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I See… I Learn – Best Start Resource Centre Campaign


I Introduction
II Background Research
III Campaign Plan
IV Key Organizations
V Positive Discipline Parenting Programs
VI References

--submitted by Louise Choquette, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre – Health Nexus

I Introduction

The Best Start Resource Centre is planning an awareness campaign on child discipline for the fall of 2015. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the prevalence of physical and emotional punishment of children from birth to age six. Over the past year, background research was conducted to ensure the campaign strategies are evidence-based and meet the needs of parents. This article highlights some of the evidence collected and describes the planned strategies.

II Background Research

1)  Interviews were conducted with 18 experts in the field of child discipline from Canada and the United States. In summary, they suggested the following:

  • Make sure the message is clear: Corporal and emotional punishment are not acceptable under any condition. Use a concrete, simple label/message/slogan.
  • Aim to change parents’ attitude towards punishment since attitude may predict behaviour.
  • Focus on situations that are predictors of physical punishment of children and offer alternative behaviours.
  • Help parents see the situations from the child’s point of view and developmental level.
  • Help parents think long term about the effects of punishment on the parent-child relationship and the way the child will interact with others.
  • Use a strengths-based approach to promote parenting practices, as suggested in the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth ( (endorsed by 500 organizations).
    • Restructuring the environment so that the child can explore safely.
    • Distracting the child from dangerous objects.
    • Modeling appropriate behaviour.
    • Explaining and teaching.
    • Supervising the child.
    • Reinforcing the desired behaviour.
    • Preparing the child for transitions.
    • Planning for challenging situations.
    • Establishing expectations and limits ahead of time.
  • Since some parenting programs suggest the use of time-outs and some parents use this strategy, the campaign should explain how to provide time-outs so they are not punitive, but rather as a way to learn to calm down and think about the proper behaviour – involve a conversation, a “time-in.”
  • Create a product that is sustainable, low-literacy and can go beyond provincial borders.

2)  An environmental scan of other campaigns on the topic of child discipline was completed and available evaluation data was reviewed.

Some of the campaigns reviewed focused more on the harmful effects of corporal punishment, others focused more on what parents can do to help guide their children and respond to challenging behaviour.

A few campaigns were carried out in Ontario, mainly through public health, and others were carried out internationally. Some involved television ads and all included print materials, offering alternative suggestions to parents.

Slogans included:

3) A literature review of best practices regarding child discipline was completed to help define effective strategies. We wanted to know “What should we be telling the parents to do and how is the research supporting this?” The recommended practices are in line with the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth (see above).

4) A parent survey was completed by 500 parents of children zero – six years old to assess parental attitudes, behaviours and needs regarding child discipline.

  • Twenty-six % of parents (34% of fathers, 21% of mothers) think slapping/spanking are effective methods to educate a child (25% indicate they do it at least once a week).
  • A large majority of parents believe that putting a child in time-out is an effective discipline method and used that technique.
  • Parents who use corporal punishments belong to all socio-economic groups.
  • Parents are influenced in their parenting by family, friends and colleagues. Their main information sources in this area are Internet and social media, as well as their child’s teacher or educator and their health care provider. Internet is particularly influential for parents aged less than 35 years old.
  • A report on this parent survey is available at:

5) A needs assessment of service providers who work in maternal child health was conducted. Service providers indicate it would be useful for them to have access to:

  • Ready-to-use parent workshop materials
  • Print materials to give to parents, such as a pamphlet or growth chart
  • Parent tips for social media sharing
  • Web buttons
  • Ready-to-use articles and print ads.

Many service providers indicate it would be great to have television and radio public service announcements (PSAs), but feel their organizations would not be able to fund the distribution. The charitable status of Health Nexus, under which the Best Start Resource Centre operates, does offer the possibility to disseminate PSAs within Ontario at a reduced cost.

III Campaign Plan

Over the past years, the Best Start Resource Centre has done a number of campaigns on a variety of topics: Health Before Pregnancy (, Alcohol Free Pregnancy (, Life with a New Baby (, Have a Ball Together (, and Healthy Baby Healthy Brain (

Much learning has taken place and media has evolved considerably over that time period. To respond to the needs of the parents and support service providers, the following draft campaign strategies are planned for the proposed child discipline campaign:

  • A website, with four short videos, approximately five minutes each. The videos will cover the following age groups: infant (0 – 1.5 years), toddler (1.5 – 2.5 years), pre-schoolers (2.5 – 3.5 years) and child entering school (3.5 – 6 years). The videos will provide examples of parents using positive discipline methods to deal with everyday situations with their child. Theywill include interviews with experts and parents. Links to additional resources and programs for parents will be provided.
  • A ready-to-use parent workshop (duration 1– 2 hours), derived from the videos above, will be distributed through Ontario Early Years Centers, public health units and social work agencies.
  • Television and radio public service announcements will be designed with a message stating that physical and corporal punishment is unacceptable, and directing viewers to the above website for alternatives. These public service announcements will also be disseminated through social media.
  • A growth chart with positive discipline messageswill be distributed to parents by childcare providers, with a special focus on distributing to fathers. Growth charts will also be provided to Ontario Early Years Centers for distribution. Samples will be provided to Family Health Teams in public health.
  • A series of parent tips will be developed for distribution through social media. These will direct parents to the website. Letter-sized posters containing these parent tips will also be provided to Ontario Early Years Centres.
  • Complementary tools will be provided to service providers to promote the website (camera-ready ads, articles, web buttons).
  • Training sessions will be offered to service providers to help them convey the messages to parents.

Timely information regarding the campaign will be provided to service providers through the Best Start listservs (available at For more information contact Louise Choquette at

IV Key Organizations

Centre for Effective Discipline. A US-based non-profit organization which provides educational information to the public on the effects of corporal punishment of children and alternatives to its use. One of their key publications is It Hurts Me More Than it Hurts You: In Words and Pictures, Children Share How Spanking Hurts and What to Do Instead.

Child Welfare League of Canada. The Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC) is the voice for vulnerable children in Canada. One of their key publications is Be the Best Parent You Can Be: Why Positive Discipline Works, available in many languages.

Children are Unbeatable Alliance. A UK-based organization campaigning for the abolition of all forms of physical punishment and for the promotion of positive discipline. The website offers a variety of support materials and research.

Committee on the Rights of the Child - United Nations Human Rights. The role of this international organization is to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all countries who have ratified it.

Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children.This organization aims to ensure that the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and other human rights bodies are accepted and that governments move speedily to implement legal reform and public education programs. The website provides information on the global progress towards ending corporal punishment.

National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. The focus of this Australia-based organization is to bring about the changes necessary in individual and community behaviour to stop child abuse and neglect before it starts. Its website contains posters, brochures, web banners and videos.

US Alliance to End the Hitting of Children. An organizing movement, vying to increase the strength of organizations committed to ending corporal punishment of children. Their website has a number of downloadable resources, including research, videos, pictures, pamphlets, etc.

V Positive Discipline Parenting Programs

Nobody’s Perfect. A parenting education and support program for parents of children from birth to age five. It is designed to meet the needs of parents who are young, single, socially or geographically isolated or who have low income or limited formal education.

Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting. A parent support program developed by Dr. Joan Durrant and Save the Children that helps parents gradually move away from physical and emotional punishment and toward solutions that nurture their children’s healthy development and learning.

The Incredible Years. The Incredible Years Program is a series of evidence-based programs for parents, children, and teachers. The goal is to prevent and treat young children's behavior problems and promote their social, emotional, and academic competence.

Triple P. A program that gives parents simple and practical strategies to help them confidently manage their children’s behaviour, prevent problems from developing and build strong, healthy relationships.

VI References

Durrant, J.E., Ensom, R., and Coalition on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. (2004). Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. Ottawa: Coalition on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. Retrieved from

Durrant, J, &Ensom, R. (2012) Physical punishment of children: lessons from 20 years of research. CMAJ. 184:1373-1376. Retrieved from EnsomCMAJ2012.pdf.

Gershoff, E.T. (2002). Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review. Psychological Bulletin. 128(4): 539-579. Retrieved from

Gershoff, E.T. (2010). More Harm Than Good: A Summary of Scientific Research on the Intended and Unintended Effects of Corporal Punishment on Children. Law and Contemporary Problems. 73(2):31-56. Retrieved from

Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children. (2013). Review of Research on the Effects of Corporal Punishment: Working Paper. Retrieved from