Positive parenting reaches ethnic minority children
Nurturing Care Parenting training in Ratanakiri helps ethnic minority parents support their children’s development and give them a strong foundation for their learning, health, and behaviour
12 May 2023, Ratanakiri – 29-year-old Dim Nang Lao is mother to her six-year-old son, Koy Satya, in Ratanakiri province, a mountainous and remote region in northeastern Cambodia. She belongs to the Kreung ethnic minority, which makes up 95 per cent of the 1,004 families in Cha Ong commune, where she lives. Like many other ethnic minority parents in her village who marry and have children at a young age, she used to have little knowledge about how she should care for her child to ensure he can grow healthy and strong and reach his full potential.
But everything changed when she received Nurturing Care Parenting training from village volunteers. Nurturing Care Parenting brings together several existing training courses being rolled out by the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, including Positive Parenting, to help every child get the best possible start in life, including through immunisation and healthcare, early education and play, and good hygiene and sanitation. It also helps parents avoid violence or harsh punishment to discipline their children.
“I learned a lot from the training,” Dim Nang Lao says. “I learned how to care for my child’s health, nutrition, and education. I learned how to talk to him when he is wrong and comfort him when he is sad. I learned that a child is a white paper. He does not know anything. If I hit him, he will learn those actions from me.”
Dim Nang Lao is one of many who have benefited from positive parenting training. According to Ang Chenda, the chief of Cha Ong commune, the training has reached all five villages in the commune and has improved the lives of many families. She says she welcomes the training as many parents in the area do not fully understand what they need to do to fully support their children’s needs and development and often spend much of their time focussing on earning an income through farm work. Some would also use violence as a way of disciplining their children when they misbehave.
“After the training, their understanding of raising young children is far different,” Ang Chenda says. “They are more aware of the importance of caring for their children from pregnancy to early childhood. They take their children to the health centre for vaccinations and check-ups. They issue birth certificates for their children. They send their children to kindergarten and elementary school. They also reduce violence and use positive discipline instead.”
The Nurturing Care Parenting programme is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and other key ministries and development partners supported by the Australian Committee for UNICEF to implement the Nurturing Care Framework for Early Childhood Development in Cambodia. The programme aims to improve the first one thousand days of children’s lives by providing them with responsive caregiving, good health, adequate nutrition, safety and security, and opportunities for early learning. This programme links with the Positive Parenting Programme, which supports parents and caregivers to provide positive and non-violent care and discipline for their children.
The programme is also supported by community groups such as the Commune Committee for Women and Children (CCWC), which guides and supervises the village volunteers.
Tren Me, a member of the CCWC and a village volunteer, says that she has seen remarkable changes in the attitudes and behaviours of the parents in her commune after they received the training.
“They are more involved in their children’s lives,” Tren Me says. “They come to school to check their children’s progress and help with school activities.”
Parents say they have already seen positive changes in the children themselves since the training. For example, Dim Nang Lao’s son has improved his language learning.
“He is healthier and smarter,” Dim Nang Lao says proudly. “He can speak Khmer fluently, even though we speak our ethnic language at home.”
“We know that there is an early window of opportunity to provide the nutrition, stimulation, vaccinations, and security that children need for their brains to develop fully,” says Hiroyuki Hattori, UNICEF Cambodia Chief of Education. “In Cambodia, the National Action Plan on Early Childhood Care and Development is an opportunity to put in place a foundation of nurturing care and education that will benefit these young Cambodians for the rest of their lives, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged who may miss out on opportunities to learn because their parents and caregivers struggle to get the time, resources, and services necessary to fully support their needs. UNICEF will continue to work with ministries and partners to advocate for and support early childhood care and learning to be a national priority until no child is left behind.”
Dim Nang Lao says she is grateful for the opportunity to learn about positive parenting and apply it in her daily life.
“I hope that more parents in our commune and province can receive this training and benefit from it as I do,” she says.