By Karen Taylor
“It would appear that being a child in these times is indeed a disadvantage.” – Sharian Hanson, senior legal policy officer at the OCA
The “Stat-e” of Jamaica’s children
- 8,030 — the number of child abuses cases reported between January and August in 2013, according to the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA)
- These cases ranged from physical, to sexual, to emotional, with neglect and missing children being high on the list.
- 1,730 children have gone missing during the same period.
- 10 of these missing children were found dead.
- The OCA says it is contacted every 30 minutes with an allegation of ill-treatment.
- Every day, between January and October 2010, 20 children and adolescents ages 0-19 were treated in emergency rooms for intentional violence-related injuries, which included over 19,000 cases of sexual assault, stab wounds, gunshots and blunt force injury, according to Unicef Jamaica.
- Over the period 2007 to 2013, the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), a reporting and alert system managed by the OCA has registered an increase in reports received for children in need of care and protection. Last year a total of 4254 of these cases were reported to the OCR.
- Reports of neglect has risen over the period as well. The highest number of reports recorded occurred last year when the figures peaked at 5310.
The visual below (Figure 1) present one view of the reporting trend over a six year period. You may view these and more graphs showing the statistics I’ve just presented more clearly on this page.
With these glaring statistics, one can’t help but agree with the response made by Sharian Hanson, senior legal policy officer at the OCA at a parenting conference a year ago in response to these statistics: “It would appear that being a child in these times is indeed a disadvantage.”
The message evident in these statistics is that a large number of parents have failed their children; failed in providing children with care and protection, food, shelter, education which are their God-given responsibilities and which the law under the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1990) states parents must carry out “to the end that he (the child) may have a happy childhood and enjoy for his own good and for the good of society the rights and freedoms herein set forth.”
The Declaration also calls upon parents, upon individuals, and upon voluntary organizations, local authorities and national Governments to recognize these rights and strive for their observance by legislative and other measures progressively taken in accordance with 10 principles.
Parenting linked to children’s welfare
November offers two opportunities for the abuse of these children rights and emphasis on proper parenting to occupy the national spotlight at the same time.
In Jamaica, Parents Month, an initiative of the Ministry of Education, is an annual celebration to recognize and honour those parents who have made a significant contribution to our education system and our country.
The month is also used to promulgate the following objectives :
- To celebrate and recognize the achievements of our parents and guardians
- To create opportunities for parents to further develop their parenting skill
- To remind our youth that parenting is a serious responsibility that should be undertaken only by prepared and mature adults
- To encourage parents to join the PTA so that they too can have a voice in the transformation of the education system and the running of schools
- To develop an awareness in parents that they are their child’s first teacher so they should be good examples and mentors to ALL children
- To encourage communities and ALL adults to protect our children, support parents in their role and be partners in the raising of children
- To promote family life and health education in schools, as preparation of tomorrow’s parents begins with the education of children
- Create networks among parents for their own support and that of their children and the schools the children
- Inform parents of the material and human resources that are available to help them to become effective parents
- Support the strengthening of the home-school relationship
- To encourage our men to be more involved in the role of parenting
Throughout the month several activities are hosted for parents. These include concerts, parents’ award ceremonies, seminars, workshops and fairs.November 19 is also celebrated as World Day for Prevention of Abuse and Violence against Children. Introduction
As the family takes the spotlight this month, Eugene Cashman, a writer at The Urban Child Institute website (www.urbanchildinstitute.org), brings this link between positive parenting and children’s welfare into sharper focus with her provocative write up entitled, Today’s Young Children are Tomorrow’s Teenagers.
“The social and emotional development of our youngest children can have lifelong effects. The most important support that children can receive is nurturing, caring, positive parenting. Children with higher levels of support and encouragement are better prepared to enter school and are at lower risk for behavioural problems later in life,” she notes, citing evidential parenting research.
In this post, I will share 5 undergirding pegs of positive parenting found to give children the kind of start they need to do well later in life. I have named these the 5 Ps or the 5 pegs of parenting: pilot, protect, provide, praise and prepare. I’ll explain each.
2. Protect them. Principle 2 of the Declaration states that, “The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration,” it further states. The law also makes allowance for the parental protection of children with special needs.
The essence of this parenting peg is that parents must protect their children from physical harm and threats from within and without the home. Family members and communities are encouraged to be a part of this protective blanket for our children. Child Protection Agencies have been campaigning actively to encourage communities to report child abuse and neglect but many cases remain under-reported and hidden by families, including parents.
Protect your child from predators. Listen to them. Watch over them,. Monitor their activities online, monitor them outside of the home; set rules, norms, guidelines and safeguards and ensure your child knows what they are and the consequences of breaching them; do not expose your child to hazards in the home, like leaving chemicals, electrical wires, sharp objects, and matches lying around. Employ safeguards. Being a safety-conscious parent will help you reduce the incidence of injury and accident in your home.
3. Provide. Parents are required to provide for their children’s physical, mental, emotional and special needs. Principle 7 of the Declaration says this: The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.
The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education
and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents. The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right.
In addition , the parents should provide the child the right to grow up in their care and under the responsibility and “in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security” (principle 6). Material security? Think shelter, clothes, food, entertainment.
Yet, if you recall from the statistics above, many children are being denied of this care and protection. The causes can range from poverty to poor family planning which are many times intertwined.
Able-bodied parents must first plan their families and work to provide for them. Having more children than you can take care of and having them suffer because you or your spouse refuse to work, worse, being employed and still refuse is a crime against children.
4. Praise them.I read today that parents in China and a few other countries do not believe in praising their children. Western societies however, believe differently. We believe that praise can boost our children’s self esteem, increase their ability to tackle social challenges and reinforce positive behaviours. For instance, moms who praise their preschoolers for their good manners have kids with better social skills (Garner 2006; Hastings et al 2007).
However, as with anything not done in moderation, too much praise, experts say, can undermine children’s motivation.
So how should parents offer praise?
An enlightening article found at Parenting Science identifies six guidelines posited by Jennifer Henderlong Corpus and Mark Lepper, psychologists who have analyzed over 30 years of studies on the effects of praise (Henderlong and Lepper 2002). Get the down-low on those guidelines here.
I would extend this parenting peg to also to include nurturing. Studies now show that the most important support that children can receive is nurturing, caring, positive parenting. It is also believed that children with higher levels of support and encouragement are better prepared to enter school and are at lower risk for behavioural problems later in life.
5. Prepare them well for life and heaven
We can spend our entire lives as parents preparing our children to one day face life on their own. And after all the piloting, providing, protecting, paddling (discipline) and praising; the psychological, physical, social, emotional and spiritual stimulation and development that happens through the various facilities provided in our homes, schools and churches, it is every parent’s hope that their children will emerge as responsible adults who can become productive and well adjusted members of civil society.
We would have taught them to love God and man, to respect the laws of the land and nature, and to work productively and ethically. In her forementioned article, Cashman makes a very important point about how a child’s start in life can affect their later outcomes as teenagers and adults: “To help our children become well-adjusted, successful citizens, there’s no substitute for effective parenting,” she underscores.
In the same article, she challenges the community to roll up sleeves and join hands to make sure every child has a fair start in life. According to the writer, this will help reduce the spillover from the cycles created by child abuse, domestic violence, and neglect that are turning children into teenage gangsters and delinquents. Read the full article here.
As we celebrate Parents month, it means that while we as parents work on securing deeper and more secure foundations for our children using these five pegs, parenting as we know it in 2014 has to change to us adopting a bigger picture, a broader world view that will ensure better and more global youth outcomes for the good of the entire community.
This new style parenting is collaborative, and it’s challenging citizens to get out in the streets and intervene in and try to make a difference in the lives of children and young men and women through our faith communities, schools, neighbourhood associations.
The concept sounds distinctly familiar to the love-your-neighbour-as- yourself principle that Jesus embodied and lived while here on earth. He himself is the model of this ‘global’ parent.
As we prepare our children for earthly existence, I hope that while putting down these pegs, you will consider concreting faith into the foundation as well, so that you create faith-bearing kids who will grow up as spiritual giants, prepared for the kingdom God has prepared for us.
Let’s reach out to a neglected child this month; report an abuse, actively look for a missing child when the Ananda or Amber alert or whatever child recovery strategy you have in your country is broadcast; make friends with a child you see heading in the wrong direction, and help redirect his path.
Last but not least, every day plant a prayer peg for the lost children every where in the world who are piloting solo in choppy weather because their parents let go of the controls. Pray that they may be reconnected and re-embraced by their families.
And that broken pegs may be restored.