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Teaching adults the proper way of disciplining children

By Kaye Estoista-Koo

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“It takes a village to raise a child.”

This old adage needs to include “practicing positive and non-violent discipline” and “healthy and emotionally secure” in it. Raising children is taking more effort in a world plagued by violence, abuse, and brokenness.

In the Philippines alone, from a Pulse Asia survey conducted in 2011, two out of three parents use physical pain to discipline their child with eight out of 10 parents reporting they experienced the same growing up.

Known as corporal punishment, this kind of discipline involves the intent to hurt, however softly, and includes any kind of pain inflicted on the body, kicking, pinching, shaking, or throwing. It’s also forced and prolonged standing, kneeling, or sitting in a difficult position. Other forms include: threatening, scaring, embarrassing, and violating human rights.

Children become fearful, distrustful, confused, bitter, angry, or bear grudges. They also value themselves less and become accustomed to using violence. Their mental health is compromised, and compassion for others diminishes. This is why The Positive Discipline Project was born.

Liza Tumulak, capacity building coordinator for Lihok Pilipina Foundation, one of the implementing partners of The Positive Discipline Project, says, “Attention to violence against children continues to be fragmented. A 2006 World Report on Violence Against Children shows corporal punishment existing in every country, cutting across culture, class, education, income, and ethnic origin.”

Selena Fortich, program technical manager on Child Protection for Plan International Philippines (PPI), says, “In the country, the issue of corporal punishment is pervasive. There is a global call to end violence against children and we want to be part of the solution.”

Lawyer Alberto Muyot, undersecretary for Legal and Administrative Affairs of the Department of Education, shares how he wanted to drop out of school in kindergarten. “Every day, out of fear from my teacher, I would get sick with fever and I would vomit whatever I ate or drank. But by Grade 1 my passion for learning and trust in teachers was restored. If not for that, I would have stopped! This happens in public and private schools, whatever we do to children, it is something that affects and really changes their life,” he recalls.

Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy relates that Save the Children studies show that in Bagong Silang, Caloocan, and Cebu, 85 percent of children have been punished at home with 82 percent being hit in different parts of the body.

Corporal punishment happens in these urban areas because of community-mentality acceptance of aggressive conduct toward children. She promises that at the 17th Congress, she’ll continue to push the passage of House Bill 516 which promotes positive and non-violent discipline of children and aims to prohibit corporal punishment and all other forms of humiliating or degrading punishment of children.

Fortich says they selected a variety of areas for The Positive Discipline Project from 2013 to 2016: indigenous communities, urban areas, and far-flung areas with Muslims.

This was so they could engage children across sectors and build capacity at all levels. She adds, “We must ensure they become the best version of themselves possible through an environment of loving discipline as disciplining children without harm may be a concept that many Filipinos will not embrace willingly.”

Jayson Lozano, project manager of PPI, notes the areas have relevant cases where violence happens both at home and in school. Ifugao, Quezon City, Naga City, Eastern Samar, Cebu City, and Sarangani helped PPI come up with a model for indigenous people’s practices in Lamut and Lagawe in Ifugao and good practices to follow in Child-Friendly Cities like Naga.

His definition of success, he says, was when children from the T’Boli and B’laan in Sarangani told him how their parents would talk about “being tied in a sack, but this time the kids say they don’t experience it anymore. Bawal pala.”

In the school setting, victims of bullying used to have teachers who don’t care. But now the students exert they have a right to be protected, so positive discipline provides alternatives and even an anti-bullying policy.

Whereas before, being called to the guidance office was something to be teased about, the empowered children use their time there to be guided and consulted, and there is no more stigma.

In Naga, kids who became part of the project over the past three years are now the ones anchoring radio programs where they talk about the benefits of positive discipline. The kids have become policy champions, speaking in barangay settings, going room to room in their schools.

The Local Council for the Protection of Children (LCPC) is a government body in every city that by law, a child to be part of it.

Muyot recalled a funny anecdote of when he was talking in a school in Lagawe, Ifugao. As he was explaining the benefits of positive discipline, a hand of a young female principal shot up. “I’m sorry Mr. Undersecretary, I do not agree with positive discipline, we need to instill a level of fear so that they learn, they won’t learn if they don’t fear us,” he says, relating the incident. “The other teachers held their breath waiting for me to speak again.”

He started counting one to five, telling her to come to the front so he could spank her, one for every grammatical error, a pet peeve of his. When she started complaining—“But am a principal!”—he told her—“Yes, and I am the undersecretary.”

The DepEd has 650,000 teachers, Muyot says he can’t go around spanking all of them so they can learn. He adds, “The only way we can make this work is if everyone works together. DepEd 40, the circular on child protection, is on paper but lives through actual implementation, not only in the classroom but in the whole community.”

To prevent continued violence against children in the home, school, or barangay, Muyot says that alignment needs to happen of the Child Protection Committee (CPC) members like the principal, guidance counselor, faculty representative, parents’ representative, and a children’s representative. No one can do it on their own but needs to work with the barangay, Children’s Welfare Desks, NGOs, and social workers.

Fortich said the Gawad Gabay aims to recognize and encourage the pioneer model institutions in all spheres of society, from families to schools and communities that embody exemplary practice of positive and non-violent forms of discipline.

Evidence is seen from grassroots, with more and more being familiar with the terms, where the CPC has children campaigning for positive discipline and the parents who have been changed are now influencing their community in the practice. Instead of just 35 barangays, they have reached 180.

Recently, Gawad Gabay recognized awardees who were faithful to the project:

NATIONAL MODEL SCHOOL

Paglaon Sta. Maria spoke on behalf of Tinago National High School in Naga which was awarded the National Model School.

Tinago used to be ‘tapunan ng squatters’ (garbage bin for squatters), one of the least performing schools in Naga, with enrollees from 24 out of 27 barangays in Naga. Dropout rate was at a staggering 47 percent and hourly fist fights, bullying, theft, gangs, and bad attitude were the norm. The campus itself was dirty and school property was falling apart. They had low National Achievement Test (NAT) results.

With The Positive Discipline Project, they “changed the way we looked at the kids, we deepened our knowledge of the students through home visitation as a first step.”

Following DepEd 40, they came out with a student handbook, code of conduct, and an implementing manual for the teachers. Students who committed offenses and were in jail were bailed and given recovery programs, while those with minor offenses were given guidance.

This radical attitude angered some teachers because they felt the students were being spoiled and that teachers had lost “the right to discipline.”

After three years, drop-out rate went down to three percent, enrollees increased by eight percent every year, and gangs disappeared. More interest clubs were put up, along with the campus becoming cleaner with the no plastic policy and less vandalism. NAT increased by an average of two percent every year.

NATIONAL MODEL COMMUNITY AWARD

Brgy. Balatas in Camarines Sur through barangay councilor Emma Bermundo received the National Model Community award.

They had the Children’s Welfare Code approved as an ordinance, which a city councilor then adopted for the other barangays. They have interventions for children, summits, congresses in the schools, trialogues with parents, Children’s Welfare Desks in the barangay, and help for children in conflict with the law.

Their biggest challenge was when parents are the ones directly involved in issues of child protection because parents are the prime movers of discipline. Emma promised, “I won’t stop advocating for child protection, development, and survival because we started something good and we will continue capacity-building and intervention.”

NATIONAL HOME MODEL WINNER

The National Model Home winner is represented by Margarita Geralde, also from Naga City. The mother of four said, “Discipline without inflicting challenge, but you can discipline if it comes from the heart.” She learned a good example from her father, of whom she grew up terrified. “So now I make my kids my friends, and they like it when they are talked to and they are not shy to express their problem.”