The Need for Child Discipline Seminars in the Fort Bragg Military Community
The survey conducted to more than a hundred military service personnel at Fort Bragg, one of the largest and most active military bases in the eastern USA, revealed an overwhelming support for child discipline seminars to be conducted in their community. From the total of 2,325 responses derived from the survey, 50% believe that the need for child discipline, together with educating families, working with support groups and deriving services from the Department of Social Services, is highly important, 28% say that it is important, 15% say that it is not so important and 7% say that it is not important at all. This awareness of the need for child discipline seminars can be attributed to the dramatic changes that have occurred in the lives of military families. According to Dr. Barbara Howard (2008):
Major operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have necessitated more and longer deployments, more family separations, and more relocations than in recent memory. Mothers are serving as well as fathers. Military losses and casualties are greater than the nation has experienced in decades. Many of deployed troops serve in the National Guard rather than in active duty military branches, and therefore may live far from military bases and the support services they offer to families (para.1).
With this situation, military personnel can feel that military families face more emotional and developmental challenges. Respect for the service, the sacrifices being made by America’s soldiers and being in harm’s way are part of their job description. The military culture prizes duty and loyalty and even the hardships of military life are honorable. Unfortunately, that philosophy often doesn’t conform well to the needs or abilities of developing children (Howard, para. 8, 9)
The Importance of Disciplining Children in the Early Ages
The survey showed that 49% of the responses gear toward child discipline as being highly important in the early ages. For ages between 1 to 3 years old, 14% feel that child discipline is important but not as highly important as is needed for elementary school ages where 62% say it is highly important, for the middle school ages where 65% say it is highly important and for the high school ages where 58% say it is highly important. Parents believe that it is during the school ages when discipline becomes crucial as the children begin to be exposed to the outside world together with peers and children from outside the family. A total of 8% of the responses, however, indicate that child discipline in the early ages is not important at all.
The highest percentage was derived for middle school ages where 65% of the responses indicate that child discipline is highly important. This is the age level where not even one respondent answered that child discipline is not important at all. This is the period of early adolescence, a time of many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. Hormones change as puberty begins. This will also be a time when a teenager might face peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco products and drugs, and to have sex.
The next high percentage was derived for elementary school ages where 62% of the responses indicate that child discipline is highly important. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.), middle childhood from ages six to eight brings many changes to a child’s life. Developing independence from the family becomes more important now. Events such as starting school bring children this age into regular contact with the larger world. Friendships become more and more important. Physical, social, and mental skills develop rapidly at this time. This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as through friends, schoolwork, and sports.
The third high percentage was derived for high school ages where 58% of the responses indicate that child discipline is highly important. This is the middle adolescence age from 15 to 17 years old. The middle adolescence age is a time for physical, mental, cognitive and sexual changes for the teenager. During this phase of development, the teenager is developing his unique personality and opinions. Middle adolescence is also an important time to prepare for more independence and responsibility; many teenagers start working, and many will be leaving home soon after high school. Emotional and social changes that might be noticed in the teenager include increased interest in the opposite sex, decreased conflict with parents, increased independence from parents, deeper capacity for caring and sharing, the development of more intimate relationships, and decreased time spent with parents and more time spent with peers. (Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.)
Types of Discipline
When asked about what type of discipline is more effective, 55% of the total responses indicate that the military service members believe that spanking, timeouts, taking away games or TV, extra chores and enforcing curfew are highly important.
Taken individually, timeouts got the highest approval of 69% as being highly important, 19% say it is important, 12% say it is not so important and 0% says that it is not important at all. Time-out is a discipline technique that involves placing children in a very boring place for several minutes following unacceptable behaviors.
Taking away games or TV showed a 68% approval as being highly important, 18% say it is not so important, 14% say it is important, and 0% says it is not important at all. In order to
become an effective form of discipline, it requires some skill to take away privileges such as determining what a child will really miss and the length of time in imposing the punishment. Resorting to other more positive methods of discipline such as giving privileges or rewards when the child behaves well is encouraged.
Enforcing curfew is the third type of discipline with high approval where 54% say it is highly important, 21% say it is important, 14% say it is not so important and 11% say it is not important at all. The reason for enforcing curfew must be clear to the child especially that the goal is to keep him safe. A child may be disciplined for forgetting or ignoring his curfew.
Spanking ranks fourth in the approval rating for type of discipline with 38% saying it is highly important, 23% say it is important, 23% say it is not so important and 15% say it is not important at all. Although corporal punishment has been abandoned in public schools, many still believe in the effectiveness of spanking in disciplining children as having more beneficial outcomes.
Extra chores received more responses as being important where 45% say it is important, 41% say it is highly important, 9% say it is not so important and 5% say it is not important at all. Not only are chores an effective means of teaching children discipline and responsibility but they teach children life skills.
The Need for Child Discipline Seminars
Seventy-two percent of the respondents believe that it is very important for families to be educated on child discipline in the military community. Another 12% say it is important, 15% say it is not so important and 1% say it is not important at all. The military family is shaped by
frequent moves, absence of a parent, authoritarian family dynamics, strong patriarchal authority, and threat of parental loss in war. Military culture is unique due to the tightly knit communities that perceive these traits as normal. Although the children did not choose to belong to it, military culture can have a long-term impact on the children (Wertsch, 1991, p. 350). Child discipline seminars for military families need to be adapted to the situations in military communities.
Workshops that deal with what it means to discipline children and the ways it can be accomplished most effectively can be conducted. Topics can include strategies for encouraging children to behave appropriately, communicating in ways that really work, increasing cooperation, how parents can best respond to attitude problems that they see in their children, child development, temperament, expecting and giving respect, and the impact that a military lifestyle has on children.
Educating Families with Deployed Service Members
Sixty-nine percent of the respondents believe that it is very important for families with deployed service members to be educated on child discipline. Another 23% say it is important, 8% say it is not so important and 0% says it is not important at all.
Today, more military families have both parents serving in the armed forces. This creates the possibility that both parents may be deployed at the same time. Military Psychiatrist Colonel Stephen Cozza says that a “sense of fear” accompanies news of the death of a service member until confirmation that the service member was not a loved one. Studies show that when a military member is deployed to a combat zone, the family cohesion is more disrupted than when service members are deployed to non-combat zones (Cozza, Chun & Polo, 2005). It is therefore
important that families of deployed members be educated on how to properly discipline children in their families so that they can adapt well to the special situation they are in.
Working with Family Readiness Group (FRG)
Fifty-four of the respondents see it as very important that child discipline be incorporated with Family Readiness Group (FRG) programs. Another 23% say it is important, 15% say it is not so important and 8% say it is not important at all.
The FRG is a command sponsored organization of family members, volunteers, soldiers, and civilian employees belonging to a unit, that together provide an avenue of mutual support and assistance and a network of communications among the family members, the chain of command, chain of concern, and community resources. The FRG leader should be a person in a non-deployable status, preferably a spouse. Often, the FRG leader is the commander’s spouse, though not always. Any spouse in the unit who is willing and able to lead the efforts of the FRG can serve as FRG leader. The commander may select the leader, or the leader may be elected by the FRG membership (Morale, Welfare and Recreation [MWR], 2009).
The result of the survey, if implemented, will entail child discipline seminars on top of the jobs already being performed by the FRG which include providing information and referrals to families who need assistance to the appropriate installation/community resources, scheduling and coordinating training and providing assistance with the preparation of pre-deployment, sustainment and reunion activities (MWR, 2009).
Who should be involved in the seminars. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents believe that it is important that the seminars offered by the Family Readiness Group involve the entire family. Another 25% say it is very important, 13% say it is not so important and 4% say it is not important at all.
Twenty-four Hour Professional Telephone Help Lines.
Twenty-four percent of the respondents believe that it is very important to have a 24-hour professional help available for parents where trained, professional counselors with experience in helping families will listen and give support and assistance, provide information on relevant issues and services on a wide range of parenting issues such as behavior and emotional problems, discipline, adolescent issues, family relationships, sole parent issues, school problems, child care and juvenile justice. Fifty percent say it is important, 12% say it is not so important and 12% say it is not important at all.
Additional Childcare or Support Groups
Seventy-three percent of the respondents believe that it is very important to have additional childcare. Another 15% say it is important, 9% say it is not so important and 2% say it is not important at all.
With regard to support groups, 32% say it is very important, 50% say it is important, 11% say it is not so important and 8% say it is not important at all. Support groups can help active duty parents to focus on work, boosts productivity and safety and reduces stress. They can provide tools for active duty parents to cope with the challenges of raising children in a military family.
Workshops can assist expectant servicewomen as they make the transition into parenthood. Topics may include budgeting for baby program. Workshops can also provide information about discomfort in pregnancy, baby care, baby basics, infant CPR, home safety, feeding an infant and other relevant knowledge. Home visits can help one learn parenting skills in the home, check on a baby’s growth and development, and offer suggestions to deal with the changes a new baby brings to the family and provide safe and nurturing environment for children. Home visitation programs can be conducted by volunteers who can do counseling and referrals to other resources which the family can easily contact or reach for their specific needs. The services and range of activities they can offer should match the level of family needs.
Parenting skills training can help parents manage the challenges associated with raising children of various ages and stages from toddlers to teenagers. Support groups can conduct parenting programs that provide useful tips and information that are aimed at helping parents become better parents.
Support groups can also tackle the myths of step family living, the different roles a stepparent may assume, the stages a step family goes through as they develop, and tips for handling discipline. Discussions can include information on step-parenting in a military family considering that there are occasions when both parents may be deployed at the same time. Single parents on active duty can also be helped by support groups on how to balance their military and parental responsibilities and look at the opportunities and challenges of parenting alone in the military.
Another type of support is giving military parents the opportunity to interact with other military parents in discussion and networking for support and socialization. The children of
military parents can also be given the opportunity to engage in free and structured play with one another. Both parents and children are able to learn new ways and to have fun together.
Services from the Department of Social Services
Forty-two percent of the respondents believe that it is very important for the Department of Social Services (DSS) to offer education to military families. Another 19% say it is important, 27% say it is not so important and 12% say it is not important at all. The call to active military service may mean that some individuals and their families require special social services assistance which the DSS can provide by means of programs and services that can assist the brave men and women who are leaving the comforts of health and home to preserve and protect the nation. The education for military families can be incorporated with the current services already being offered by the DSS such as the family assistance and support services, individual and family counseling, family advocacy programs for assistance involving child abuse or child neglect, programs that are geared toward preventing family problems and spiritual help from military chaplains and other enlisted religious support personnel (Military.com., 2009)
Education to Families Once Service Member Returns
Fifty-four percent of the respondents believe that it is very important for returning service members to have counseling seminars from the Department of Social Services (DSS). Another 35% say it is important, 8% say it is not so important and 4% say it is not important at all. According to Dr. Barbara Howard (2008):
Fortunately for most families, there is finally a joyous homecoming, but even then,
the relief may be only partial. The returning parent may have an injury, physical or
emotional, obvious or unrecognized. Mom or Dad went away whole but comes back
impaired. It’s not the parent they knew. In particular, traumatic brain injuries and/or posttraumatic stress disorder may lead to depression, extreme anxiety, and difficulties with emotional control. The returning soldier may not seem quite right to the people at home and may be unable to read, concentrate, or remember things as they once did. This may impinge on their ability to work and on their self-esteem. To the children, the missing parent may now be a parent who is present but depressed, erratic, angry, and preoccupied (para. 15 – 17).
This situation then, can truly pose the need to the returning service member to receive counseling to help them adjust to the new world together their families.
It is to the best advantage of military families that the results of the survey conducted be given important consideration. The family remains as the basic unit of society, both in the civilian and the military realms. The children need the proper guidance by their parents or the persons who take charge over them in the absence of their parents. The results of this study gives guidance to all concerned parties in the military as well as the government agencies tasked with giving support to help in uplifting the military families by giving needed aid and support in rearing up their children with appropriate training on discipline. In this way, the military service members can give more focus to their jobs and at the same time have the confidence that the families they frequently leave behind are in the best of shape to adapt to their unique situation.
Cozza SJ, Chun RS. Polo JA (2005). “Military Families and Children During Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Psychiatric Quarterly. Retrieved on June 22, 2009 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16217632?log$=activity.
Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.). Retrieved on June 21, 2009
Middle childhood (6-8 years old) http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/middlechildhood.htm. Middle childhood (9-11 years old) http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/middlechildhood9- 11.htm;
Early adolescence (12-14 years old) http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/earlyadolescence.htm
Middle adolescence (15-17 years old) http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/middleadolescence15-17.htm
Howard, B. (2008). Tune in to Special Needs of Military Families. Retrieved on June 21, 2009 from http://www.virginiaisforheroes.org/articles/Affects%20of%20Deployment.pdf
Military.com (2009). Retrieved on June 22, 2009 from http://www.military.com/benefits/resources/family-support/family-support-services
Morale, Reward and Recreation (MWR). (2009). Retrieved on June 21, 2009 from http://www.fortbraggmwr.com/frg.php
Wertsch, M. (1991). Military brats: Legacies of childhood inside the fortress. New York: Harmony.