Two teachers at a private tutoring academy in Queens are facing allegations that they assaulted students as punishment for getting bad grades or misbehaving in class. New York Assemblyman Ron Kim and Senator Toby Stavisky are advocating legislation that would provide closer oversight over these private academies, which often teach children whose parents send them to the United States to get an education. We spoke with Dr. Anderson Sungmin Yoon, project director of The Child Center’s Asian Outreach Program, to get his thoughts about how we can better protect children and prevent child maltreatment.
The Child Center: Many of the children in private tutoring academies are being sent from South Korea to get an education in the United States and are living in a new country without their parents. What are some of the unique challenges these kids are facing and what are their needs?
Dr. Yoon: In past decades, thousands of Korean children have come to the United States and New Zealand and Australia each year without their parents. They’re young—7, 8 or 9 years old—and they need their own parents. Some South Korean parents realize this is not helpful for their own children so the numbers have decreased over the past few years, but parents are still sending their kids, putting their care and development in the hands of strangers.
In terms of emotional needs and development, every child should receive proper validation and actual listening and caring. If they don’t receive that, when they grow up they find it hard to relate to other people and communicate with others in an appropriate way.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is under investigation for child abuse after beating his four-year-old son with a switch. The news has sparked a debate about corporal punishment, cultural norms, and when spanking crosses over into abuse.
The Child Center was able to contribute to the dialogue with a column in New York Times’ Motherlode blog, authored by Thomas Meyers, Associate Executive Director of Child Abuse Prevention. In the column, Thomas says that parenting and discipline is considered a private issue in our society—but when parents follow the patterns they learned from their families, it can lead to abuse. We should make best practices as widely discussed and established as any other part of raising kids.
As the debate rages over Adrian Peterson’s child abuse charges, his defenders, including Charles Barkley, have suggested that this particular kind of discipline — lashing a child with a switch — is “cultural” and therefore beyond reproach.
When I was a child in the 1970s, my siblings and I were raised largely by my grandmother, after my father died and my mother had to find work. My grandmother was an Italian immigrant, and her approach to disciplining children was thoroughly of the old school. When one of us was misbehaving, she would grab whatever was handy — a wooden spoon, her cane, or most memorably, the hard plastic track from a Hot Wheels race car set — and smack us with it, hard enough to leave welts.
I was reminded of this as I began following the Peterson case. Just as Peterson surely loves his children, my grandmother loved us, and was doing her best to teach us right from wrong. She and everyone she knew had been disciplined that way as children. As far as she knew, that was how children learned. That was her culture.
But as much as I owe my grandmother, I know she was wrong about that.
Read Thomas’ column at The New York Times.