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Domestic CP - May 2000

Corpun file 5723


The New Paper, Singapore, 15 May 2000





A STUDY by the Singapore Children's Society explores how different professions view child abuse.

The study - titled Professional and Public Perceptions of Child Abuse and Neglect in Singapore: An Overview - polled 1,238 professionals who deal with children.

These included social workers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, nurses and police officers.

The study found that there was disagreement about what child abuse means.

A child left alone at home: This is more likely to be considered child abuse by teachers and nurses than by social workers.

Caning a child: This is more likely to be considered abuse by police officers and nurses than by social workers and lawyers.

There was also disagreement about emotional abuse.

This implies a need for more consensus among professionals so there can be more consistent public education about child abuse and neglect.

Be quiet, girls! Daddy has had a long day at work

YOUR child is throwing a tantrum and you reach for the cane. And strike, again and again.
To many Singaporean parents caning is harmless. Some even think it necessary.
But some social work professionals believe that excessive caning is child abuse.
Take the case of Grace, 10, and her little sister, Sarah, four (not their real names).
The sisters were frequently caned by their odd-job labourer father who is in his mid-40s.
He couldn't stand their noisy complaining after a long day's work.
Explained the children's counsellor, Miss Poh Wai Leng, 28:
"Their father had a problem managing his anger.
"After a long day's work, he just wanted some peace and quiet. And when he couldn't have his way, he used the cane to get what he wanted."
Worse, his wife was suffering from cancer, and her health deteriorated towards the end of last year.
Added Miss Poh:
"The (girls') mother was sick and he had to deal with the medical bills. She was in and out of the hospital many times.
"His wife used to handle all housework and take care of the kids. When she fell ill, he had to take over, adding to the stress."
But his senseless caning of his children began before his wife's illness.
Whenever he was irritated by their loud wails, he whipped out the cane.
While shouting at them to keep quiet, he would hit them. Often, the children ran to their mother for help. In his anger, he even hit his wife accidentally.
But the father knew he couldn't go on like that.
When his wife died early this year, he sought help.
His children are now being cared for by a relative while he undergoes counselling to manage his anger.
When The New Paper visited the girls recently, they seemed happy. All smiles, Grace talked about her day in school.
But when we asked her about her father, she turned sullen. Not because she hated him for caning them.
In fact, she misses him.
The sisters look forward to weekends, when their father spends time with them.
Said Grace: "Last week, we went swimming. Then we went to eat burgers."
Little Sarah added: "You know, my mummy died. But I have papa."
Grace was uncomfortable when talking about how her father used to cane them.
But she understands why he did.
She said in Mandarin:
"We always fight for toys. Sarah cries very loudly and she can cry for very very long.
"Then Papa would get angry and cane us."
"I felt scared, sad and angry," she muttered.
They still want him to spend more time with them.
Said Grace: "I love my papa."
IS caning a child discipline or abuse?
It depends on why you're caning. If it's a thrashing out of sheer anger, and you're losing control, it can be abuse.
"Some people think that excessive caning without hurting the child seriously is abuse. Others might not," said Madam Koh Wah Khoon, 44, who has been a counsellor for 22 years.
A recent study on perceptions of child abuse showed the differences
Draw up a set of regulations so your child knows the boundaries - this way, you are telling the child, "You are responsible for your own behaviour".
Explain your actions after you've caned the child.
Hug or reassure the child. Say that you don't like what he did, but you still love him.
Madam S K Tay, 50 and mother of five, believes in the cane.
She said: "How can it be abuse? It's not as if you're breaking their limbs.
"I use it only when I'm very angry and as I hit them, I'll explain to them why I'm doing it."
The New Paper asked Mrs Daisie Yip, in her late 40s and principal of Greenridge Primary School, for her view.
"Do we need to hurt a child to make him change? Why cause pain to a child when you're not sure if that will make him change?"
Be consistent.
"You cane your child today because he didn't do well in his examinations," consultant child psychiatrist Dr Brian Yeo, 39, explained.
"The next day, he scratches your car but you don't because you are in a good mood.
Inconsistent caning can create a delinquent child, he said.
Copyright 2000 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.  

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