"There is a massive difference between a spank on the buttocks and child abuse": Readers respond
What is your take on smacking children as a means of disciplining them?
Children respond differently to different forms of punishment, say our readers. We shouldn't do away with spanking completely. (iStock)

In 2017 the High Court in Johannesburg struck down the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ for spanking children after a father, convicted of assaulting his 13-year-old son after finding pornography on his cellphone, used the defence to say he was merely disciplining his son.

Consequently, a year later, on 29 November 2018, Freedom of Religion South Africa (ForSA) appealed the decision and took it to the constitutional court saying holy scriptures permit, if not command, corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children. And as GroundUp reports, ForSA believes completely getting rid of the defence will make “criminals of well-meaning parents”, who simply “love their children and only want the best for them”.

Advocate Reg Willis, representing ForSA, proposed corporal punishment therefore be considered on a case-by-case basis, saying, “Children respond to chastisement differently.”

“But our position is that parents need to have access to more disciplining tools rather than less,” he concluded.

The appeal is ongoing as the constitutional court reserved judgement for the time being, but did recognise that there is a massive difference between a spank and a beating.

What is your take on smacking your children? Share your opinion with us by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.

Many parents wrote in to Parent24 feeling similarly about the complete ban on reasonable chastisement in the home, claiming, firstly, that to assume a light pat on the wrist would have grave consequences on a child’s mental state is “utter hogwash”.

“If spanking has such a horrible mental impact as some of these learned individuals are trying to tell us, then 90% of current adults should have mental issues. That argument is utter hogwash." – Anonymous

"A smack on a hand can be totally appropriate as long as the parents don't lash out in anger"

Another, Jean Borgstrom, a qualified paediatrician, highlighted the fact that we need to distinguish between a slap on the wrist and actual physical abuse.

“Well I guess it depends on what you mean by spanking…
Lambasting anyone including a child 'til they are black and blue is unacceptable at all times and under any circumstances.
A smack on a hand or across the back of the legs can be totally appropriate as long as parents or caregivers don't lash out in anger.
I am one of three girls and we got smacks when needed, which was rarely as we understood fully where our parents were coming from and respected them accordingly. I don't recall the "pain" but I do recall the embarrassment for what I had done, but never held it against my parents. We learnt life lessons from these incidents. None of the 3 of us has grown up aggressive in nature and I am eternally grateful for the parenting we had.
Please don't turn our society into a nanny state such as the UK.”

"There are strict rules"

And another reader, Drikus Greyling, pointed out a set of do’s and don’t, if you are going to use corporal punishment:

“I do not buy the so-called results of the study of corporal punishment published in your article, ‘Is corporal punishment linked to lower school grades?
In fact, I would like to understand the study method, what kind of corporal punishment was used and what process was followed before corporal punishment was administered.
There are a number of do’s and don'ts on corporal punishment:
  • This is the last resort of punishment. There is an entire toolbox full of tools to use to discipline children.
  • If the child wilfully disobeys, and no other method of punishment works, then CP is the answer.
  • There should be a warning system in place before CP is administered – we used the system of 1-2-3 before CP was administered.
  • Punishment should be applied consistently, and calmly. This can only be done if the parent is in control.
  • Boundaries should be set up front, and consequences explained way before any disobedience can occur.
  • The parent looses control if there is no mechanism to restrain the strong-willed child.
  • Remember: one size does not fit all. We have 3 children. With the eldest we needed extra discipline to get any co-operation. The youngest had 2 spankings in her entire life. She is an easy-going, complying kind of person.
  • CP should never be administered when the parent is angry. This should be agreed upon by the parents up front and they should support each other to first calm down before CP is administered.
  • There is a massive difference between a child being disciplined by being spanked on the buttocks, where there are no vital organs, in contrast to child abuse where a child is brutally beaten on any part of the body. EVERY straight-thinking parent I know of is against child abuse.

Also read: 5 alternative discipline strategies that actually work

What is your take on smacking your children? Share your opinion with us by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.

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