Positive child discipline through visual arts

Jerome, 15, fashions a closed fist and a leather buckled belt out of brown colored papers and old magazines. For this Filipino teenager, the closed fist in his cut-out symbolizes the physical pain and injuries his father inflicts on his mother. The buckled belt represents the cruelty of corporal punishment he and his siblings get from their father.

Jerome’s story is just one of the moving stories shared during the visual arts workshop of the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) ARTS Zone Project or Advocate Rights to Safety Zone Project for Children. Through simple freehand sketches, collages, paintings and other interactive and multimedia activities, the visual arts workshop lets children aged 9 to 11 to use visual symbols to express their ideas and feelings.

This is part of ARTS Zone Project’s campaign to protect children from any form of violence and encourage them to share their thoughts on the effects of corporal punishment and what they see as effective forms of discipline. The project also allows children to articulate their ideas on how to create child-nurturing schools, homes and communities.

Through drama, workshops, creative writing, visual arts and music, PETA hopes to engage both children and adults in a dialogue to reflect and discuss effective ways of child rearing. Through the performances and workshop activities, the project hopes to talk about the challenges of raising children, share experiences and lessons learned as well as explore options of effective child parenting and positive discipline.

The workshop is designed to engage the participants in a playful and interactive way. The integration of games, creative movements and group activities create a comfortable atmosphere that will pave the way for participants to freely discuss their own experiences and thoughts on child discipline.

The workshop has three activities.

The first activity lets them recall and share their happy childhood memories through exercises like the Dot Connect and Forming Images Exercise. The participants are asked to create as many dots as they can on a blank paper, and connect and color some of these dots to form shapes and images that will portray their happy memories.

Alma Quinto, one of the facilitators of the workshop, explains that the “Dot Connect Exercise is a playful way to draw and introduce the elements of art without them [participants] being intimidated by a blank paper, as the dots serve as anchors to make their creative journey of connecting them to create lines, shapes, and textures easier.”

Some participants recall having picnics or going out with their families, receiving gifts during important occasions, being praised by their loved one, and playing with friends as their happy memories.

The next activity is the Collage-Making Exercise where participants depict their sad childhood experiences by assembling different cut-outs of colored papers and pages of old magazines. This entails for participants to work in pairs. The duo shares one big cartolina where they will paste their cut-outs to form a collage.

Some of the unhappy experiences shared by the participants involve physical and verbal abuses by family members, prohibiting them from playing, and death of a loved one.

“Some of the participants equate discipline as being beaten by their parents to teach them and because they love them. Some were very honest and open in telling their experiences of abuse and neglect at home due to family conflicts, abandonment and marital problems,” says Quinto.

After the first two activities, the workshop facilitators discuss children’s rights and the corresponding responsibilities. The first two activities allow the participants to reflect as an individual, as a pair, and ultimately as a group on ways to overcome the negative experiences they have encountered, to learn to express their feelings and concerns to others especially the adults, and to learn to forgive.

As a last activity, the participants are grouped into five to produce a collaborative painting. Each painting should depict how they could exercise their rights while doing their responsibilities to actively contribute in creating a safe and nurturing environment for children at home, school and community.

Quinto stresses the importance of visual arts as an effective medium in tackling difficult issues and open possibilities by accessing and connecting with the creative spirit of children. “Visual arts is an effective medium because it can engage the participants in a way that is not preachy and stiff, and offers more layers of meaning from the symbols and images created.”

The PETA ARTS Zone Project’s visual arts workshops were made possible through the support of Terre des Hommes-Germany and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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