jailed: Kezi Doughty was
sentenced to five months in prison for abandoning five of her children. Her lawyer has since filed an
application in the High Court
seeking to have her bail reduced.
—Photo: TREVOR WATSON
Discipline or Abuse
Essiba Small firstname.lastname@example.org
The arrest of mothers
Kamla Ramcharan, Janelle Peters, Kezi Doughty and an unnamed mother has again thrown the spotlight on
punishment in the home. In Part 1, we looked at punishment and why parents abuse their own. Today, in the second and final part of the series, we explore some solutions to this worrying trend of child abuse. Part one
of this article appeared
yesterday on Page one of
the Lifestyle section.
A public parenting drive that spans every nook and cranny of the country is what Dr Dianne Douglas is proposing as one of the ways to address child abuse.
Douglas, a clinical psychologist, said she was one of many professionals consulted by former gender affairs minister Verna St Rose Greaves to come up with a way to deal with child abuse.
“A lot of parents have little knowledge of child development and age-appropriate discipline. There is a need for public education on a macro-scale, and that is one of the things we discussed with the former minister.
“Hopefully, our new minister (Marlene Coudray) would take it up and follow on with the plan.”
Eradicating child abuse is no stroll in the park, and Douglas is well aware of this.
“We are dealing with ingrained cultural values where once you are a parent, it is assumed you know what to do and discipline a child however you see fit; that’s why we have to do this parenting project from a Government level.”
Douglas said there needs to be a retraining of the society’s perception as it relates to children.
“Some people don’t believe they are real people, and they feel because they are young, they could bounce back automatically from whatever is done to them.”
Dr Diana Mahabir-Wyatt looked at it another way.
“The things that parents do to their children, if they did it to adults, they would be in jail for a long, long time.”
She recalled the days when district nurses and district health visitors used to visit the homes of new mothers and fathers to talk to them about how to care for the child. The visits, she said, were consistent, and the nurses often encouraged couples to talk about any issue they may be facing and the child’s development. Today, the understaffed health centres rarely have district nurses to spare for home visits.
In Jamaica and Barbados, parenting initiative programmes are already in place, and with good results. Home visits and early stimulation programmes are made available to families at risk in Jamaica, including those who live in poverty. These interventions have resulted in the awareness of appropriate parenting and child development, and increasing the levels of stimulation in the home, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report of 2005 said. Participants are also taught non-violent discipline strategies.
In Barbados, the parenting initiatives include an outreach programme that provides support for pregnant women and mothers of young children, and parent support groups.
Servol’s (Service Volunteered for All) Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) has come in for high praise by Douglas and Mahabir-Wyatt. The programme is designed to prepare adolescents for their skills training by teaching them how to care, share and love.
For three months, one hour, twice a week, students are also made aware of the responsibilities involved in bringing children into the world and caring for them. They are guided to form relationships with small children by spending time in the nursery, feeding, changing and playing with babies and toddlers under the watchful eyes of the Child Care Development supervisors and teachers.
Onisegun Skinner Sandy, Childcare supervisor at Servol, has been a facilitator of ADP for the last 14 years. She believes that given the average teenager’s preoccupation with the Internet and the sexual world that is opened up to them on the World Wide Web, it’s not too early to teach them parenting skills.
“They are already experimenting out there, half of them already into pornography; why not channel their curiosity to the classroom.”
Most ADP students come from single-parent homes and sometimes use the forum to express themselves about their own upbringing, Sandy said
“A lot of them feel that their parents didn’t do a good job. Some had to raise their siblings, and we have a lot of them who feel that they have to fend for themselves.”
A former ADP student herself, Sandy said it brings her joy to see the young men change diapers and feed babies.
“I singled out the boys because society sees them as having to be rough and macho. Most start the programme with rough edges and plenty back-talk because they don’t want to do the ADP. When they graduate from the programme, they always come back to help, even on their lunch breaks.”
ADP has successfully been introduced into a few secondary schools across the country and, according to Sandy, is working out “quite fine”.
Mahabir-Wyatt said she wants to see the programme in all schools as part of a nationwide parenting campaign.
“It is really a first-class programme, and this is the time of a child’s life that parenting should be introduced.”