Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We Must Stop Hitting Children! Part 4 -- Hitting Is Very Common

Several recent studies reveal that the majority of parents in the United States continue to physically punish their children.

Nearly two-thirds of parents of very young children (1- and 2-year-olds) reported using physical punishment.

By the time children reach 5th grade, 80 percent have been physically punished.

By high school, 85 percent of adolescents report that they have been physically punished, with 51 percent reporting that they have been hit with a belt or similar object.

How about you? Were you hit as a child? Do you hit your kids?


The NEW Confident Parenting is a book that discusses all of the issues surrounding the use of physical punishment and offers an entire program for raising children without ever having to use physical punishment.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Parenting Program Teaches Basics

The NEW Confident Parenting Program from the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring, of which I am the primary author, provides parents with the basic information about about how children learn and how to use this knowledge in raising healthy, happy and achieving young people.

The program clarifies the two major ways children learn:

(1) They learn from observing the models they are exposed to, including parents, sibling and peers, and, especially, through what happens to these models when they act the way they do. The five ways that the actions of these models influence children are indicated.

(2) The program also clarifies that children learn from the consequences of their own behavior, from what happens to them after they act the way they do. A wide range of both positive and corrective consequences are shown, and these influence how likely they are to repeat the behaviors they now engage in.

These basics are supplemented by helping parents appreciate the important distinction between "learning" and "performing" new behaviors, a distinction that helps to explain why just telling children how to behave is of minimal effectiveness.

The program builds on these basic understandings to then teach parents a series of very effective and easy-to-learn parenting skills and strategies to use immediately with their children. These include how to promote positive relations with children through effective praising, praising that is specific to the actions that parents would like to see more of. It includes learning how to set limits and discipline children without having to hit or yell. Parents are oriented to role play the skills before using them with their children, and further taught how they can determine if the skills are getting the job done.

Other features of the new program have to do with helping parents cope with their children's use of cell phones, the Internet and social networking websites, as well as what parents can do to help their children resist peer pressures to use drugs.

Altogether the NEW Confident Parenting is an extraordinarily helpful and practical program that every parent should have an opportunity to learn from and use.

The Parents Handbook of the program can be obtained by clicking here.

A Leader's Kit for those who would like to teach and share the program with other parents is available by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We Must Stop Hitting Children! Part 3 Countries Who Stopped

Increasingly, countries around the world are prohibiting physical punishment of children. As of January 2009, 24 countries have passed laws to ban physical punishment:

Sweden (1979),
Finland (1983),
Norway (1987),
Austria (1989),
Cyprus (1994),
Denmark (1997),
Latvia (1998),
Bulgaria (2000),
Germany (2000),
Israel (2000),
Iceland (2003),
Romania (2004),
Ukraine (2004),
Hungary (2005),
Greece (2006),
Chile (2007),
the Netherlands, (2007),
New Zealand (2007),
Portugal (2007),
Uruguay (2007),
Spain (2007),
Venezuela (2007), and
Costa Rica (2008).

These laws are not aimed at prosecuting parents, but at setting a clear standard of caregiving. Their primary purpose is to protect children by sending an unambiguous message that hitting them is wrong and not allowed.


The NEW Confident Parenting is a book that discusses all of the issues surrounding the use of physical punishment and offers an entire program for raising children without ever having to use physical punishment.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Parenting and the President -- Part 9 -- Potential Funding Source for Parenting Projects

On Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time, officials from the Obama Administration will be conducting a telephone briefing for nonprofit organizations about the President's new Social Innovation Fund. The monies that will be available through this Fund could be used to support parenting education projects.

To learn more about this possibility and to be part of the telephone briefing, call 1 (800) 920-5564 a few minutes before 3PM on the 22nd.

Positive Parenting Has Lasting Impact for Generations

A new study that looks at data on three generations of families shows that “positive parenting” – including factors such as warmth, monitoring children’s activities, involvement, and consistency of discipline – not only has positive impacts on adolescents, but on the way they parent their own children.

In the first study of its kind, David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University, and project director Deborah Capaldi, and co-authors Katherine Pears and Lee Owen of the Eugene-based Oregon Social Learning Center, examined surveys from 206 boys who were considered “at-risk” for juvenile delinquency. The boys, then in elementary school, and their parents were interviewed and observed, which gave Kerr and colleagues information about how the boys were parented.

Starting in 1984, the boys met with researchers every year from age 9 to 33. As the boys grew up and started their own families, their partners and children began participating in the study. In this way, the researchers learned how the men’s childhood experiences influenced their own parenting.

”This study is especially exciting because we had already identified processes by which risk behaviors and poor parenting may be carried across generations,” Capaldi said. “Professor Kerr has now demonstrated that there is an additional pathway of intergenerational influence via positive parenting and development.”

The study will be published in the September issue of the journal Developmental Psychology in a special issue devoted to findings of some of the few long-term studies of intergenerational family processes. The journal is published by the American Psychological Association.

Kerr said there is often an assumption that people learn parenting methods from their own parents. In fact, he said most research shows that a direct link between what a person experiences as a child and what she or he does as a parent is fairly weak.

“Instead, what we find is that ‘negative’ parenting such as hostility and lack of follow-through leads to ‘negative’ parenting in the next generation not through observation, but by allowing problem behavior to take hold in adolescence,” Kerr said. “For instance, if you try to control your child with anger and threats, he learns to deal in this way with peers, teachers, and eventually his own children. If you do not track where your child is, others will take over your job of teaching him about the world.

“But those lessons may involve delinquency and a lifestyle that is not compatible with becoming a positive parent,” Kerr pointed out.

The researchers’ prior work showed that children who experienced high levels of negative parenting were more likely to be antisocial and delinquent as adolescents. Boys who had these negative characteristics in adolescence more often grew up to be inconsistent and ineffective parents, and to have children with more negative and challenging behaviors.

“We knew that these negative pathways can be very strong,” Kerr said. “What surprised us is how strong positive parenting pathways are as well. Positive parenting is not just the absence of negative influences, but involves taking an active role in a child’s life.”

The researchers found that children who had parents who monitored their behavior, were consistent with rules and were warm and affectionate were more likely to have close relationships with their peers, be more engaged in school, and have better self-esteem.

“So part of what good parenting does is not only protect you against negative behaviors but instill positive connections with others during adolescence that then impact how you relate with your partner and your own child as an adult,” Kerr said

“This research shows that when we think about the value of prevention, we should consider an even wider lens than is typical,” he added. “We see now that changes in parenting can have an effect not just on children but even on grandchildren.”

The study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Friday, October 16, 2009

We Must Stop Hitting Children! Part 2 Definition of Physical Punishment

Physical punishment is defined as the use of physical force with the intention of causing the child to experience bodily pain or discomfort so as to correct or punish the child's behavior. This definition includes light physical force, such as a slap on a child's hand, as well as heavier physical force, including hitting children with hard objects such as a wooden spoon or paddle.

However, physical punishment does not refer only to hitting children as a form of discipline; it also includes other practices that involve purposefully causing children to experience physical discomfort in order to punish them. Physical punishment thus also includes washing a child’s mouth with soap, making a child kneel on sharp or painful objects (e.g., rice, a floor grate), placing hot sauce on a child's tongue, forcing a child to stand or sit in painful positions for long periods of time, and compelling a child to engage in excessive exercise or physical exertion.

In the United States, physical punishment is known by a variety of euphemisms, including “spank,” “smack,” “slap,” “pop,” beat,” “paddle,” “punch,” “whup/whip,” and “hit.” The term “physical punishment” is often used interchangeably with the terms “corporal punishment” or “physical discipline.”

Physical punishment is distinct from protective physical restraint. Whereas physical punishment involves causing the child to experience pain as a form of punishment, protective physical restraint involves the use of physical force to protect the child or others from physical pain or harm. Examples of protective physical restraint include holding a child to prevent them from running into a busy street, pulling a child's hand away from a hot stove, or holding a child who has hurt another child to prevent him/her from doing so again.

Have you ever used physical punishment in raising your children or in your work with children? I have felt like doing so on some occasions but have restrained myself. How about you?


The NEW Confident Parenting is a book that discusses all of the issues surrounding the use of physical punishment and offers an entire program for raising children without ever having to use physical punishment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We Must Stop Hitting Children! Part 1

With this article, I am starting a new series on why it is so important to stop hitting children, whether at home, school or any other place.

This series is based on a fundamental and simple value: people are not for hitting and children are people too.

This basic value about what is not acceptable in human relations is at the core of these articles. A corollary to this value is that there are many nonviolent and effective ways of to gain the cooperation and respect of children, and that these can and should be taught to everyone who raises and works with children.

This series is also based on the deliberations of international organizations who advocate for the abolition of all forms of physical punishment with children, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These articles will also reflect and share the mountain of research evidence that points to both the social injustice and ultimate destructiveness of using physical punishment to discipline children.

In my latest book for parents, The NEW Confident Parenting, which I wrote with my colleague, Dr. Camilla S. Clarke, an entire chapter is devoted to the findings of hundreds of research studies that document how destructive and ineffective physical punishment ultimately is. This chapter appears at the end of the book after having demonstrated numerous effective and nonviolent ways of obtaining and maintaining the respect and cooperation of children.

The chapter on physical punishment makes the point that many people continue to believe in and make use of physical punishment because they believe it really works. That is because, in some instances and in the short run, it does work in stopping children from engaging in behaviors that make us adults uncomfortable. But the vast majority of studies that follow children for years find that the use of physical punishment, and especially physical punishment that happens frequently and harshly, results in numerous negative consequences, including life long mental, physical, sexual and interpersonal problems.

While very few people believe that hitting children so hard that bruises and broken bones happen -- here the hurt is too obvious to overlook -- most people are simply unaware of the insidious, hidden damage that physical punishment leaves in its wake.

Subsequent articles in this series will present the findings of these studies in greater detail, including studies that have been done after I and Dr. Clarke wrote The NEW Confident Parenting. The second article will define physical punishment.

Your comments are appreciated and will be responded to.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Emotional Needs of Children

Dr. Gerald Newmark’s classic book on How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children, which has been available in many languages including English and Spanish, and which now has an audio CD version in English and Spanish, clarifies what are the basic emotional needs of all children. These are the fundamental needs that parents, teachers and schools need to address in raising and educating children.

The Five Critical Emotional Needs of Children: Definitions and Examples

Emotional health provides a foundation for success in school, work, marriage and life in general. Accoring to Dr. Newmark, failure to recognize and satisfy these five needs jeopardizes our children's future and that of succeeding generations.

Need to Feel Respected

Children need to feel respected. For that to happen, they need to be treated in a courteous, thoughtful, attentive and civil manner. One of the best ways for children to learn about respect is to feel what it's like to be treated respectfully and to observe their parents and other adults treating one another the same way.

If we want children to grow up feeling respected and treating others with respect, we need to avoid sarcasm, belittling, yelling; we need to keep anger and impatience to a minimum; we need to avoid lying; we need to listen more and talk less; we need to command less and suggest and request more; we need to learn how to say "please," "thank you," "excuse me", "I'm sorry"- yes, even to children. We need to become conscious of our mistakes, willing to admit them and ready to make corrections. This will help us cultivate these values in our children.

Need to Feel Important

Feeling important refers to a child's need to feel: "I have value. I am useful. I have power. I am somebody." This need is evident at a very early age. Pressing a button in an elevator - me, me. Children want to do things for themselves, and so often we get in their way.

Parents need to avoid being all powerful, solving all family problems, making all decisions, doing all the work, controlling everything that happens. Involve your children - ask their opinions; give them things to do; share decision-making and power; give them status and recognition, and have patience with mistakes when it takes a little longer or is not done as well as you could have done yourself.

If children do not feel important, if they don't develop a sense of value in constructive ways, they may seek negative ways to get attention, to feel "I am somebody."

Need to Feel Accepted

Children have a need to feel accepted as individuals in their own right, with their own uniqueness, and not treated as mere reflections of their parents, as objects to be shaped in the image of what parents believe their ideal child should look like. This means that children have a right to their own feelings, opinions, ideas, concerns, wants and needs. Trivializing, ignoring or ridiculing a child's feelings or opinions is a rejection which weakens the relationship. Paying attention to and discussing them, even when you do not like or disagree with some, strengthens the relationship.

Need to Feel Included

Children need to feel included. They need to be brought in, to be made to feel a part of things, to feel connected to other people, to have a sense of community. It happens when people engage with others in activities and projects, when they experience things together in a meaningful way. It is important for the family to create these opportunities. People who do things together feel closer to one another. Family activities offer a way to become closer and also to have fun, learn, and contribute to others.

Need to Feel Secure

Children need to feel secure. Security means creating a positive environment where people care for each other and show it, where people express themselves and others listen, where differences are accepted and conflicts are resolved constructively, where enough structure exists for children to feel safe and protected, and where children have opportunities to actively participate in their own and family evolution through family planning and decision making, problem solving and feedback activities.

Dr. Newmark’s book, which has already sold more than 300,000 copies, details the many ways that parents and teachers can act so as to meet and not thwart children’s needs. Now that it is available as an audio CD it can be listened to in the car or while relaxing. It is a truly important book that every parent, teacher or anyone who works with and loves children should spent time reading, listening to and learning from.

To order, click here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Parenting and the President - Part 8 - The Bush Years and a White House Briefing

The long sought after White House Briefing took place on December 12, 2006 at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington, D.C. It was attended by an invited audience of executives from that major White House Office and from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Included was the executive who facilitated the briefing, the Associate Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families in HHS, Harry Wilson (shown on the far left in the accompanying picture).

I delivered the presentation on the proposed Initiative. Also participating from the National Effective Parenting Initiative (NEPI) was Dr. Karol Kumpfer of the University of Utah and the former director of the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and one of my daughters who was then doing an internship in Washington at NOW (I am on the left of Harry Wilson, then my daughter and then Dr. Kumpfer).

However, the representative from the President's Domestic Policy Council, who was the person who was to convey the substance of the briefing to the president, called to cancel at the last moment. Shortly after the meeting, Mr. Wilson was informed that that person had taken another job in a federal agency and was no longer involved with the Domestic Policy Council.

Mr. Wilson then decided that it would be better to form an Interagency Task Force on Effective Parenting and conduct an audit of the federal agencies who were running various programs and initiatives for parents. It was his wisdom that a report from such a internal and cross agency Task Force based on a full government audit would be the best way to involve the president. So he put in motion the creation of such a Task Force and he began exploring the audit.

Initial meetings of several agency directors from within his own department were conducted and there was much initial interest. An initial audit was also attempted.

Then there were problems continuing to convene the Task Force and deciding on who would be the Task Force leader. The initial audit actions led to finding out that a comprehensive audit of the numerous federal agencies in numerous cabinet level government departments was beyond the resources of this Task Force. And key administrative officials announced they were leaving the administration soon.

The practical result of all these internal developments was that the Initiative was, to our knowledge, never presented to the president. The effort stopped when the campaigning for the next presidential election started.

Once President Obama was elected, NEPI regrouped and developed the four-part National Effective Parenting Plan that is currently being advocated with the Obama administration (see Parenting and the President - Part 1 - August 18, 2009). The fourth part of the Plan is the Effective Parenting Initiative that was proposed at the White House Briefing.

Details of the various components of that Initiative will be the subject of subsequent articles in this series.


How You Can Be Involved...

You can participate by commenting on this and future articles in The Parenting and the President series.

You can become supportive through letting the world know that it would be a better place if all children were raised by effective and sensitive parents who receive excellent parenting education. You can express such sentiments through signing our online Effective Parenting Petition (check here).

And /or you can become a member and supporter of the NEPI, the National Effective Parenting Initiative.

There are three types of memberships available, each of which has its own series of educational benefits and involvement opportunities. Click on the membership type you are most interested in learning about:

Your membership dues are not only used to provide the member benefits but to also support the various advocacy actions that are needed to bring these important matters to the attention of the president and the public in general. This entire effort is of a grassroots nature and membership dues, and funds that have been contributed to CICC over the years, are the only monies that are supporting it now.

For those of you who want to make a financial contribution but do not want to become members of NEPI, you can support this grassroots effort by making a tax-deductible contribution to CICC.

Click here to donate.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Children are People

Movies about families that stay in theatres for more than a couple of weeks usually do so because they shed different and more compelling light on child-parent relationships. Such is certainly true of the film "My One and Only" with Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger.

In a period piece set in the 1950s, Ms. Zellweger plays an engaging but self-centered mother who is forced to put her and her two teenage sons' lives back together after a philandering husband goes too far. She takes her sons out of the prep schools she realizes they have been going to, loads them into a car they can barely drive, and sets off on a cross country journey to find a new life and a new husband.

During the trip she is forced to face the reality of her relationship with a son she loves dearly but hardly even knows. In one of the finest scenes in the film, the son confronts her egocentricity by asking her such questions as does she know his favorite color. Unable to respond with anything other than random guesses, she begins to realize she has done little to get outside of her own needs and wants to find out what sort of a person her son is.

An almost tragic and certainly poignant realization is this -- a realization that resonates with all too many other parents and teenagers.

Bravo to the film makers for bringing such painful truths to the screen. Caution to my fellow parents who do not allow the people who are our children to be the people they are.