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To smack or not to smack

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To smack or not to smack

by Claire Reddie
15 Aug 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

'Spare the rod and spoil the child' is just one age-old adage in a string of similar sayings relating to children and their discipline.

Another is the ever-popular "children should be seen and not heard." This little gem was always a family favourite and held in high regard by my grandfather.

The topic of disciplining children has been in the headlines over the last few weeks as government nears the end of a decision-making process regarding spanking.

If this new law is passed, it would be illegal for any parent or guardian to discipline their child with a swift smack.

In researching this column I asked a couple of my friends what their opinions are on the issue of spanking and the votes are in.

It seems most are against spanking as the primary form of discipline, although a couple of my friends seem to feel that if the child's life was in danger then the only way for him or her to learn a lesson would be through a smack.

The issue of discipline also raised another question in my mind: What role does school play when it comes to teaching children right from wrong?

Corporal punishment was banned quite a few years ago, and perhaps this has given kids too much power.

They do not have fear any more - or at least they are not worried about repercussions or what sort of punishment will be dished out if they land themselves in hot water.

The leaders of our schools now find their hands are tied.

They can't expel a child and even suspensions are difficult to achieve. So the only solution is to give the child a warning and detention.

A few weeks ago, a school that my family has had a long and proud association with was vandalised by its own matric class.

These boys broke windows, doors and desks, littered the classrooms with manure and scribbled rude messages on the boards.

Their little act of destruction cost the school tens of thousands. The school tried to suspend more than 30 boys, but this was stopped dead in its tracks. The reason?

Nobody has the right to deny these learners an education - especially not in their final year.

What have these boys learnt? That it's okay to cause malicious damage to property as there are no scary consequences to face.

What they did to their school was criminal and not just an act of mischief. By not dishing out the appropriate punishment, are we as adults condoning this sort of criminal behaviour?

One of the former teachers from the school blames the way children are treated in South Africa. Kids are being treated as adults.

They are taught they have rights (which they most definitely do), but these teachings omit one important lesson: With rights come responsibilities.

Which brings me back to parents and methods of disciplining their sprogs.

Spanking has been used for generations and for many families it is the only way of discipline. Children are smacked by parents who were smacked by their parents who were smacked by their parents... and the vicious cycle continues. This is just a thought, but perhaps this spiral has continued because so many people have found spanking to be an effective method of discipline.

I am all for protecting children and I feel our leaders need to step in and stop the constant abuse.

But who is going to help train parents in alternative methods of discipline? How do we help them get out of this vicious cycle?

Before I climb off my soapbox for another week, I have one remaining question: Who is going to protect the children from themselves?

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