Disciplining children is a controversial subject in 21st century households. Though one would assume that there’s a global consensus that corporal punishment is history, in the majority of India’s 1.50 million schools and most of the country’s 260 million households — including middle class homes — spanking, hitting, and slapping children is the preferred method of disciplining them. On the other hand, in developed OECD countries, there’s almost total unanimity that corporal punishment is harmful and negatively impacts children’s personality development and behaviour. Several authoritative studies have highlighted that the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to become defiant and exhibit anti-social behaviour, aggression and experience mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.
It’s pertinent to note that in 1989, 192 national governments (India included) signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which mandates that the signatory countries “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence”. Subsequently in 2006, the United Nations committee unequivocally declared that physical punishment is “legalised violence against children” that should be eliminated in all settings through “legislative, administrative, social and educational measures”.
In this issue of ParentsWorld, we beam the spotlight on this very important issue which can help or hinder the social, cognitive and emotional development of the world’s largest child population. To write the cover story our correspondent Sruthy Susan Ullas interviewed several nationally respected early childhood education experts, child counselors and psychiatrists to make the case against infliction of corporal punishment — including spanking, slapping and caning of children. Instead, our story recommends new age alternatives to corporal punishment such as positive reinforcement and praise to reward children for good behaviour. Discipline administered through fair rules, love, care and patience is the new mantra of 21st century parenting.
In addition to our constructive cover story, there’s much more in this issue of ParentsWorld. Check out our early childhood essay on the right age to start preschool; Middle Years section on conquering the morning school rush and Health & Nutrition column by Vellore-based pediatrician Dr. Gita Mathai, detailing the symptoms, causes and treatment of ear infections in children. Also don’t miss the interview with former India cricketer Sameer Dighe who expounds on life-lessons learnt on the cricket field and how they have helped to nurture his daughter.