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No Spank Day a Hit

The Windsor Star, April 26, 2008

When you're trying to convince people not to hit their kids, it's sometimes best to use a gentle hand, or even some crayons.

That was the philosophy behind the No Spank Day Family Event on the weekend at Devonshire Mall.

The Windsor Essex Children's Aid Society put it on in the lead up to International No Spank Day on April 30.

"We're finding that if we do a parenting event, and talk to parents about positive discipline and discourage the use of corporal punishment, that they're more open and willing to listen to us than if we were out picketing against spanking," said Tina Gatt, CAS manager of Public Relations and Prevention.

International No Spank Day began a decade ago. The idea is to get caregivers who use corporal punishment to refrain hitting children on that day, and seek alternative discipline methods from there on.

The CAS child abuse prevention committee put on the weekend event with face painting and crafts for the kids, and information for the parents.

The CAS also had on display the winning entries of the third annual Kent Billinghurst Positive Parenting Award, named after the late advocate and educator.

The contest, in which kids nominate their parents, allows children to focus on the good things their moms and dads are doing. There were more than 200 entries.

The winner was Livia Tipping, 9, a Grade 4 Lakeshore Discovery student, who sent in a drawing of her family and an explanation of why her parents are great.

"My parents are good role models because they don't swear, hit or yell," she wrote. "They encourage me by cheering me on and congratulating me. They are positive and don't give up. They teach me to go for my dreams."

Gatt said that's an example of the positive effects parents can have by not spanking.

"Even if it doesn't leave physical injuries on children, it does create an impairment in the relationship," she said. "What kids end up saying is my mom or my dad doesn't like me, I'm bad. It's really taking the focus away from the behaviour."

She said parents should instead instead focus on the consequences of actions. Removal of privileges might be an answer, she said.

Katrina Brunelle, 20, said her approach is talking to her two-year-old twins Caden and Damon.

"If they don't understand what they did wrong, guide them in the other direction," she said.

Chris and Melissa Etches try to be positive with their children, two-and-a-half year old Chelsea and two-month old Hannah.

"There are other ways of getting discipline," said Chris. "We try to stay with positive reinforcement. Tell her what she does right, other than what she does wrong."

Gatt said they still got a lot of resistance from some people. But that's OK.

"It gives us opportunity to really engage people that are still resistant, that still have very outdated beliefs around parenting," she said. "We feel like we're making more impact when we're not just preaching to the converted." (…)

Seventeen countries have outlawed corporal punishment. Canada isn't one of them. Sweden was the first in 1979. The most recent was Spain in 2007.

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