VICENZA, Italy -- There's just something about the arrival of spring that inspires great ideas for good family fun. The warm weather, the budding flowers, the adorable baby animals -- it all calls for parents and children to come out of hibernation and drink up the sunshine with fresh ideas for family bonding, both indoors and out.

To that end, your Family Advocacy Program is here to help families create safe, nurturing environments where parents and children can truly enjoy each other's company.

Chirping birds aside, parenting can be a major challenge. Children can exhaust you as they test your every breaking point -- even ones you didn't know you had. That's why it's so important to fill your toolbox with safe, effective ways to manage those difficult times.

Enter the new No Hit Zone FAP initiative. No Hit Zone is a national program that promotes "healthy relationships and safe environments across the lifespan through awareness, education and skill-building." There are four main tenets that define a No Hit Zone:
•No adult shall hit another adult.
•No adult shall hit a child.
•No child shall hit an adult.
•No child shall hit another child.

The No Hit Zone program is informed by vast amounts of research demonstrating that corporal punishment, to include spanking, is not an effective method for correcting problem behavior. Such forms of discipline may fix behavior in the short term, but do not teach children what they should do instead. Furthermore, physical punishment can often back fire over the long term, as children learn to react to problems with disobedience and aggression.

Instead, parents are encouraged to use consider the origin of the word "discipline," which means, "to teach." What do you want to teach your children? How about helping them understand the consequences of their behavior and guiding them in exploring alternative, better choices when they make mistakes. Or to use words, logic and reasoning to resolve conflicts? Or to become self-confident members of society that can successfully navigate school, relationships, and eventually a career? Your choice to use positive forms of discipline can help put children on the path to success.
FAP is introducing the No Hit Zone as a way to provide resources for positive and effective teaching methods for everyone in the community, from parents to professionals.

There are many ways to learn more about stocking your positive discipline toolbox, from No Hit Zone brochures to parenting workshops and one-on-one sessions.

Contact FAP and Army Community Service to find out more information. Call New Parent Support, ages 0-3, at 0444-71-7567 or 6020; or Parent/Child Educator Program, ages 4-18, at 0444-71-6264.

In addition, individuals can participate in the No Hit Zone initiative by pledging to use positive forms of discipline that teach children correct behavior. Families can also bring No Hit Zone home by designating their home as a safe place where no person - adult or child - shall hit another person - adult or child. Take the pledge informally on your own, or come see the FAP team for help in making an official pledge.

It's hard not to smile with the excitement of spring in the air. But, when times get tough, remember your long-term goals for parenting and your personal No Hit Zone pledge, if you've made one. Having the right tools to get through the conflicts can help you spend more positive time with your children, and focus on the rewards of parenting rather than the difficulties.

And finally, remember your children aren't young for long: enjoy them and savor those precious moments -- even the difficult ones.