Parents don’t know what they don’t know
—Lacie Ketelhut, Program Coordinator, Gundersen Center for Effective Discipline
Parenting a child is the most important job influencing the health of a community. While it is an extremely important life role to many of us, I am unaware of any graduate level education or training programs on how to be an effective parent. The action of parenting is mostly influenced by past childhood experiences, modeling from parents, media, and cultural norms. I often say that parents don’t know what they don’t know. It is a pretty simple concept that is often overlooked in our community-level work to prevent child maltreatment. For example, the use of corporal punishment on a child is well documented in research as a risk factor inhibiting positive health and development. Unfortunately, child abuse often occurs out of a misguided attempt to discipline a child through the use of physical punishment. While research provides a strong link between the use of corporal punishment and a variety of long-term health consequences, we cannot assume that parents know about risks connected to the use of corporal punishment. We cannot assume that parents know what positive guidance strategies in response to challenging behaviors look like. It’s not that parents do well when they want to, but it is that parents do well when they can. In order to prevent child abuse and maltreatment, we need to apply purposeful strategies that achieve parent engagement and empowerment in order to strengthen that primary system of influence on the developing child, the family. We need to apply an intentional focus for building meaningful relationships with families living in our communities. Empower families to be more informed consumers of parenting education and information that supports learning of safe, healthy and effective discipline alternatives to hitting. Strong families will include healthy relationships and safe environments where children feel safe, loved and of value.
No Hit Zones provide organizations and communities the opportunity to support healthy relationships and safe environments for families and children. No Hit Zones are an environmental strategy for raising awareness that hitting is a harmful part of any relationship across the lifespan, especially for the developing child. Providing information, promoting safe places, supporting positive relationship skills, and policy are four strategies that are part of No Hit Zone programs for influencing positive change in attitude and behaviors. Organizations and homes across the country are designating their environments as No Hit Zones with the goal of building a culture of safety and health.
Learn how you can start a No Hit Zone in your organization, community, and home by watching our This is a No Hit Zone webinar May 17, 2:00 p.m. CST.