Discipline or child abuse, do we know the difference within our community? Being hit with a belt, shoe or anything in the view of some parents is classed as discipline. Discipline is an expectation of every parent as the purpose of it is to create an orderly, stable, healthy environment for a child (ren). Teaching a child about good moral values should not inflict pain, trauma, emotional or psychological distress.
Positive discipline supports a change in behaviour and communicates good values. Excessive discipline or attempts to control a child resulting in injury is abuse. Child abuse can be defined as “any action by another person that causes significant harm to a child” (NSPCC, 2016).Physical chastisement or corporal punishment is the most common form of discipline used within Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups. Many black families argue that, physical discipline is the most efficient way of instilling obedience into children. Often, families from ethnic backgrounds use religious sayings (i.e. spare the rod, spoil the child- proverbs 13:24) to justify their act of abuse. Reasons for such extreme ways of discipline vary. However, many may argue that this is down to generational cultural practices. Others may claim that, such acts have a link to slavery where punishment, (often physical abuse and torture) was used as a response for disobedience. Abuse in the black community is a slave mentality and its link to culture must be broken (Racism in America. 2016).
It is evident that, physical chastisement causes pain to children and in some cases scars and trauma if punishment is unreasonable. Hitting a child with a belt for his/her wrong doing does not educate a child but instead, promotes violence. . Other methods of discipline such as withholding privileges, grounding and time out is safer and effective. This allows a child, to meditate on their actions leading to a change in behaviour. Explaining to a child why you have withdrawn privileges, will not install fear but rather effective communication skills and a stimulating environment. Children imitate what they observe (S, McLeod.2011) therefore, a child witnessing physical chastisement is likely to use the same method of disciple when parenting. It has been acknowledged that, the frustration caused by children’s challenging behaviour and lack of awareness about what is right or wrong can lead to an impulsive response. However, this way of discipline within the BME community is a common practice which causes resentment and significant harm to our children.
The Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities, to inquire and investigate scenarios considered to be a risk of significant harm to a child (ren). Where investigation indicates harm to a child, the local authority has to take action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. Unreasonable physical chastisement under this legislation is categorised as child abuse.
Physical chastisement and corporate punishment does not constitute to good/effective parenting. Effective ways of discipline requires awareness of children’s capabilities, logical thinking, consistency, reflection on own personal experiences and paying attention to a child’s emotional well-being (Healthy Children. 2011). Children learn in different ways, their understanding about what is right from wrong vary depending on their individual needs. Consideration should to be given to the methods and the appropriateness of discipline bestowed upon a child, when parents are trying to educate them about morals values.
References and further Reading
- The Holy Bible