Discipline: Are we trying to make it a crime?


Cebu city is trying to pass an ordinance to make physical and verbal punishment of children illegal.   The parents, teachers, yayas or anyone who is found violating this law, if passed, will be fined and may be sentenced to prison.

My initial reaction was to agree with it.  A law against physical and verbal abuse!  Sounds good right?

Upon further introspection though, I realized there are problems with this law on so many levels.

My friend shared this link Fine for Hitting Children then he subsequently shared with me the letter of this ordinance:

“Under the ordinance, it is unlawful to beat, kick, hit, and slap a child with or without the use of an instrument like a cane, shoe, broom, stick, whip or belt, pinching or pulling the ears or hair, shaking, cutting and shaving the hair, piercing the skin, lifting, dragging or throwing a child, force a child to kneel on a rough surface such as stones, salt or pebbles.  Children should also not be made to squat, stand, or sit in a contorted position.  Neglect of a child’s physical needs as well as confining the children in a space, tying them, and forcing them to remain in one place for an extended time, verbal assault, threats or intimidation, verbal abuse, scolding, yelling, swearing, ridiculing or degrading a child and making a child look or feel foolish in front of his or her peers or the public.”

Read it closely.  ALMOST ALL, if not all forms of punishment we can do to discipline our children are stated in this paragraph.

Lifting is not allowed.   So what do we do if the child is throwing a tantrum and rolling around on the floor?

Shaving the hair?  Most boys are required a certain length of hair which requires shaving. What will you do if your child refuses a haircut yet the school demands it?  What then?  Is that considered wrong too?

Verbal Assault?  What is that…does that include shouting?  Who among us have never shouted at our kids when they are misbehaving?

Threats or Intimidation? So if we threaten to take away privileges like TV or IPad use we’re considered in violation too?

Forcing to remain in one place for an extended time?  Sounds suspiciously like time-out right?

As parents, we need to maintain control and certain amount of fear of consequences for their actions in our kids.  We have to teach them respect.  We need to teach them the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  How do we do that if we, as parents are in fear of disciplining our kids AT ALL?

What about teachers?  Can you imagine maintaining control over 30 or so unruly kids in class if they aren’t aloud to shout?

In the US, their laws to protect children have gone overboard so much that teenagers have begun bullying adults.  There are more than one instances where a child, in anger at a parent, has called the abuse hotline and had their parents arrested by crying wolf and accusing their parents of abuse.  Even though most parents are later acquitted of any crime and found to be disciplining their kids, their reputations are forever stained.  Most parents in the US are so afraid of being counted as abusers that they don’t discipline at all.

The spirit of the law is good as we MUST protect our children from ALL forms of abuse.   I definitely agree with that goal.

However, I feel the definition of abuse is too broad.

We should not punish the parents for simply loving our children and wanting them to grow up into good, law-abiding people in the future by disciplining them.

My cousin also shared this link with me in response to this ordinance against punishment.  It states the opposite side of the coin: “When Children Bully Adults“.  We all know the viral video of the poor bus monitor viciously bullied by 13 to 14 year old boys.  She could not defend herself or maintain control of her bus in any way because there are too many laws barring her from reacting.  Instead she had to sit and take all the abuse.  The article also shares how cases of abuse of adults by children are perpetrated in the Philippines.  Giving children all the power will make the society descend into anarchy.  Respect for authority will become a thing of the past.

Children do not realize how they can hurt people so much by their words and actions.  As their parents, it is our role to teach them.  How can we do so if they take away any and all tools at our disposal to do so?

We have to be careful NOT to make parents and adults, in general, HELPLESS in the face of disruptive and abusive behavior by children.

As parents and adults, we have to be careful NEVER to punish in anger or rage.  BUT… we need to have the right to punish when and how we deem fit.   Without it, how do we, as parents, go on?  What do we do if all forms of punishment are considered criminal?  

The only thing we can do is….  twiddle our thumbs and pray.

Will that work?  I think not.

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