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Why spanking is not an effective form of punishment

Baby Yum Yum - Why spanking is not an effective form of punishment
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Most of us grew up in a household where spanking was the main form of discipline and we turned out fairly okay – this term being used very loosely.

In 2017, the Gauteng High Court ruled that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement is not in line with the South African Constitution and an amendment was introduced. The amendment, Section 12A, states that any person (including parents) may not strike or assault a child in order to discipline them and a parent could not plead the special defence of moderate or reasonable chastisement if taken to court for assault.

Is Spanking Children an Effective Consequence?It has always been a crime to hit children; however, the Court has seen this new amendment as further protecting the rights of children especially with the high levels of child abuse that pervade our society. The Court further recommended that government institutions help and refer parents to non-violent techniques.

Vast amounts of research in the past few years have strongly opposed spanking children and lists multiple negative effects of corporal punishment or spanking. The most common of these are:

  • It is not a full-proof approach and may damage your relationship with your child.
  • It teaches your child that violence is an acceptable way to express anger and deal with conflict.
  • It is emotionally taxing for the parent as well. It leaves the parent feeling guilty and when this method is employed and unsuccessful, it also leaves the parent feeling helpless.
  • It halts effective communication.
  • It has proven long-term effects (depression, delinquency, domestic abuse, etc.).
  • It instils fears in children of wrongdoing, rather than an understanding.

Spanking is arguably the simplest way to teach a child from right and wrong, but it is definitely not the only way. An increasing number of parents are starting to reject this form of discipline and are choosing less violent correction techniques.

So, what are the effective alternative disciplining techniques for parents?

Well, firstly there is no one method that can be applied for all children. Each child understands and reacts differently to any method and it is the parents’ responsibility to ‘study’ their child and determine the most effective technique that will help raise respectful children.

What should alternative discipline techniques address?

Why You Shouldn't Spank Your Kids and What To Do InsteadCommunication. Communication. Communication. And lastly, communication. This cannot be stressed enough. Learning to communicate with your child and teaching your child how to communicate can be a powerful weapon. Use the experience to teach your child that mistakes happen all the time and how they should handle remorse and restitution.

Give your child some time to deal with their own emotions. In order for them to function as an adult one day, the development of their emotional intelligence (EQ) is quite important. The five main key elements to emotional intelligence as per Daniel Goldman, an American psychologist, are:

  • self-awareness;
  • self-regulation;
  • motivation;
  • empathy;
  • social skills.

Spanking a child unnecessarily can put intense strain on the first relationship a child ever develops, their relationship with their parent. This could possibly instil mistrust, aggression and lack of empathy in the child and will affect their emotional intelligence in terms of developing empathy towards their peers and self-regulating their actions towards others.

“Spanking a child unnecessarily can put intense strain on the first relationship a child ever develops, their relationship with their parent.”

It is important that a child understands consequences that are relevant to their behaviour, so that they can make a connection between the punishment and their unwanted behaviour. For instance, should your children fight over a toy, rather than place them in a timeout, remove the toy and explain to them that they cannot have it anymore.

Use positive language and make negative experiences less stressful on the child. It is important to raise confident children and encourage them to come forward about negative experiences to you, as the parent. However, this requires the parent to create a positive and loving environment where the child feels secure to share their experiences without fear.

This ruling should not be seen as a limitation on how to inculcate discipline but a step towards protecting our children’s rights and preventing violence against children. Although spanking brings immediate compliance from a child, the potential risks outweigh the potential benefits. The word discipline comes from the word disciplinare which means to teach or to instruct. Therefore, parents should focus more on teaching the children than the punishment. It all starts at home and it’s our responsibility to raise our children to be better than fairly okay.

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