Parents should be encouraged to be affectionate towards their children but obsessive concern could result in them losing control of their emotions and, at times, sanity.
Parents are playing with their kids.
This warning from Hong Kong social workers came after the Tuen Mun Court sentenced a 46-year-old man to two weeks in jail for forcing his 10-year-old son to walk naked in public for failing to do his homework. The sentence, however, was suspended for one year.
Another man pled guilty in the same court to thrashing his 14-year-old son with a wooden ruler after discovering he'd lied about going through the rigors of his daily exercise regimen--skipping 1,300 times, 1,600 leg stretches and running 50 laps of the corridor outside his home.
The father told the court he'd increased the intensity and time of the exercise regimen with the age of the boy. He flew into a rage because his son had not only lied but also asked his sister to do so.
Such experiences could affect children's interpersonal skills and some of them may even think of ending their lives and setting a completely wrong precedent for others.
According to Social Welfare Department statistics 387 child abuse cases were reported in the first six months of 2006 with 193 of them being physical abuse. Parents were to blame in 241 cases followed by relatives and friends (38) and siblings (13).
Against Child Abuse (ACA) and Caritas Personal Growth Centre for Men (CPGCM) are two of the many social organizations trying to correct the problem. ACA director, Priscilla Lui and CPGCM supervisor, Lai Wai-lun, both agree that in these days of nuclear families some parents are obsessed with their children's futures and well being. They think, Lui says, that "the more serious the punishment, the more affection the children will get.
"Such parents believe their children's knowledge and sense of responsibility will be reinforced if they are subjected to painful and negative feelings," Lui said. "This mindset should be changed."
Lai wants parents to drop the idea that they've the authority to choose any punishment they want because everything they do is for the good of their children. It's wrong to think that parents have the right to be harsh and lose their head when children don't obey them. "It's when parents feel their children are being disrespectful that they get angry and beat them up," he says.
Lai's center has organized "emotional control" workshops for fathers. Many believe humiliating their children would improve their behavior. "Today's fathers underwent the same process when they were children but have not realized that beating up a child may not be effective all the time. In fact, it harms the child."
Parents shouldn't lose control of their emotions, Lai urges. Today's parents should think of other ways to handle their emotions instead of beating up their children. "For instance they can walk away from the scene and drink a glass of water to cool down," Lai observed.
Parents could also learn from the methods used by their peers.
But Lai agrees that today's parents are under immense pressure not only in their workplaces but from the entire community. Many still fear losing their jobs even though the economy has improved. "So when their children disobey them they become very frustrated," said Lai.
Treat even wayward children with love and care if you want them to mend their ways, Lai says. Talk to them and make them understand the problems and their responsibilities.
Lui says, "It's natural for children to have their own ideas and to go against their parents' wishes. Parents should be open-minded and let such children make their own choices as long as it's not harmful."
And she wants more education programs aimed at teaching parents how to better communicate with their children.
(China Daily January 23, 2007)