The belief in corporal punishment is strong in many communities. But all of us can learn to discipline our children without hitting them. The test of our learning comes when we can step outside the heat of the moment when our child is "not listening” and intentionally redirect their behavior towards being attentive to your words.
Part of our work at Parents And Children Together (PACT) has been to promote and coach positive parenting techniques – how to teach your child and set guidelines about their behavior without using the back of your hand. Coaching parents to use positive, non-physical parenting techniques require changing belief systems which were ingrained in us by watching our parents and growing up exposed to violence in pop culture. Most important is to provide immediate positive feedback for parents when they opt to use positive methods. As professional coaches/role models, we are there for parents in the long term to be supportive, yet firm, making sure that positive parenting is imbedded in daily response patterns. Research shows that the use of physical aggression only teaches kids how to be physically aggressive. Physical discipline does not result in positive outcomes.
In the legal and moral sense, beating a child is always wrong and can result in jail time depending on the severity. We have generations of individuals who firmly believe that the beatings they got as a child molded them into the model adult they are today. Changing that belief system can feel like you’re swimming against the current. However, if we persist in our work with parents, we can and have made significant changes. Families involved with Child Welfare Services have been reunited through our work. Children have been protected from harm through our work. When I say “our work,” I am not just referring to PACT, I am referring to the countless family service providers, community workers, and caring family members and neighbors who have courageously stepped forward to help families who are “losing it” under pressure.
As a parent, it is part of our kuleana to redirect our child when they are misbehaving and to continue to do so until they understand what is expected of them. Parents have always been on overload, even when life was less complex and there was more time to be together as a family. Although there is a growing sense of community in terms of child rearing, (“It takes a village to raise a child” is an often-used proverb), the fact is, parenting has remained something private – an individual right where some still hold tight to the belief that “no one should be interfering with my rights as a parent to discipline my child as I wish.” Our challenge as a community promoting non-violence is to transform that belief from one of “property rights” to one that focuses on the interests of the child: “What can I do as a parent to increase the likelihood of success for my child’s well-being?” PACT has been doing this work and, over the years, many have joined us. We are encouraged to see a growing awareness of the issue. The more eyes on the problem, the greater the likelihood of parents and children getting the support they need to live safely together. At PACT we are committed to promoting safe and caring communities that support families and promote wellness for both parents and children.
Ryan Kusumoto is the President & CEO of Parents And Children Together (PACT)