May 21, 2009
On 19 May 2009 a Christchurch father was found guilty of assaulting his son by flicking his ear and punching him in the face. While there has been a lot said about whether the father would have been prosecuted and found guilty under the old law, or should have been prosecuted at all, there has been no examination of case from a parenting perspective.
Dr Joan Durrant, in her book, Positive Discipline: What it is and how to do it, tells us that positive discipline is a way of thinking that focuses on identifying long term goals for children, providing warmth and structure, understanding how children think and feel and teaching problem solving. Key long term goals include encouraging the development of self-discipline and learning to take responsibility. A parent’s role includes guiding the child’s behaviour and modelling appropriate behaviour.
Were the Christchurch children shown by the father what he expected of them at the park and were safety issues explained and demonstrated to them? We don’t know. When the children behaved in a risky fashion and were “corrected” did they understand why their father was so angry? What did they learn from the experience? Perhaps just that when you are really angry its ok to hurt someone. Were they better informed about how to keep themselves safe in the future? Did they feel secure in their relationship with their father? These are relevant questions to ask ourselves when we think about how to respond to our children’s behaviour.