April Signals Child Abuse Prevention Month; Vacaville Honors National Campaign
By Paula LeDoux, LMFT, Family Times, April 12, 2006

In the spring of 1989, Bonnie Finney of Norfolk, Virginia, tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her van as a sign to her community of her personal battle against child abuse. Bonnie's three-year-old grandson, Michael "Bubba" Dickenson, had died of injuries inflicted by her daughter's violent boyfriend. In Bonnie's words: "The blue ribbon serves as a constant reminder…to fight for protection for our children. We must protect our most precious gift…our children. Please wear a blue ribbon…put one on your car…give one to your friends…tell them what it means…you may change a child's life."

The spirit of the Blue Ribbon Campaign has spread, and is now honored nationwide during the month of April, Child Abuse Prevention Month. Last year, 825 children in the city of Vacaville were reported as abused or neglected to Child Protective Services. In recognizing these children there will be a blue ribbon tree in front of City Hall on Merchant Street. Each ribbon tied to the tree represents two children who had a child abuse case investigated. Many local residents joined the Vacaville Police Department's FIRST unit when it recognized the significance of child abuse in Vacaville when they tied a blue ribbon on the tree in front of City Hall, on Merchant Street, at noon on April 11th.

In addition, SpankOut Day USA was initiated in 1998 to give widespread attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. The City of Vacaville has proclaimed April 30th 2006 as Spank Out Day. All caregivers of children are urged to recognize SpankOut Day USA by not using corporal punishment on children and by instituting positive discipline methods instead. Corporal punishment of children is unsupported by research, sometimes leads to injury, alienates caregivers and children, and contributes to the cycle of physical violence by teaching it is acceptable to hit people who are weaker and smaller. EPOCH USA (Ending Physical Punishment of Children) offers the following 10 guidelines for raising well behaved children:

  1. Whenever possible, teach rather than punish. The goal of discipline is to teach children acceptable behavior. Hitting children does not teach acceptable behavior. It teaches children that "might makes right" and hitting is a way to solve problems. View children's misbehavior as a mistake in judgment. It will be easier to think of ways to teach more acceptable behavior.

  2. Whenever possible, make consequences relate to misbehavior. If a child hurts someone's feelings, the child should apologize. It the child makes a mess, he/she should clean it up.

  3. Have behavior rules, but make sure they are few in number, reasonable, and appropriate to the child's age and development.

  4. Make sure that consequences for misbehavior are reasonable and clear.

  5. Don't argue or nag children about rules. If a rule is broken, remind the child of the rule and the consequence for not following the rule. When you give a command, speak in a firm voice and repeat the command only twice.

  6. If your child has many behaviors that concern you, don't try to change all of them at once. Choose one behavior of concern. Explain why it is a problem. Provide consequences for misbehavior and praise positive actions when your child demonstrates it.

  7. Distract infants and toddlers when they are doing something you don't like or remove them from the situation. Infants and toddlers do not understand right and wrong and should not be hit or shaken.

  8. Use good manners when talking to children about their behavior. Be sure to use "I'm sorry," "May I?" and "Excuse me" when they are appropriate.

  9. Be a good model for your children in your speech and actions.

  10. Catch your child being good! Your praise or hug will increase appropriate behavior.
For more information on Parenting classes available through the Vacaville Police Department contact Gary Stanoff at 449-6151 or GStanoff@cityofvacaville.com For more information on positive discipline see www.stophitting.org

Editor's Note: Paula LeDoux, LMFT, is a Master Social Worker with the Vacaville Police Department and is the clinical supervisor for the Child Abuse Response Team and Family Resource Center

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