Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Spare the rod | Beating children just doesn't work - NPSC head

Published:Sunday | September 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

The long-held view of many Jamaicans that flogging their children is an effective method of enforcing discipline has been rubbished by Kaysia Kerr, the new head of the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC).

Hours after she was confirmed as the new executive director of the state agency mandated to help families meet the unique challenges associated with parenting, Kerr urged Jamaicans to employ an approach of positive reinforcement in dealing with their children.

She told The Sunday Gleaner that corporal punishment (flogging) has achieved little results over the years and, as such, parents should instead focus on holistic development.

"On the issue of corporal punishment, that is one of those topics that will be with us for a while. Culturally, this is how many of us were brought up, where our parents at one time or the other would give us a strike or two, when we misbehave.

"But this is 2017 and this is the information age, and we are moving away from that," said Kerr.

"I have to go with what the studies are saying. The truth is, the beatings didn't really change behaviour. What it did, it made you fearful, but I don't know that you didn't continue that same behaviour when your mom wasn't looking or your father, so I'm not sure that corporal punishment served the intended purpose of correcting behaviour," added Kerr.

She argued that parents need to be encouraging dialogue, explaining to their children why an action was not an acceptable norm.

"The truth is, we spend a lot of time telling children what not to do, but we do not replace that by telling them what they should be doing.

"We are going through some really difficult times with violence; we do not want to be communicating with children that this is the only method to correct behaviour. Things are reciprocal and so we want to be pushing positive behaviour and support. Speak positively over their lives," added Kerr.


Teach children balance


She argued that children should be aware of the balance between standing up for their rights and showing respect.

"One of the things we really have to push is values and attitudes. We really want to be teaching our children how they should interact with adults; however, we want children to understand that they, too, have rights, and those rights must be respected," said Kerr.

"However, there is a thin line between advocating for yourself and stepping over the line in terms of being disrespectful. We definitely want children to know that they have a voice and when there is any form of discomfort, they really ought to speak up, but to do so in a way that is appropriate," added the new NPSC head.

Kerr holds a master's degree in administration and supervision and is an accomplished educator with over 20 years of experience in both the private and public sectors.

In her immediate past post, she was assigned to the Education System Transformation Programme in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information as an officer with regional responsibilities focused on special needs.

Her role as the strategic head of the NPSC is symbiotic to her previous role, as she carries a passion and dedication to service in support of parents across all strata to ensure Jamaica becomes the place to raise families.

Her focus and targets for the NPSC carry a vision that promotes national impact for effective parenting, as she will be responsible for setting the strategic direction of the commission through the development of sustainable programmes that lend support to parents and caregivers through the promotion of effective parenting.