Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Glen Tucker | Policing the parents

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2024 | 12:12 AM
Representational image of a family.
Representational image of a family.
Glen Tucker
Glen Tucker
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About seven months ago, the first item on the evening television news had to do with the addition of recruits to the ranks of the police force. Minister in charge Horace Chang also promised that there would be more recruits coming soon.

The minister has had some successes with a reduction in murder and rape, among other offences, in recent times. Over the years, however, this ministry has been considered a ‘graveyard’ as ministers are always blamed for everything that goes wrong.

Following this news item came a story confirming the information on a video I received earlier in the day. At a high school in St Elizabeth, a junior student accidentally stepped on the shoe of a senior student. Choosing the junior’s head as a target, the senior kicked and punched him into a state of unconsciousness.

Shocked students shook the junior, looking for signs of life before lifting him and journeying on foot into the town looking for medical help. Shaking a person with head injuries and then moving him/her is strictly forbidden. But since there seemed to be no adults at that school, the students should be lauded for their efforts.

It was the third medical institution to which the boy was placed before he got the treatment he needed. Weeks later, he still had pain and swelling around his eyes, and we can only guess the extent of the long-term damage. Who will shoulder the costs?

More recently, I got a video that eventually went viral. It depicted a half-naked woman using a cutlass to deliver a brutal beating to her half-naked daughter. Before writing about it, I decided to ask some women in a similar socioeconomic position how they felt about beating children. The consensus was that children should be beaten regularly to keep them in line. And the Government had no right to tell parents how to discipline their children. One woman asked me, “So if we don’t beat them, how we going to get them to behave?

Since the post-COVID period, there seems to be a significant increase in violent incidents in schools. I have made some other observations: The head is the part of the targeted body, and large groups choose to participate in the attacks. A scenario in which a dozen or more students scramble to register one or two good blows to a person comes on my phone fairly regularly.

I continue to receive two or three videos each week depicting students – mainly girls – throwing caution and their uniforms to the wind while swinging and kicking their opponents while others gather to register a punch or a stomp.

But last week one reached me that I found particularly revolting. In it, a woman of quite ample proportions was standing on a child’s chest while using her weight to stomp the child on her neck and face. I learned the following from my subsequent investigations;

If there was no intervention, she was prepared to continue until the child stopped moving.

She is the mother of the child.

She is a committed Christian.

She is one of her church’s ‘cornerstone’ members.

OLD-FASHION CHILDREARING

The habit of beating and battering to discipline remains among the last holdouts of old-fashioned childrearing in many countries, including Jamaica.

A growing body of research has shown that spanking and other forms of physical discipline can pose serious risks to children, but many parents aren’t hearing the message. Many studies have shown that physical punishment – including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain – can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behaviour, physical injury and mental health problems for children. Several mothers I have spoken to seem to be determined to ‘punish out’ the behaviours they do not want through beatings of increasing severity.

Corporal punishment also persists because it is a practice with strong ties to religion, particularly to Christianity. Religious leaders, like their eighteenth-century compatriots, make connections between firm discipline and a child’s spiritual well-being and encourage parents to use corporal punishment as an important part of their discipline repertoire.

Internationally, physical punishment is increasingly being viewed as a violation of children’s human rights. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive in 2006 calling physical punishment “legalised violence against children” that should be eliminated in all settings through “legislative, administrative, social and educational measures”. One hundred and ninety-two countries have supported the treaty that established the committee.

Around the world, 30 countries have banned physical punishment of children in all settings, including the home. In one meta-analysis of 27 studies, every single study found that the more parents used corporal punishment, the more aggressive their children were. Similarly, 12 of 13 studies found that the more frequently or severely corporal punishment was administered, the more strongly it was associated with antisocial behaviour.

There are 10 areas of concern resulting from physical punishment:

1. Beating breeds beating

Beating gives the child an idea that it is OK to hit smaller people if it is done due to a reason. The parent is automatically giving him the licence to hit those around him.

2. Negatively affects the self-image of children

The child is likely to develop the self-image of a loser and end up with no self-respect for himself.

3. Devalues a parent

Your child ends up being afraid of you and later gets detached from you.

4. It stays with children for a long time

A University of Missouri study found that the more children are spanked, the more defiant they become.

5. Beating children does not work

Beating does not have any benefits in terms of development whatsoever.

6. Anger becomes a primary behaviour

Beating sows the seeds of anger, and the child is more likely to have emotional issues as he grows up.

7. Parents get out of control while beating

As the child repeats the behaviour, the beatings become more severe. This can cause serious problems.

8. Develops low self esteem in children

Surveys show that children subjected to corporal punishment as they grew up were more likely to exhibit antisocial, and even egocentric behaviour in their adulthood.

9. Weight problems

Obesity as a result of overeating and a sedentary lifestyle are some of the results of negative childhood experiences.

10. Beatings bring back bad memories

Many people recall traumatic childhood experiences more often than pleasant ones.

In this country, every serious problem can be laid squarely at the feet of parental abuse or neglect. In some cases, the abuse preceded the birth of the child. Check – if you will – the many street dances taking place each week and the number of pregnant women with an alcoholic beverage in one hand and a smoking device in the other.

Credible research suggests that maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSP) is associated with externalising behaviour problems among offspring ranging from hyperactivity and aggression in early childhood to conduct disorder and delinquency during adolescence. Evidence also suggests that (MSP) is related to adult antisocial behaviour (ASB), such as criminal offending.

Parents must present a medical report for each child at the beginning of the school year. But many doctors do little more than sign a document. May I submit that if each child’s body should be thoroughly examined, many, many horror stories would be revealed. Parents would be hard-pressed to explain the cigarette burns and the variety of wounds of varying ages hidden by clothes.

In a 2003 Psychology magazine, authors Carrion and Ramos found that criminal behaviour and violence may be the consequence of head injuries acquired during childhood. Among criminals, the difference between violent and non-violent inmates was a history of suffering head injuries in early life that was never treated. Blows to the head during development can predispose to violent criminal behaviour. May I suggest to our Department of Corrections that the treatment of cognitive, behavioural and emotional consequences of brain injury could be a measure for crime prevention?

I am proposing that the physical punishment of children be made illegal in all settings, including the home. This is not going to be a popular decision. But if certain changes are to take place, parents will have to be closely monitored – policed, even.

Glenn Tucker is an educator and a sociologist. Send feedback to glenntucker2011@gmail.com.