Respecting Children has been designed to encourage discussion and reflection on the needs of 21st century children. Children are people in their own right, with contributions to make and ideas to share about family life and community. It is widely acknowledged that violence against children fundamentally breaches their human rights, and this is clearly stated of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC).
The Convention requires States to protect children from ‘all forms of physical and mental violence’ while in the care of parents and others. Activities in the handbook encourage participants to find ways of putting the Convention articles into practice. This handbook is concerned with finding ways of promoting non-violent relationships between children and the key adults in their lives. Issues and questions to do with the roles of churches and communities in relation to these topics are considered. The handbook also looks at ways in which people can actively campaign and contribute towards ending legalised violence against children.
The material is organised under eight topics and there is an optional introductory session. Each topic can be run as a ‘stand-alone’ session or as a workshop of one or two hours or more, or the eight sessions can be run as a full eight-week course. The material and activities can also be dipped into as background notes for workshops, talks, articles or house-groups etc.
- Topic 1 – 21st-century children: needs and rights
- This topic aims to raise greater awareness and respect for children as people in their own right. The needs of children and the issues facing them in the 21st century can be explored through discussion, by noticing how children and adults interact, or by talking about newspaper or magazine articles relating to the topic. Participants are invited to reflect and draw on their own childhood experiences and relate these to the subject of the Rights of the Child. Concerns may be translated into action by considering how the findings of the group can be communicated to the rest of the church community.
- Topic 2 – What is discipline? What is punishment?
- Discipline seems to be one of the most misunderstood words in relation to parenting as it is often confused with punishment. This topic explores the influences on our thinking about discipline and punishment and includes a study of some relevant biblical texts. The key elements of positive non-violent discipline are explored.
- Topic 3 – Moving on from smacking
- This topic builds on the session about discipline and punishment and looks at how children are treated at home and in society. Smacking is considered from a child’s point of view and one of the activities encourages participants to look at countries where children are afforded the same protection from being hit in the home, as other family members.
- Topic 4 – Creating non-violent environments.
- The impacts on children, of the environments in which they live, learn, socialise and play, are discussed. Participants have the opportunity to examine the effects of different forms of violence on children and are invited to do some research on TV and computer games. Different approaches to creating non-violent environments are also explored including the design of a space where children are encouraged to co-operate and learn positive social skills.
- Topic 5 – Positive non-violent parenting
- Many parents are unhappy about smacking their children and say they would rather not do so. This topic follows up the theme in Topic 2 with some practical positive parenting activities, looks at some common behaviour problems and discusses how to solve them using a positive approach. Step 2 considers what parents need in order to sustain a positive approach.
- Topic 6 – Supporting children and parents in the local context
- This topic explores the theme of supporting parents to sustain or change to a positive parenting style and considers the part local church communities can play in encouraging and supporting positive parenting. The importance of being aware of the needs of parents and children at different life stages, and of finding ways to consult with parents and children, is discussed.
- Topic 7 – Developing a whole child policy
- One of the triggers of looking seriously at children can be the development of good practice material for safeguarding children. Addressing the needs of the whole child can underpin the policy by looking at ways of preventing the abuse of children and promoting greater respect for children as people. Children were of central importance in Christ’s teaching about the new social order and this topic is concerned with the way churches engage with and respond to children at different stages of development.
- Topic 8 – Taking action – speaking out
- This topic looks at ways in which participants can respond to the challenges posed by the discussions in previous sessions. A summary of the key findings of previous sessions and recommendations made by participants can form the basis for any future action. From the light of their personal learning experiences, participants are encouraged to find ways of speaking out and taking action in relation to promoting respect for children and enabling them to grow up without violence. The aims of the Children Are Unbeatable! Alliance, progress towards eliminating physical punishment in the home, and ways of supporting this work, is discussed.