Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Violence against children – the right to a non-violent upbringing – more than just a stop signal

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40 percent of parents still use violence to discipline their children. Experts are sounding out a newly planned article of law.

Insults, a slap here, a humiliation there. Violence in children’s rooms is still the order of the day in Switzerland. According to a new study by the University of Freiburg, almost 40 percent of parents use physical violence when raising children, and 20 percent use psychological violence.

Violence and degrading practices in education no longer have legitimacy.

A new article in the Civil Code is intended to enshrine the right to non-violent education in law. Experts met today for a Child Protection Switzerland conference in Bern and discussed what this can achieve.

Stefan Schnurr speaks of a turning point and a “motor for cultural change” when he speaks of the new article in the law. The head of the Institute for Child and Youth Welfare at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) emphasizes: “Violence and degrading practices in education no longer have legitimacy.”

Stop signal against degradation

Such a law would be like a stop signal for parents who would raise their children with violence. According to Schnurr, this would be the first time that the state would intervene in education and thus in something very private.

The key word in the law is “degrading,” emphasizes Schnurr. Because not every punishment will be forbidden in the future, but everything that is degrading for the child. The well-being of children is such an important asset that it is permissible to interfere with the parents’ responsibility.

Stagnation after great progress

In principle, violence against children has decreased in the last 30 years, says Dominik Schöbi from the University of Freiburg. This is the sixth time he has asked parents about this in a representative study.

There is a clear increase in violence against children between the ages of three and six.

In the last five to six years, however, Schöbi has noticed stagnation. There is a clear increase in violence in the age group between three and six years.

Increasing: violence due to excessive demands

According to Schöbi, there are basically two groups of parents: The number of parents who view a slap in the face or a slap on the bottom as a means of education has fallen sharply.

In the last three decades, however, the number of those who resort to violence because they are overwhelmed has increased: “With their nerves at their wits’ end, stressed or exhausted at the end of the day – this is how they justify that their ‘hand has slipped’ and they resort to violence have taken hold.”

Good response from parents and professionals

The survey also showed that an overwhelming majority of parents would welcome such a legal article to protect children. Because then it would be clear what is forbidden.

As a professional, you can tell the parents: That’s not possible here, the law doesn’t allow it.

But Schnurr believes that it is also important for specialists such as teachers, school social services or mother and father advisors to be able to refer to an article of the law: “As a specialist you can tell parents: That doesn’t work here, the law doesn’t allow it.”

The sticking point: cantonal advice centers

Specialists could therefore refer to a legal basis when talking to parents. And this is where the second part of the planned law comes into play, according to which the cantons should create advice centers to which parents can turn.

This will probably be the crux of the new law. Because 26 cantons probably have different ideas about such an advisory service. The consultation is currently underway. The discussion in Parliament will not begin for another year at the earliest.

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