Protecting children and relationships - even when it's tough

As parents we want to bring our children up to be healthy, happy and secure. And, we know that the relationships we build with our children, from their earliest moments in the womb, through their development as toddlers, children and then teenagers are the key to this. But navigating the early years demands of sleepless nights, fussy feeding and toddler behaviour and then the delicate balance of supporting teenagers to assert their growing independence with the right parental guidance, can sometimes be a tough call. 

Father and son

As Scotland’s national children’s charity, we recognise that strong healthy relationships are at the heart of what helps children and young people thrive. We also understand that whatever your circumstances, there are times when it’s hard to keep your cool as a parent and respond with the loving, calm, consistent approach your child needs, whether they are a tantruming toddler or an uncommunicative teenager. So as well as providing support to more vulnerable families through local community services, Children 1st also runs ParentLine, to support any parent, grandparent or other family member looking for a bit of extra advice or support.

Alan Forgie, ParentLine Manager explains: “People talk to us about a whole range of things from their children’s behaviour, to problems at their school or family relationships. Sometimes it’s enough just to be able to let off some steam or to get some reassurance, knowing what you say will be confidential and that you won’t be judged.”

Our belief in the importance of relationships is also what drives our campaign to give children equal protection from assault under Scottish law. Harriet Hall, Children 1st’s Policy Manager explains:

“Even though the vast majority of parents in Scotland today (over 80%) believe that physical punishment isn’t useful, our law still gives our children - some of the most vulnerable members of society – less protection from assault than adults.

“And it’s not just that physical punishment isn’t useful. Parents tell ParentLine that using physical punishment makes their children’s behaviour worse and strains their relationships. This is backed up by a huge body of research which also shows that physical punishment can have long term negative impacts on children’s health and wellbeing throughout their lives.

“We are one of only four countries in Europe that don’t give children equal protection. That just seems crazy, but I think it’s because this issue is so wrapped up in how we were raised as children. My parents sometimes used physical punishment when I was a child, because it was pretty much standard parenting practice. But now they are grandparents, they would be shocked if they thought it was something their grandchildren experienced.

“So many things have changed in a generation. Parents today would no longer let children ride in the boot of a car, or without seat belts, which used to happen all the time. We no longer smoke around children in public places. Because we understood more about the preventative effects of using seat belts and the harmful effects of passive smoking, we reformed the law to keep children safer and happier. It’s time we did the same when it comes to physical punishment.”

Get in touch

ParentLine is Scotland’s free helpline, email and web-chat service, for anyone caring for or concerned about a child - open until 9pm Monday to Friday:

  • Call free: 08000 28 22 33
  • Email: parentlinescotland@children1st.org.uk
  • Text-chat: 07860 022844 (standard network charges apply)
  • Start a confidential web-chat: