Local Parenting Charity say it’s time to STOP Physical Punishment of Children

Parenting NI has launched the STOP campaign this week to encourage parents to stop and think again when it comes to physically punishing children. The campaign aims to highlight a positive parenting approach and to provide parents with support and information on options when it comes to discipline.

Muriel Bailey, Director for Family Support Services at Parenting NI said,

“Parents have a hugely important but at times a difficult job. Every day we support parents who are dealing with complex family issues and when children’s behaviour becomes challenging, parents stress levels can rise and at times this means that the situation may not always be managed in the best way. Reactive action can lead to physical punishment being used instead of a measured and thought out positive parenting style and techniques which would result in a more positive outcome.

STOP is an acronym for Stop, Think, Options, and Positive Parenting; we want to encourage parents to stop and think of other ways to deal with the stressful situation before they act. Parenting NI will provide support and information on Positive Parenting strategies and alternatives to physical punishment to empower parents to make different choices.”

Alongside information and support for parents, Parenting NI will also be holding training workshops for professionals in Enniskillen, Omagh and Derry~Londonderry. Muriel explained,

“Professionals working with children can be a prime influence on the attitude of parents in managing their children’s behaviour. Therefore, it’s imperative that these practitioners have the skills and resources to support and challenge parents with their approach.

The aim is to stop children from being hit by adults as a form of discipline by providing training to professionals with an understanding and awareness of children’s rights, guidance and knowledge of best practice methods in dealing with children’s behaviour, and enhance their ability and confidence in sharing that information with parents.”

The project has been made possible through funding from Western Area Outcomes Group under the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership.

Kieran Downey, Director of Women & Children’s Services in the Western Health and Social Care Trust said,

“The Western Trust fully endorses and supports the STOP campaign to encourage parents to stop and think again when it comes to physically punishing children.  The focus should be on positive parenting and this programme does provide an insight into how any given situation or challenge can be managed in a different way”.

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, congratulated Parenting NI and WHSCT for launching this initiative.  NICCY recently released research about attitudes to ‘Physical Punishment’ in Northern Ireland, she said,

“It’s vitally important that professionals working with families have clarity when they advise parents how to teach their children boundaries.

“Our survey shows that the majority of adults in Northern Ireland think physical punishment is unacceptable, it is not as effective as positive parenting and that the law should be changed to protect children in the same way it protects adults from all forms of assault, hitting and smacking.

“But more than this, we know from international evidence that it can cause real harm to children’s health and development and does not help parents to manage difficult behaviour.

“Updating our laws and providing parents with practical support would help them to deal with challenging situations more effectively.”

Speaking on how Parenting NI helps support parents who may be struggling to deal with discipline Muriel Bailey added, “Positive Parenting is an approach which emphasises that children should be treated with respect and guided by those around them to find a sense of self worth, respect for themselves and others. In order to promote this style of parenting we would be encouraging parents to communicate and listen to their child, use positive reinforcement, praise and to set clear, consistent rules and boundaries.

Parenting NI offer a freephone Helpline which parents can call for confidential support with any issue. Throughout the coming week we will be running a social media campaign which parents will find tips on ‘Positive Parenting’ each day.”

Parenting NI support reforming the law in Northern Ireland to remove the defense of reasonable punishment and ensure children are fully protected from all forms of violence, including physical punishment. It is hoped that the STOP campaign will further influence public opinion that discipline doesn’t mean physical punishment and highlight the need for equal protection against assault for children and adults.