Parenting course offers strategies for disciplining children

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COLUMBIA - Two mid-Missouri couples have been arrested on suspicion of child abuse within the last 24 hours. The arrests prompted community resources to remind parents of parenting support resources.

Carthage police arrested a couple Monday in connection to the death of a 2-year-old girl. Chief Greg Dagnan said the child was found unresponsive in the home.

Tuesday, a Jefferson City couple was also held at the Cole County Jail on charges of child abuse. According to the News Tribune, officers from the Jefferson City Police Department witnessed Luther Thomas, 28, and Dmitra Price, 24 use excessive force on a 5-year-old girl. Police said Price grabbed the child by the hair and threw her to the ground. Police were first called to the home on East Atchison street when there were reports of hearing a "smacking" noise similar to that of a belt.

Missouri statute defines abuse as "any physical injury, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse inflicted on a child, other than by accidental means, by those responsible for the child's care, custody, and control, except that discipline including spanking, administered in a reasonable manner, shall not be construed to be abuse."

Kathy Dothage of MU extension teaches a course on parenting and said the specific purpose of her class is to inform parents on the basic practices of discipline.

"Discipline is guiding. We eventually want that to be self discipline and it helps the child move," Dothage said.

She said the course tells encourages parents to tell a child what he or she is doing wrong and what the parents want them to do and why.

"With punishment, the tendency is 'you're bad, stop that.' I think the line between punishment and abuse is a wavier line than between discipline and abuse."

While some parents are losing custody of their children from instances of child abuse, the parents in Dothage's class are tying their best to prove they are positive parents.

Matthew Grossheim said he was left without permission to take custody of his children after their mother lost custody, because his name was not on the birth certificate.

"It's been about three months, but my parents have temporary custody, so at least I know they are in a safe place and taken care of," Grossheim said.

He said the class is the first step to proving he is a fit parent in order to be reunited with his 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.

"It's the most important thing to me. I've loved being a father since the moment my daughter was born," Grossheim said. "I just want to be the best father I can be for my children."

Dothage said the class participants will take an assessment to rank their parenting strategies, and, as a group, they will discuss what methods can be best used to help, and not hinder, the development and growth of their children.