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No more smacking: thinking big picture or micromanaging? Our readers respond
Overstepping a boundary? Or a much needed change? Our readers debate the recent ruling deeming physical discipline of a child unlawful, even in the home.
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In our recently published “Smacking your child is officially illegal in SA now,” we reported on the game-changing ruling determined by Judge Raylene Keightley of the Gauteng High Court this past week.

The judgement essentially stipulates that any physical form of discipline, from spanking to pinching, is now illegal in South Africa. 

Psychological humiliation is also no longer permissible. 

Understandably, for many parents, this has caused more than a stir, as reflected by the feedback Parent24 has received from readers. 

Many feel it within their right to discipline their children in the manner they themselves were raised, while others feel it a necessary change. 


See links to our articles about discipline below.


We have to think bigger picture

Parent coach Laura Markovitz (www.coachparents.co.za) told Parent24: 

"Smacking may get immediate cooperation from a child and stop the perceived negative behaviour. But it is so important that we think bigger picture about what we are trying to teach our children in the long term.

"Is it okay for them to hurt their sibling, friend or even their parent when they feel frustrated or have been met with negative behaviour?

"We want to instil in our children that they have options available to them, that they can regulate their emotions, and not just react to things that upset or anger them in a physical way. So we have to role model that for our kids.

"I would always say that empathy and connection is a good place to start with anything parenting related, even discipline."

"The reality is that kids generally do well if they can do well, and when they are exhibiting challenging behaviour there is something underlying that behaviour, for example, anxious feelings, a cry for attention and sometimes a need to control an aspect of their world where other aspects feel shaky.

"The best we can do for our kids is parent them from an authoritative style: this means taking into account where children are at and the real difficulties they may face and at the same time ensures they know boundaries and have limits set for them that are fair and rational.

"Parents with an authoritative style help children feel safer, supported and more contained. Smacking generally results in children cooperating through fear and a need to repress their emotions.

"It is vital that children still know boundaries and limits but this can be accomplished through well-thought-out and appropriate consequences that are neither shameful nor harmful." 

Here’s what our readers had to say: 

"Certain behaviour... can sometimes only be remedied with a good hiding"

"I read with dismay, the ruling that now makes it illegal to discipline your own children using corporal punishment. Certain behaviour by badly behaved children can sometimes only be remedied with a good hiding.

"No amount of talking to, time-outs or reasoning with children teaches them the consequences of their actions other than a smack. 

"While I do acknowledge that there are abusive parents out there who seem to think that their abuse is excusable through the pre-tense of discipline, this should not interfere with the ability of those who discipline their own children for the right reasons and to raise them as they see fit."

 – Craig, Gauteng

"I obeyed the rules of the house out of respect not fear"

She continues: "Now, as an adult, I practise the same parenting style my parents used, which was talking things out and understanding why some behaviours are not the best."

"The government’s overshadowing interference is entering our very homes" 

"A smacking has the potential to turn into abuse, just as words have the potential to turn harmful and damaging even. The question of smacking or not smacking is debatable of course, but otherwise irrelevant.

"The problem has arisen now when advocates on either side of the debate think only their own viewpoint is the correct one, and then proceeds to oppress that viewpoint on the other side.

"This is compounded by the government’s overshadowing interference entering our very homes and dictating every minute detail of our personal lives.

"Smacking or not smacking has always and remains to this day the personal and unimpeded choice of responsible parents. Educate people before they become parents before imposing on their personal choices, beliefs and freedoms.

"None of us need nor want a 1984 automaton society."

 – Dion 

"We all come from different backgrounds and have a lot to deal with raising our children"

"I fully disagree with Judge Raylene Keightley. Has any of them done any assessments after taking out corporal punishment to see the impact this could have on the wellbeing and level of respect from our children?

"You are passing a law based on less than 10% of the cases. Rather address the abuse and make part of your judgment for those parents to go on these courses of how to discipline their children in love. 

"We already have an issue with disrespectful children based on these laws passed as a result of few cases that have failed. 

"I fully agree that abuse must be addressed but I don't believe making 90% of the parents' lives difficult because of the failure of 10%.

"I would like to challenge this and would appreciate advice on where we can challenge these kinds of laws that do greater harm to society and complicating majority of the lives of good South African citizens. 

"We all come from different backgrounds and have a lot to deal with raising our children and adding this on top of that I really don't believe to be the right solution." 

 – Ikanyeng 

"If you can't learn to have the patience to discipline your child in a non-violent way you should consider your own stability!"

She continues: "Smacking reflects more on the parent than the child! If you can't learn to have the patience to discipline your child in a non-violent way you should consider your own stability!

"I have the most polite, confident and well-behaved little people and we don't smack!

"In a country where violence against children is pandemic I think the government should take a stand; because you give birth to a child does not mean you have the right to physically harm your child!"

"The law and the courts can very often be cruel or foolish"

"Your article on the Gauteng court decision refers. In the article you say, "The law is the law." Not so long ago in South Africa it was illegal for people from different races to marry.

"Who could complain – the law was the law. People of colour could not travel in 1st class railway carriages or live in certain areas. Slavery was legal for centuries, so should people not have opposed it? 

"It's curious that the government passed a law allowing parents to kill their unborn child, where the parents' rights take precedence. But thereafter they think they have the child's interests more at heart than its parents do.

"We must acknowledge that the law and the courts can very often be cruel or foolish." 

 – Sarah 

"Stop making laws that's not going to once again be implemented or conducted fairly"

She continues: "I just don't understand why so much focus is given to implementing new laws. But systems that are not running smoothly are not sorted out.

"The real culprits keep getting off scot-free. Get the priorities straight. Start really taking care of our children in dire need of real protection.

"Stop making laws that's not going to once again be implemented or conducted fairly." 

"How is this going to be enforced?"

Noting the irony 

"How ironic: The Law determines that parents are no longer allowed to apply corporal punishment to their children, but it is legal to terminate your child's life by abortion."

 – E

"Would you like it if your husband/wife smacks you if you behaved like a 'brat'?"

She continues: "Would you like it if your husband/wife smacks you if you behaved like a ‘brat’? No... that would be domestic violence, but we can hit our kids... my parents hit me more times I wish to remember, that fear and pain I’ll never forget."

Read more: 

What are your thoughts on the ruling? Tell us in the comments below or email to chatback@parent.com and we may publish them. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.  

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