State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Alando Terrelonge is again encouraging persons who use corporal punishment to discipline children, to employ alternative measures, such as withdrawing certain privileges.
He maintains that when acts of corporal punishment, such as beatings, are administered, these only serve to instil fear in children, adding that “we are damaging them psychologically [and] harming them physically”.
The State Minister was speaking at the third in the ‘Dinner and Conversations’ series, which was hosted recently by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew, under the theme ‘Corporal Punishment or Positive Discipline: What to Do?’.
“So, not only are we leaving them with physical scars but we are scarring them emotionally as well. I believe that, as a society, we must accept that violence begets violence… and resort to positive discipline,” Mr Terrelonge argued.
He emphasised that discipline is not intended to psychologically or physically harm children, “but rather to correct, support and prevent them from making certain mistakes or errors, and leading themselves into harm”.
“So, not only are we leaving them with physical scars but we are scarring them emotionally as well.”— Terrelonge
“When we speak of positive discipline, we are encouraging our society to discipline our children with love. I would never tell a parent that a child might not need discipline… but you don’t have to beat and hit them into submission,” he said.
The State Minister noted that in several instances when children display defiant and irrational behaviour, “there is something else going on in the home or community that is affecting that child”.
“It is also a fact that when we beat our children and raise them on a diet of violence, they will become violent adults,” he pointed out.
The State Minister, instead encouraged parents, guardians, caregivers and teachers, to “find better ways to reach out to our children”.
These options, Mr Terrelonge reiterated, include taking away certain privileges and speaking to them about the consequences of their actions.
“Children are remarkable human beings who learn faster than adults; they are teachable, they are trainable, they will learn. So, it now becomes our responsibility [as adults] to try and train and teach children what is more socially responsible behaviour… that is what discipline is about,” he said.
Mr. Terrelonge said the Government remains committed to banning corporal punishment from schools, pointing out that once stakeholder consensus to this end resonates, thereby facilitating the supporting legislative framework, “I promise you, it will be a new dawn in a more peaceful and loving Jamaica.”
For her part, Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, said her office “believes very firmly that violence, in all its forms, against children is wrong”.
Equally, she said the OCA believes in conditioning children “who are well-engaged, who respect authority and who understand that even though they have rights, with every right comes a corresponding responsibility”.
“So, we don’t shy away from the fact that children ought to have manners, ought to have discipline, and ought to have certain understanding as to appropriate ways of behaving,” Mrs Gordon Harrison pointed out.
Also participating in the event were Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Laurie Peters; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative for Jamaica, Mariko Kagoshima, and Child Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, Dr. Joan Durrant.
“Violence, in all its forms, against children is wrong”— Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison
The occasion was also used to unveil and present a copy of UNICEF’s Report on Violence against Children to State Minister Terrelonge.
The dinner and conversation series is designed to facilitate stakeholder dialogue around issues affecting children and exploring corrective intervention solutions for consideration and implementation.
The Office of the Children’s Advocate is the Commission of Parliament charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights and promoting the best interests of children in Jamaica.