Corporal punishment crisis
65% of children disciplined with slaps in 2019 despite evidence that this could do long-term harm

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has promised that his Administration will be introducing legislation to better protect children by banning corporal punishment, but that has not reduced the number of Jamaicans who use Proverbs 23:13-14 to justify beating their children.

Reacting to the death of a four-year-old boy after he was allegedly beaten by his stepfather for eating too slowly last July, Holness declared that, “It is full time that we stop hurting our children in the name of discipline”.

But that has not stopped several Jamaican parents who point to the scripture which in the King James Version of the Bible says, “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell”.

For 47-year-old St Andrew resident Kim Batton, there is nothing wrong in slapping a child who has done wrong.

“My mother did get beating, mi did get beating and mi beat mi two children and see it deh the two of them at university now. A the parents them who don’t beat them pickney who allow them pickney fi turn criminals and them daughters to breed (get pregnant) early,” argued Batton.

GOUGH....you think you just did a slap but the child really didn’t just feel a slap; it made him or her not feel so loved (Photo: Joseph Welington)

Her stance is similar to several parents interviewed for the latest Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions compiled by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica and the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

The survey, which was done in 2019 and released this year, had a sample size of 6,551 individuals from 2,300 households. The data was collected over a nine-month period, starting in May 2019.

Respondents were questioned on their use of forms of discipline; categorised under, corporal punishment; non-corporal punishment; and psychologically aggressive methods.

The data showed that within the corporal punishment category, slapping was found to be the most commonly used form, with 65 per cent of children getting a slap when they were deemed to have misbehaved.

A further 24 per cent of the children were reportedly beaten with an implement while 13 per cent were pinched as a form of punishment.

The data also showed that under the non-corporal punishment category, talking about why the action was wrong was the highest method at 64 per cent, reasoning at 55 per cent, removing privileges at 40 per cent, time out at 26 per cent and ignoring the assumed misdeed at 24 per cent.

The psychologically aggressive method showed that quarrelling/shouting was at 49 per cent, denying food just under one per cent and swearing/cursing at 13 per cent

“Although the three-year trend shows an incremental decline in the use of slapping, it was, again, the most commonly used form of discipline overall. There was an increase in the use of ‘talk about why an action was wrong’, making it as common a form of discipline as slapping in 2019,” the survey noted.

“Reasoning showed the largest increase, moving to 55.2 per cent from 29.9 per cent, making it the third most commonly reported form of discipline, followed by quarrelling/shouting. The other non-corporal punishment methods (removing privileges; time out; ignoring) showed small increases over the previous year, while other psychologically aggressive methods (denying food; swearing/cursing) remained stable,” the survey noted.

The push by Holness to outlaw corporal punishment has received the endorsement of several child protection agencies including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has long sought to encourage Jamaica parents not to beat their children.

In a recent exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer UNICEF’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean Jean Gough said the use of violent actions, such as beating, to reprimand children should be ruled out.

Gough recommended interventions such as parenting programmes, which she said would encourage positive discipline.

UNICEF has been working in partnership with the National Parenting Support Commission, an agency of the Ministry of Education and Youth, to encourage better disciplinary actions.

“We are all under stress and I think that is what COVID-19 has also taught us — that stress makes parents act more violently to their kids, not knowing the harm sometimes that violent behaviour is going to do to our kids,” Gough told Observer reporters and editors.

“You think you just did a [slap] but the child really didn’t just feel a slap; it made him or her not feel so loved. We believe in ways of discipline but again, there is a way to work with parents.

“It is not something we could change overnight. It is something we need to do with teachers — give them the tools, give parents the tools — and I think we will be able to see a better transformation. So I think we were even discussing with the prime minister that sometimes the society comes to accept this behaviour as normal because this is what they were seeing all their life,” added Gough.

Adverse effects of beating a child

As a parent, you may feel that beating or hitting your child will polish his behaviour but trust us, nothing good comes out of beating a child. Stated below are some of the ill effects of beating children – if you hit your child to discipline him, it’s time you stop!

1) Hitting breeds hitting

2) It devalues the child

3) It devalues the parent

4) It may turn into a habit

5) It makes a child lose selfconfidence

6) It may make the child rebellious

7) It results in anger issues

8) It encourages anti-social behaviour

9) Children don’t forget the pain

10) It simply does not work.

Spanking does not have any benefits in terms of development. No good can come out of using the rod on your child; in fact, you may end up scarring your child for life.

Source – First Cry Parenting

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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