South Africa has just passed a law prohibiting the spanking of children as a way of punishment. The debate as to whether this is ‘right’ or not rages on, with parents on both sides of the argument expressing their points of view. In fact, Cindy Glass, Owner and Co-Founder of Step Up Education Centre says, “there is little that causes the intensity of emotions and opinions as that of whether or not spanking your child is helpful or whether it is simply something that has been passed down from one generation to the next, with little or no workable alternatives.”
Whether we agree or not, spanking children as a way of punishment is now unlawful and, as parents, we will need to consider alternative approaches to disciplining our children. She adds that “the purpose of this article in not to debate the law, but to suggest some ideas that can assist parents in moving forward.”
Cindy offers 6 important aspects to consider when taking a new approach to punishment
- Understand the purpose of punishment: Why do we punish misbehaviours? Is it because we are just angry and need to vent in a moment? OR is it because, on becoming parents, we became teachers of life? Do we punish because we were punished or do we want to teach the life lessons of choices and consequences so that our children grow into the best versions of who they can be?
- Set healthy boundaries and realistic consequences: Setting boundaries is easy- sticking to those consequences is not. Success is as a result of consistently upholding your boundaries and consequences. For example: If you have asked your child to clean his room before you go to the movies and he has not done so, stick to your consequence and miss the movie. No mess, no fuss! Just say: “We had an agreement and you did not do your part. We will not go to the movies as a result. We can try again next time.” He may be a little angry at first, but that is where you need to be strong. He will soon learn that you mean what you say and behaviours will change accordingly.
- Model the values you wish to see in your children: They will do what you do, not what you say. Integrity, honesty, kindness, respect of self and others and excellence are examples of important values.
- Keep your ‘door’ wide open: Non-judgmental communication and trust are key; understand that mistakes are an inevitable part of life – would you not rather your child feel free to share their poor choices with you than hide them from you out of fear of your reaction? Having an open-door life policy will ensure that you can support and assist your child in seeking to find solutions to challenges – not hide from them and make them worse. Choices have consequences- facing those natural consequences alone can be frightening. There will be tough moments, but, together, you can work them out.
- Set achievable goals and reward positive choices: Children who feel good about themselves will make better choices in their lives.
- Stay clear of consistent negative feedback: Remember that children who only receive negative feedback will not dislike you, they learn to dislike themselves.
“We are just human after all and being human requires some adjustments as we grow and learn. Do not be afraid of moving away from spanking as a way of disciplining your children. Why not try some of the suggestions above and see what works best for you and your family,” Cindy concludes.