Breaking generational cycles of violence in Cambodia

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Posted on 08/02/2023

A family in Cambodia sits in front of a small shop, smiling at the camera.Anisa, 15 (far left), with her family in Cambodia.

In Cambodia, corporal (physical) punishment is still widely used as a form of discipline in many households. Parents often resort to hitting their children when they misbehave or fail to meet their expectations. Unfortunately, this practice can have lasting negative effects on children, both physically and emotionally.

That's why ChildFund Cambodia is dedicated to promoting positive parenting as a healthier, more effective alternative. Our positive parenting program in Cambodia is designed to empower parents and caregivers with the knowledge and skills they need to create a safe, nurturing environment for their children.

Sles, a 37-year-old father from a remote village in Kratie Province, is all too familiar with the effects that corporal punishment can have on youth. As a teenager, he often experienced domestic violence at the hands of his father. One incident left him with a lasting scar after his father threw an axe at him when he failed to properly care for his cow.

“At that moment, I was sad, since it was my father who hadn’t properly tied up the cow. But he blamed me, and when I defended myself, he threw an axe. I still have a scar,” Sles says.

When Sles became a parent, he promised himself that he wouldn't use violence to discipline his own children. But the cycle of abuse proved difficult to break. His oldest daughter, Anisa, remembers both the physical and emotional pain.

“When I made my parents angry, I was usually hit. I thought they didn’t love me, and it made me sad,” Anisa says.

Breaking cycles of abuse in Cambodia

ChildFund began bringing parents, children and young people together to raise awareness about the negative effects of corporal punishment on children, offering a range of training programs centered on positive parenting and other topics. Over the course of several monthly sessions, the program helped to create an atmosphere of open communication and positive interactions between children and their parents.

Sles, who has personally experienced the benefits of this initiative, can attest to the positive impact it has had on his family and community.

“The training jolted me awake," he says. "My knowledge has improved. I am aware of my parental obligations and my children’s rights. Now, when I’m in a foul mood, my brain reminds me of what my teacher said: ‘Violence is a crime, and it won’t help us improve things,’" Sles says.

Anisa also learned a great deal from the training. “We as children also have roles and obligations within the family," she says. "I used to be sluggish when it came to housework and used foul language with my siblings. Now I know how essential it is to use positive words with everyone, and I realize how hard it is for my parents to earn money and keep the whole family alive and well."

The positive parenting program is just one of the many vital components of ChildFund Cambodia’s comprehensive child protection program. The program is designed to ensure that children throughout the country can grow up in safe and supportive communities, free from the threat of abuse and exploitation. Through this collaborative approach, we aim to create a culture of awareness and accountability that promotes the well-being of all children.