The death of Nashawn Brown, resulting from the beating by his stepfather is not an anomaly. Every day, throughout Jamacia, regardless of class and ethnicity, children are abused emotionally, physically and sexually. This must stop. We must learn and understand that children are not empty vessels and not our property to do with as we feel. We must not take out our anger and frustration on our children. We must honour and respect our children, and we must not stand by and watch adults abuse children. Those of us who know better, must be the voice of children who are unable to speak for and defend themselves.
Whenever I see children out, whether going to school, church or some function, they are always well-groomed. It is evident that a parent or guardian invested time and energy to achieve that appearance. However, it seems that parents do not take the same amount of pride in the psychological and emotional welfare of their children.
What we as parents say to our children has deep, life-lasting implications. If we want children who are intelligent and compassionate and emotionally intelligent, then as parents we have to provide them with an opportunity to practice and internalise these values.
Contrary to what some adults might believe, each child comes into this world fully equipped with a unique personality, with specific likes and dislikes. While parents or guardians are intended to guide our children, we are not expected to dominate nor terrorise them.
When I do workshops, parents often throw out the Bible phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child,” which is taken completely out of context. No matter how you slice it, beating is violence. Although there should be no corporal punishment in schools, we know that children are being damaged irreparably by some teachers who humiliate them because they might not understand a certain lesson. Teachers are co-parents so it is vital that teachers are instructed in the psychology of children.
The data says that 75 per cent of adults who are in jail were abused as children. Those who rape, mutilate and murder, were abused as children. Here are the inescapable facts:
- 80 percent of Jamaican children experience or witness violence in their homes and communities, and 60 percent experience violence at school.
- More than 40 percent of persons treated at public health facilities for attempted suicide are children between the ages of 14 and 16.
- Adults who engage in violence against their intimate partners or children, experienced and or witnessed violence in their homes or communities when growing up.
If we treat children with integrity, show them love and compassion we are on the pathway to creating an open, honest and healthy society. Let us act as if each child is our most precious treasure. Listen to our children. Speak softly and kindly. Do not be quick to judge or interpret their actions based on your own adult reasoning. Give them the benefit of doubt as you discipline, do it with love and compassion. Model kindness. Model forgiveness.
Opal Palmer Adisa
before she was four
she was thumped
pinched slapped in the face
by the time she was six
she’d been beaten with stick shoes
pot the hook of a fruit picker
her mother has shoved her
causing her to stumble
in the market for walking
too slow with the heavy basket
then cursed her out:
you too damn clumsy and weaky-weaky
her grandmother had spat on her
and knocked her in her head with a stone
for saying good morning to the woman who was
her grandmother’s life-long enemy
the teacher had slapped
her in her hands with the ruler until they swelled
because she couldn’t remember
nine times eight and when she said
her head hurt the teacher shamed her
now at twenty-three with four children
two fathers she expects to be thumped slapped
spread and entered with force
any friday night when her man
comes home drunk feeling defeated
she expects to be cussed out/grabbed by the throat
when she asked for money to help with food
and when her frustration and anxiety mount
which is all the time she shoves and pushes
her children for clinging to her screams at them
ah wish oonuh would just dead
and leave me the blasted hell alone
then she pulls and hugs then tightly
to her bosom head throbbing
as she mumbles is love me love oonuh
is so love hurt