The NGO Coalition for Protection of Children and Youth has warned parents not to assault children when disciplining them, so as to avoid assaulting them.
Corporal punishment in the home, which is defined by Wikipedia as an act by a parent or other legal guardian causing deliberate physical pain or discomfort to a minor child in response to some undesired behavior by the child, is an acceptable form of discipline.
Typically, corporal punishment takes the form of beating or slapping a child with an open hand, a belt, cane, stick or slipper. It can also include shaking, pinching, forced ingestion of substances, or forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions. However, in the process of punishment, some parents are so extreme, that it can be viewed as physical abuse or assault.
The NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children & Youth, during a press conference on Wednesday November 9, said there have been some extreme examples of physical abuse during discipline, right here in Dominica.
Gloria Walsh of the ‘Love One Teach One Foundation’, a member of the NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth stated, “You don’t punch a child until she passes out; you don’t do that. You don’t beat a child until the child’s arm is broken, that is what I call physical abuse”.
Walsh noted “I’m for discipline, you can discipline, but there are methods of discipline. But when you reach the point when a child will come to you and tell you she is suicidal, you have to intervene, you have to get the police involved, you have to get Welfare involved”. She added “So that’s what I call physical abuse. I have seen it. I know what I’m talking about”. The NGO Coalition is of the view that while corporal punishment has been the norm here & in other Caribbean islands, this can have negative impact on children.
Meanwhile, Tina Alexander of Lifeline Ministries, which is the current chair of the NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth, acknowledged that “Parenting is a very difficult job”.
She said, “My concern is that you don’t assault a child, you don’t teach a child that if you’re angry it’s OK to hit. It’s very important that you teach children other ways of managing their anger than by physical violence”. Alexander, who is a trained counsellor, indicated that physical violence should not be a parent’s first option when disciplining their children.
She explained by saying, “I think intimidation is not a disciplinary method; you want your child to know what they did was wrong, sure, and you want them to learn self-control so they won’t do it again, so you need to demonstrate self-control, you don’t punish your child by being angry. This, to me, is a mistake, it’s actually a poor parenting practice”.
Alexander believes that parents should find alternative ways of disciplining that does not include assault or emotional abuse. She added, “So if people are going to discipline their children with any sort of physical method, my view is it should be the last resort, it should not be when you’re angry, it should be a thought-out punishment, it should not be something that you do in the spur of the moment. You need to learn other ways of disciplining your children that will show them that they are secure and loved, and that you want them to change their behavior”.
Further, she warned that emotional abuse, telling children that you don’t love them, or that they are stupid, or that they are just as bad as their father or mother, “actually scar people emotionally, so while we want to see children protected from physical abuse and sexual abuse, we also want to see them protected from emotional abuse”.
The NGO Coalition also recognizes that many are struggling with parenting their children because they themselves were abused “and they need some help to deal with the past, so that they can effectively deal with the present, so they can have a future with their children”.
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