COPA created this unique learning unit on our approach to positive parenting for parents and caregivers with funding provided by the Law Foundation of Ontario. Work at your own pace. It won’t take very long. The unit is a simple and easy-to-use tool that is divided into three sections.
SCENARIOSExplore everyday situations and ideas for responding positively. The scenarios are separated into three age groups.
DEEPER THINKINGFind thoughts about related subjects (tantrums, discipline, bullying) and short personal essays sprinkled throughout the scenarios.
RESOURCESDiscover related resources and learn more about these topics.
Before you get started, read up on corporal punishment and why COPA promotes Empowerment Parenting.
Over the course of history, corporal punishment was and still is often seen as an important tool for correcting behaviour—or even used to degrade the target.
It was and is still understood by many people as a right. The thinking is that those who have power over another, have the right to use physical force—to discipline, to punish, or to force that person to obey.
Over the course of history, the physical punishment of children has been understood not only as a right, but as something parents should do.
"Spare the rod, spoil the child" is an expression many of us have heard—or even used… believing that we must physically punish children—or we are not doing what we should properly do as guardians.
RESEARCH ALWAYS SHOWS NEGATIVE EFFECTS. In fact, all legitimate research on the subject points to the opposite! Corporal punishment has negative effects on children!
GETTING RID OF CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN CANADA. During the course of history, many of our laws about corporal punishment were changed:
- Beating women and servants became illegal after the 1860s;
- Corporal punishment of slaves disappeared with the codification of Canadian law in 1892;
- And the legal right to strike prisoners was abolished in 1972. (Late!)
SECTION 43. But the legal right to use corporal punishment with young people continues to be permitted even today, under certain circumstances established by the Canadian Criminal Code. It is described in Section 43.
2000. And since 2000, most Canadians began to change their minds about it… because of research and an awareness of children’s rights that—across Canada and around the world.
2004. A wide number of groups got together and led by the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law they took a case to the Supreme Court of Canada. The idea was to get rid of Section 43.
But the Supreme Court did not repeal the section in the Code that allows parents and guardians the right to hit their children—as long as certain limits are not trespassed—what is called “reasonable” according to the law.
2017. The current Canadian federal government promised to get rid of Section 43—it is one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Report that the Trudeau government promised to put into place.
It consists of punishment inflicted on a person's body.
Why do we use the word corporal? The word corporal means to do with the body.
"Children are sick of being called 'the future'. They want to enjoy their childhoods, free of violence, now." – Paulo Pinheiro, 2007, UN General Assembly
Many of you may be surprised to learn that Canada remains one of the world’s only countries of its kind that still allows corporal punishment of children.
Over 50 countries around the world, many with core values similar to ours (and even many without!) have prohibited the use of this disciplinary approach with children and wards. This is in great part due to research into the effects of corporal punishment that continues to confirm all arguments against its positive value.
The vast majority of Canadians believe that corporal punishment should not be used or sanctioned and are surprised to learn that it is still legal in our country.
In spite of endless research showing its harm, in spite of a general rejection by the vast majority of Canadians of this type of treatment of children, in spite of the fact that the Canadian government discourages its usage, in spite of the fact that the United Nations has repeatedly reprimanded Canada for allowing it—Canadian parents are still permitted to use corporal punishment as long as they respect the following restrictions:
- The use of force to correct a child is only allowed to help the child learn and can never be used in anger.
- The child must be at least two years old and no older than twelve.
- The force used must be called reasonable, and its impact only “transitory and trifling” (words of the Supreme Court). Hitting a child in anger or in retaliation for something a child did is not considered reasonable and is against the law—no matter the age of the child.
- One cannot use an object, such as a ruler or belt, when using corporal punishment—no matter the age of the child.
- One cannot not hit or slap a child’s head—no matter the age of the child.
- The seriousness of what happened or what the child did is not relevant and should not affect the punishment.
And yes, being all of those things is so important, isn’t it! Guiding children gently, so that they are trusting and self-confident and capable really means we are loving and patient. This is even harder to do when we didn’t get that kind of care when we were small.
The purpose of this Learning Unit is to help us all work toward being more able to lean into our children, and be those gentle guides.
At COPA, we believe that children’s feelings do matter—and that making sure that they get listened to is a key job for adults caring for children. We also believe that adults do play a key role in the lives of children. Listening to children does not mean just letting things happen, or giving up. We know that children who know that the adults in their lives care for them and believe in them, have an easier time in life and are more able to manage life’s many challenges.
That doesn’t mean it’s not all hard to do. It’s usually very hard! Sometimes, the more we care, the harder it gets. Our children are precious to us and we are often just worried and scared. This might not always bring out the best in us.
That’s why we have written scenarios up here that we have all had to deal with. We have all done better or worse in these scenarios. We know that no one is perfect. But thinking about them and practicing helps us get better.
Most importantly, we can try to be that kind of caregiver that respects the feelings of young people, helps build trusting relationships and in the end gets us better results! Children will sense this and respond to our attempts.
Hopefully working through these scenarios and reading COPA’s thoughts and ideas will make these attempts a little easier.