In our beloved Virgin Islands, it is now time — and has been for a very long while — to address a glaring injustice to our children. It is time to finally end the use of corporal punishment in our schools and child care centers, and in our homes.
Corporal punishment refers to any physical punishment intended to cause pain or discomfort. The significant arguments against the use of physical punishment have been presented time and time again. Research demonstrates that physical punishment is an ineffective, and often harmful, approach to disciplining children. The physical punishment of children leads to increased aggression and antisocial behavior, lower self-esteem, and more mental health problems. It may also lead to lower moral internalization of the very values parents and educators are hoping to instill in their children.
Science also clearly tells us that corporal punishment is ineffective and harmful to children. If we want to truly honor our culture and history, we need to explore effective, evidence-based and culturally informed approaches to promote positive behavior.
There are so many ways to encourage a child to have good behavior. The most important place to start is to have a healthy, positive and supportive relationship with the child. Clear limit-setting provides children with a sense of safety, stability, predictability and security. Praising a child’s good behavior leads to more of that good behavior.
By totally ending corporal punishment in alternative care settings, day care, schools, penal institutions and in our homes, we are sending a clear message that physical pain and harm is not the way to address disrespect, disobedience, anger or other behaviors that may be seen as undesirable.
By doing so, we might find that this positive message makes its way into the psyche of our children, who feel heard and supported, and will not default to violence in their own approaches to conflict resolution. We might find that by treating our children as we would want to be treated, we can begin to bring an end to the violence that plagues our homes, our streets and our communities.
As a community that says we celebrate and support our children, we know in our hearts and in our minds that it is time to address this grave social injustice. We can do this. We should do this. We must do this … now.
Editor’s note: Dee Baecher-Brown is the president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI). Readers interested in learning more about positive parenting from Ready4K are invited to text the code CFVI to 70138 to start receiving daily text messages.