TO SPANK OR NOT TO SPANK? Is that really the question?

To spank or not to spank? Is that really the question?

An amendment to the Children’s Act will make it illegal for parents to smack their children at home. Is this a good move? Does government have the right to legislate what punishment you dish out to your children for doing wrong? Terence Pillay investigates.

When I was growing up a smack on my bottom didn’t go amiss when I misbehaved. It was a punishment everyone meted out to errant children. And those children, me included, grew up to be perfectly normal.
These days however, it’s not just frowned upon when parents smack their children, it is actually illegal. According to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), parents who spank their children are acting against the Constitution. The SAHRC has even gone as far as calling on government to speed up changes to the Children’s Act that would make it a crime to spank your child at home.
I recently read an article by Bertus Preller on News 24voices, where he talks about a church in Cape Town, The Joshua Generation Church, that published a “parenting manual” wherein the Church described the length and thickness of the rod which parents should use in training up children as young as one-year-old.
According to Preller, the manual further stated that “Parents and caregivers still have the right to claim ‘reasonable chastisement’ as a defence against having assaulted their child”.
And an extract from the Joshua Generation Parenting Manual says: “Remember, a spanking must cause some pain otherwise it is useless and your child will remain unchanged”
Needless to say this goes against our Constitution and the Children’s Act that protects children from violence, which would include corporal punishment at home by way of spanking.
The Commission found that the justification of moderate “chastisement” of children, and the advocacy and use of corporal punishment in the home by the church was unacceptable regardless of whether such is based on teaching of religion.
The Commission also specifically found that corporal punishment of children violates the right of the child to protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation.
The Commission found further that the defence of reasonable “chastisement” relies upon a pre-Constitutional legal culture. Under the Constitution, bodily chastisement violates the right of the child to freedom and security of the person in that the child does not enjoy the protection of his or her bodily integrity within the home, which is the place where he or she should feel most secure in such bodily integrity.
Now it all sounds very academic and legalese. But it is in fact very simple – your child needs to feel protected from bodily (from a spanking in the home). And under the draft law two years ago, parents would be charged with assault if, at home, they used a flat hand on child's bottom or enacted other forms of corporal punishment.
There are currently only 49 countries across the globe that have an outright ban on corporal punishment in all forms. These include countries such as Denmark, Germany, Spain, Kenya and even the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I read another interesting article on the subject by Ciska Thurman in which a parent she interviewed said: “When my daughter was four, she stood on a chair and climbed over the pool fence to retrieve a toy. I needed to send a strong message about breaking the rules (she knew that entering the pool area without an adult was strictly forbidden). I explained what the consequences of her actions could have been and asked her to wait for me in her room. After a cooling-down period, I gave her a hiding.”  The parent, Pieter, believes lashing out in anger is unacceptable, but that it is his right as a parent to chastise his children.
In the report, Thurman asks: “Who gives the government the right to intervene in the way we choose to parent our kids? Or should it have the right, considering that we live in a country where three children are murdered every day? Legislating for what happens in people’s homes is notoriously difficult; for example, it’s illegal to beat your spouse, yet spouses are abused all the time.”
Of course, preventing a hiding from developing into a full-blown beating is imperative, but how is it going to be enforced when many citizens don’t adhere to simple statutes like speed limits?
So do we spank or not? Would you risk being charged and face court and possible jail time for what you regard as simply disciplining your child?
You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts.


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