Youth looking back at violence in childhood

... and looking forward to when, "Children are to be seen and heard!"

Yoonhye Joo
Policy Dialogue
From left; Andrew Johnson; Andre Witter; and Theo KnightTomlinson at the National Policy Dialogue.
14 July 2022

Recently we met some bright young people whose eyes were glowing with the firm belief that together we can end violence against children. “We look forward to the revolutionary era where children are to be seen and also to be heard,” says Theo, one of the youth participants at the National Policy Dialogue on Ending Violence Against Children, jointly hosted by the Ministry of Education and Youth, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), supported by UNICEF.

Andrew Johnson, 26, Member of Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica

What type of discipline do you think helped you as a child?

I have experienced corporal punishment as a child. I don’t think it helped me to change into the person I am now. What really helped me is the social intervention programmes. Whenever I feel loved, whenever I feel like this person is connected to me, I respect the person and I was more than likely to listen to the person.

Discipline vs. Punishment

Discipline is what you do to try to nurture your child. It is to guide them with what is best for them. Punishment, however, is a method to make things work, now. It is not an effective way of teaching them how to behave. You cannot judge your child like, ‘If I don’t slap you, you are not going to learn.’

Also, if you continuously apply corporal punishment, your child might apply the same punishment to their peers, or they might try to seek love from someone else – they are confused and think if the person doesn’t slap me, give me attention, or listen to me, this person does love me.

Theo KnightTomlinson, 18, Member of CPFSA Children’s Advisory Panel

"Spare the rod and spoil the child"

From a biblical standpoint, the Lord didn’t physically beat anyone. He spoke to them repeatedly and repeatedly. He tries to correct them a number of times until they open up their mind to take the knowledge given from Him. He knows the person will change, so you don’t spare the rod and spoil the child.

Also, if you look back in history, we used to refer to the rod when somebody is not complying. The slave masters or the plantation owner used the term to whip people and make them obedient. We must know that we are out of the era now. Now we can sit and have a discussion with each other. We are in an era where we can move forward with everyone’s voice being heard.

Communicate with children instead

Children live what they learn. Some people might think the punishment is one way to discipline their children but is it really going to stop children from doing what is considered wrong? If you just keep slapping and say it’s wrong, you don’t really teach them the correct way. It is a loss of time. By talking to children and showing them the correct way to behave, children can learn.

Andre Witter, Co-Founder/Executive Director for Jamaica Deaf Youth Advocacy

Impacting all five senses

We must remember that corporal punishment does not simply include physical and verbal abuse. Punishment is also associated with the five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch.

Children learn to fear when they watch their parents or adults take up a stick, belt, or whatever, and they interpret the circumstances as punishment even if the object has not yet touched the child's body, but our mental reaction when we observe is based on our experiences.

When a child does something wrong, parents or other caretakers may imprison him or her to a room. Isolation can cause pain and stress in the youngster. We must remember that we live in good health by breathing healthy oxygen air, which should not be limited to the confines of the room.

Deaf community needs more support

I grew up deaf, and no one told me that such punishment should not be accepted. I wish I could have known that when I was a kid. Corporal punishment happened to me, and I believe the same happened to the whole Jamaican Deaf Community. We need more education for our deaf children, as well as additional resources, particularly in our language.

Back when I was younger, I've had the experience of not being able to communicate with people because I was afraid of being punished. Many children out there are still experiencing the same thing I did.

Most of our parents are unable to communicate with their deaf children by using Jamaican Sign Language (JSL). Deaf children are frequently punished for inappropriate behavior due to a lack of communication. We must recognize that a lack of communication may be interpreted as a lack of support. Our caregivers must learn JSL so that our deaf children may access information and feel loved when we use it by watching and learning.

We, the Jamaican Deaf Community, are in desperate need of assistance and support in order to have more resources available for our deaf children so that we may learn how to better discipline their children.

What's UNICEF doing?

UNICEF continues to support the implementation of Jamaica’s National Plan of Action for an Integrated response to Children and Violence (NPACV). Specifically, UNICEF assisted in establishing the Inter Sectoral Committee on Children and Violence and its four Technical Working Groups and supported the development of (i) the NPACV’s Monitoring and Evaluation framework, (ii) a child-friendly version of the NPACV roadmap and (iii) Public Service Announcements on Corporal Punishment, Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Child Trafficking. Recently, UNICEF supported Jamaica’s National Policy Dialogue for Ending Violence Against Children hosted by the Ministry of Education and Youth, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency. 

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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