Let's spare the rod and SAVE the child

All Woman

JAMAICAN parents take a great deal of pride in how their children look. Whenever I see children out, whether going to school, church or some function, they are always groomed, clothes clean and pressed, hair done, wearing matching shoes and socks. It is evident that our parents and guardians invest time and energy to achieve that appearance.

I wonder if parents take the same amount of pride in the psychological and emotional welfare of their children. Do parents understand the deep, life-lasting implications of what they say to their children and understand that they are modelling values; regardless of what we say — actions speak louder? If we want children who are intelligent and compassionate, children who use reasoning to solve problems, then as parents we have to provide them with an opportunity to practice and internalise these values.

Contrary to what some adults might believe, each child comes into this world fully equipped with a unique personality, with specific likes and dislikes. While parents or guardians are intended to guide our children, we are not expected to dominate or terrorise them. I daresay the majority of children in Jamaica are terrorised by the adults in charge of them in order to control them.

When I do workshops, parents often throw out the Bible phrase, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” which is taken completely out of context. No matter how you slice it, beating is violence. Although Prime Minister Andrew Holness two years ago said that there should be no corporal punishment in schools, we know that children are being damaged irreparably by some teachers who humiliate and make them feel like they're less than, because they might not understand, or are unable to comprehend a certain lesson. Teachers are co-parents, so it is vitally important that teachers are instructed in the psychology of children.

The data says that 75 per cent of adults who are in jail were abused as children. Those who rape, mutilate and murder were abused as children. It's a lovely phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”, but that village has to be healthy, be responsible, and understand and respect the rights of children. If we violate our children and raise our children with brutality, we can expect to see these traits revealed in abundance within our society. Here are the inescapable facts:

•One out of five women experience sexual abuse during childhood, mostly by someone who they know. Forty-three per cent of non-partners who commit acts of violence against women are friends and acquaintances; fifteen per cent are family members.

• One in five Jamaican women are sexually abused before the age of 18.

• 80 per cent of Jamaican children experience or witness violence in their homes and communities, and 60 per cent experience violence at school.

• More than 40 per cent of persons treated at public health facilities for attempted suicide are children between the ages of 14 and 16.

• Adults who engage in violence against their intimate partners or children, experienced and/or witnessed violence in their homes or communities when growing up.

If we treat children with integrity, show them love and compassion and give them a chance to express their hurts and fears, we are on the pathway to creating an open, honest and healthy society. Let us be a village for all children in Jamaica. Let us act as if each child is our most precious treasure. Listen to our children, what they say and do not say. Speak softly and kindly. Do not be quick to judge or interpret their actions based on your own adult reasoning. Give them the benefit of doubt. Even as you discipline, do it with love and compassion. Model kindness. Model forgiveness. Understand that you are guiding a future leader so be cognisant of the type of leader you want to create to lead you when you become an elder.

Professor Opal Palmer Adisa is the director of the Institute for Gender & Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office (IGDSRCO) and is lead on a project under the EU and UN-funded Spotlight Initiative programme in Jamaica. E-mail her at opal.adisa@uwimona.edu.jm.

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