sparing the rod
Behaviour

Sparing the rod

Raising your hand to a child could amount to a charge of assault or child cruelty now in Ireland, writes Arlene Harris.

In our grandparents’ era, there was very much an attitude of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. Adults, whether parents, teachers or even friends and neighbours, thought nothing of giving a child a clip around the ear or a smack on the bottom if they felt they were talking out of turn.

Thankfully these days are long behind us, and while the children of today are much more boisterous and opinionated than those of previous generations, they do not get punished physically for making their presence felt.

Physical punishment

Many countries around the world have banned physical punishment against children, and out of the 28 member states of the EU, 24, including Ireland have enacted laws to prevent corporal punishment.

This comes as welcome news because despite the majority of people instinctively refusing to raise their hand to a child, in November 2015 Europe’s top human rights body ruled that Ireland’s laws on corporal punishment were in fact in breach of the European Social Charter. Legislation allowing parents to use their physical might against their children was repealed 15 years ago but the defence of “reasonable chastisement” was still legally permitted up until November, when the Minister for Children, James Reilly and Senator Jillian Van Turnhout co-sponsored an amendment to the Children’s First Bill to remove this defence.

And now that the Bill has been passed by the Dail and signed into law, slapping a child could amount to a charge of assault or child cruelty. The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) welcomes this new development and says the legislation is integral to ensuring a robust and effective child protection system.

“The passage of the Children First legislation through the Dáil is a milestone for child protection in Ireland,” says Grainia Long, ISPCC Chief Executive. “As has been uncovered in recent years, far too many children were failed by a state that did not intervene to protect them from abuse.

Long overdue, this legislation ensures that all those who provide services to children are required to commit to their protection through systems and procedures for child protection and child safety.”

Sarah Hanrahan is delighted with this move towards a more tolerant society for children. She spent a lot of her childhood in foster care and was at the receiving end of corporal punishment both from her biological mother and in various homes she lived in throughout her childhood. “My mother was a very angry woman and had serious issues with alcohol,” she admits. “When I was little both my brother and I would get slapped several times a day – we learned to stay out of her way as much as possible.”

“Then when we got a bit older, we were put into different foster homes for a while because my mother had to spend time in hospital, and I was often given a smack and was even pinched on a few occasions because I wasn’t sitting still at the table. Even now, the memories make me feel really sad – so I’m delighted this new ruling means other children won’t have to go through the same abuse.”

“Respect your children as individuals by being there and being open to listening to them; expect good behaviour and then reward it, when you say no, stick to it.”

– Caroline O’Sullivan, Director of Services, ISPCC

Expert advice

Dr David Carey, Director of Psychology at City Colleges and Dean of the College of Progressive Education says slapping is not the way to discipline children nor to help them develop.

He has a list of reasons why it should be avoided:

• Slapping hurts; so a big person should never deliberately inflict pain on a little person. It is wrong.

• It does not teach children how to behave properly; it only stops them from doing something wrong temporarily.

• A child who is regularly slapped will grow up to be an adult who hurts others physically.

• A child who is regularly slapped will believe they are ‘bad’ and have lowered self-esteem and self-confidence.

• A child who is regularly slapped will not trust adults and believe that other people will eventually hurt them; this causes disturbance in all relationships.

More like this:

Disciplining other people’s kids
Disciplining your child
Shouting to be heard

ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….