Using storytelling to address the issue of corporal punishment in Estonia

Research shows that storytelling can convey key messages more effectively than the straightforward delivery of the same information. In particular, storytelling can inform children in a way that is easy for them to understand and that captures their attention. Importantly, it can also trigger emotions that children can relate to.

In Estonia, various mediums such as movies, literature, and children’s books, have been used to initiate discussions with children and raise awareness about corporal punishment. Using storytelling to address the issue of corporal punishment has proven to be an effective approach. Children’s books, in particular, can be effective in providing information for parents, teachers and others working with children and families.

The Estonian book “Minu esimesed triibulised” (“My first stripes”)

Famous Estonian writer Eduard Vilde published “Minu esimesed triibulised” in 1904. It is a story about corporal punishment of a child, told in a child-sensitive way. In addition to being an entry point for talking about corporal punishment with younger children, the story is considered a literary classic which has cultural significance for Estonia.

To celebrate the 110th anniversary of the publication of “Minu esimesed triibulised”, the Chancellor’s office together with the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre and Tallinn Eduard Vilde Museum, used the story to introduce children to their rights to equal and fair treatment and a violence-free childhood.

400 children participated in meetings where they discussed the story and reflected on the topic of corporal punishment in Estonia and developed a theatre performance. The museum staff told the children what life was like 110 years ago, and how that influenced attitudes towards corporal punishment at the time.

Corporal punishment was addressed in movies and music before the legal ban

Another example from Estonia is the family movie “Nukitsamees” from 1981, also known as “Bumpy” in English. It addresses the issue of corporal punishment. Although the movie was released 1981, long before the official ban on corporal punishment in Estonia, it still served as a gentle push towards condemning such practices.

Furthermore, there’s a notable song by the Estonian punk band Vennaskond titled “Ära löö last” (“Do not hit a child” in English), that was released in 1996. This song serves as a direct condemnation of corporal punishment.

Empowering children through storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool in addressing corporal punishment. The development and use of age and development-appropriate books to inform children about their rights and how to seek help ensures that the messages are conveyed in simple yet compelling language, making them accessible and understandable for a younger audience. Such material gives children and their caregivers and educators a common language and stories to discuss such issues. The use of simple language further enables parents or other adults with limited literacy skills to engage with the content.

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