to beating her. Of course I had to, to teach her how to respect her sister and other people at home. It didn’t help. Instead, she continued to act spoiled, and whenever I beat her, she would tell me she didn’t like me, that she didn’t feel like my real daughter. Although in the presence of my stick she would become the perfect child, listening to every word I would say, she would sometimes go a week without talking to me after being caned. What was I doing wrong? All I was doing was trying to get her to listen and obey. Even though I continued to look strong on the outside, I was hurt, but I couldn’t let my daughter become like those “other” children in the neighbourhood. So I continued beating her whenever she disobeyed. One day, after I had beaten Rose for being disrespectful and fighting with her older sister again, she told me, “I don’t belong here. Why don’t you take me back to the street where you got me from?” Even when her older sister tried to mend their relationship, attempting to share her food, she blurted out, “I am not your real sister! You give your food to someone else!” This shocked me as Rose knew very well that she was my biological daughter. How could she, only 11 years old, be so disrespectful? After all I was doing to parent her, you would think she would have learned by now. Now, a year later, after having adopted the Stoplight Approach in our home, you would hardly believe Rose is the same girl. Just a week ago, she told me for the first time that she loved me. After 11 years, this was the most fulfilling moment as a mother! Now she even lets me give her hugs and show her my affection.
Because of the Stoplight Approach, I learned about this new attitude/ mindset, the difference between discipline and punishment, which showed me that when I beat Rose, I was being unsafe and wasn’t allowing her brain to fully develop like other children. I was limiting her brain to grow when- ever I shouted at her, intimidated and embarrassed her, and caned her. I have met very many parents, teachers, and caretakers who are very frustrated and tired of their own children, just like I was with Rose. Just like them, I did not believe what the Stoplight Approach had to offer. An idea coming from the western world, a very different culture than in Africa. I believed Rose would grow even more spoiled if she was no longer caned. I have been proven wrong. Now, whenever Rose exhibits negative behaviour, I sit down with her, explain to her what she has done wrong, and why it is wrong to do it. I then show her how she can behave better in the future.