Saturday, August 1, 2009

Discipline, not abuse, say experts

Discipline, not abuse, say experts
Fri, Jul 31, 2009
The Straits Times

By Theresa Tan

PARENTS who wield the cane ought to ensure that disciplining a child does not cross the line and become abuse, experts said yesterday.

Never lash out at a child in a fit of rage, advised Dr Brian Yeo, a psychiatrist in private practice.

Most parents who do so have lost their sense of reason, he said, and may end up hitting the child harder than they mean to.

Such situations might also have an unintended effect. Dr Yeo said: 'If you hit your child in a fit of anger, you are teaching him that violence is acceptable.'

His advice: If you must use the cane, calm down first and explain your actions before carrying out the punishment.

When does caning turn into abuse?

Dr Yeo said it is generally accepted that abuse occurs if the child's skin is broken or bleeds during caning.

Some parts of the body, such as the face and private parts, are also considered no-go zones, he added.

Caning a child too often can also be considered abuse, he and other counsellors noted.

Abuse from caning is not limited to physical injury only, social workers said.

Children who suffer emotional and psychological trauma as a result of caning are also victims of abuse, they said.

Some become withdrawn, troubled or fearful as a result of repeated caning, said Mrs Wong Cher Meng, centre director of the Students Care Service Clementi Centre.

Those interviewed also warned that caning may not always be the best form of punishment and can backfire on parents.

Mrs Florence Lim, director of the Covenant Family Service Centre, said: 'After the caning, some children get so angry that they rebel and start thinking how to retaliate against their parents.'

Counsellors said other effective disciplinary methods include withholding incentives from a child who has done wrong and rewarding good behaviour.

Parents who fear they are losing control in disciplining their children can seek help from counsellors in schools, family service centres or children's help agencies such as the Singapore Children's Society.


If you need help, you can call ComCare Call at 1800-222-0000.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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