Whenever I see episodes of children being maltreated on TV, a wave of frustration and anger overwhelms me.

Children should be protected against all forms of violence and abuse: physical and psychological. Especially in their formative years, they should be raised with much care and positivity that help develop in them a genuine love for the other, an appreciation of the essentials and wonders of life, and the joy of growing up and becoming positive contributors to society.

Fortunately, there are still many pre-schools and elementary schools that do this task well. However, there also are those that use the debunked old-school practice of “reward and punishment.” In such schools, the damage this will cause on children is great. Children under 7 and 8 years of age, in fact, find it difficult to believe that adults can do any wrong.

Therefore, if the child is scolded, punished or abused, he will actually believe that it is his fault and he deserves it. He will also tend to feel anxious, even depressed, and develop a sense of inadequacy or of being a failure. Tell-tale signs that we can look out for in our children who may be suffering some form of violence and maltreatment in school are: school demotivation or his reluctance to go to school, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, erratic attention, difficulty in focusing or in concentration and even difficulty in breathing and self-expression.

On one hand, it is important not to show the child that we are too concerned about this issue by immediately alerting doctors or school authorities; but on the other hand, we should also avoid trivializing the situation by dismissing or denying the indicative signs we see. This is a serious matter that should warrant immediate action, like probing further by asking your child about his situation, observing his behavior at home and being extra alert to changes in his behavior. If we are honest with our child, he will trust us back and be open and cooperative in sharing what happens in school. If we are careful in not alerting panic in our child, we can communicate our parental concern for his welfare.

We must also make the swift and necessary steps to correct the situation before more damage is done. Our assurance that everything will turn out for the better will teach him about love, honesty and trust. The child’s confidence will be restored and he will allow you to intervene because his desire for life and goodness is greater than letting evil and suffering prevail.

Ezio Aceti with Jenni Bulan
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