WE LIVE in a world filled with different ways of expressing life. Every parent has his or her own way of raising children.
There are parents who believe that children should be told what to do and set right by strict disciplinary rules.
Other parents prefer to raise their children by offering them guidance in making their own choices.
We would like to think that every child is safe under the protection and guidance of his or her parents. But sadly, with the rising number of child abuse and neglect cases in our society, we must view with seriousness how parents deal with their children.
There have been too many incidents where the rights of children were violated. We cannot condone any form of violence against children.
The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child states that "children have the right to special protection, and facilities to enable them to develop in a healthy and normal manner, in freedom and dignity" and "love and understanding and an atmosphere of affection and security, in the care and under the responsibility of their parents whenever possible."
One parent I talked to was of the opinion that children will become spoilt brats if the cane is not used to discipline them.
She said she was a responsible adult whose parents used physical punishment on her. Her young boys know how to behave because they fear the cane.
Another parent said she chose to raise her children without the cane because she did not want them to fear her, the way she feared her own father.
She wanted a different kind of relationship with her children, one that stems from respect and not fear.
Her father used to hit her to manage her misbehaviour. As an adult, she still finds it hard to communicate her feelings and opinions to him.
Parents are caretakers of their children's rights. Joan E. Durrant, a child-clinical psychologist who authored a parents' manual on positive discipline (Save the Children, Sweden, 2007), stated that parents need help with parenting.
She wrote that many parents still rely on instincts or their childhood experiences. They have not given much thought to their reactions to their young children. Sometimes parents may have childhood experiences that are negative and violent.
Parents who have little knowledge of what discipline is all about, end up thinking that scolding and hitting are the only ways to manage their children.
No parent does all the right things and none of the wrong things. We all want to do what is best for our children and ourselves.
To do the job right, parents need information on child development and know-how to set the right goals for their children.
Parents have the right to make choices for their children. It is up to them to ensure their children have a reasonable opportunity to develop in a healthy and normal manner.
These include the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services, as well as love, security, education and protection against abuse and discrimination.
Research studies find that children are sensitive to the way parents deal with their challenging behaviour.
They imitate parental behaviour in using force and anger to solve problems. Many behavioural problems in children are the result of how their parents disciplined them.
Parents can explain things to children and provide them with the resources and knowledge to make informed decisions. They should then respect their children's choices. As they guide their children based on their own values and beliefs, they should also respect their children's choices in developing their own values and beliefs.
Do parents have the right to decide the values and traditions by which their children are to be raised, or do children have a right to choose these for themselves?
I believe parents who have positive self-awareness and are confident that they are doing right by their children, can strike a balance between the rights of children and those of parents.
Parents are not only teachers; they are also learners. As we embark on this parenting journey, we will learn many lessons about ourselves and our children.