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ruling in the South Gauteng High Court on October 19 on spanking children has
sparked major controversy.
common law defence of reasonable chastisement is unconstitutional and no longer
applies in our law," Judge Raylene Keightley ruled. So in essence, you may
no longer spank/smack/hit/pinch your children. Period.
Any form of corporal punishment has
been a no-no in schools for the past 21 years. When I hear how some of my peers
were treated at school in terms of being beaten by teachers and principals, it
makes my skin crawl.
ruling is based on a case involving a father who kicked and beat his 13-year-old
son after finding that the child had surfed pornographic websites. The beating
left him with several bruises.
of assault – and it is assault, let's not pussy foot around it – is not 'reasonable'. It should be viewed as the common assault
that it is, with the relevant consequences.
So it begs
the question then: What is 'reasonable chastisement'? Is a flick on the wrist,
or quick smack on the bum the same as assault? I am not so sure.
I'm not a
fan of spanking, and being the youngest of three, I kind of missed that. My
sisters bore the brunt of it. Spanking my own son was certainly not high on my
agenda as a disciplining tool. I would never do that, I kept telling myself.
But never is a long, long, long time in toddler and preschool years.
son has never had a full-on proper hiding, I cannot say I haven't been partial to
the occasional smack. And it's never a proud moment either.
When he was
toddling and would do dangerous things, he would get a small smack. Well, more
like a little swat on the hand. I'd rather that than a pot of boiling water comes
tumbling down on him or dangerous behaviour results in an unsolicited trip to
the ER – or worse.
It's not easy
conveying to very young children that certain actions could have devastating
consequences. And sometimes a tap on the hand does get the message across. It
is a long way from assault.
He is now
5, and we don't do smacks anymore (mostly). He is old enough to understand a
tone of voice and that there is such a thing as punishment – and consequences
for bad behaviour.
knows when he is pushing his luck and has a fair idea of what constitutes
dangerous activity. We now confiscate toys, devices and use a star reward
system. And god forbid no watching of Netflix kids – no Sharko, no
Transformers, no Rescue Bots… It is an effective bargaining chip.
however, now find myself screaming like a banshee at the best of times. This I
am hoping will subside at some point. Surely screaming and death stare glares
are also bad?
But he is a
master manipulator, so the minute my voice starts to rise in tempo he will
disarm me with a hug and/or quivering lip: Can we make peace, please?
And then we
start the cycle all over again – sans the smacks, just me, the screaming
is a tricky issue – and children respond in different ways. But whether a slap
on the hand constitutes assault and abuse, I am not so sure.
- Estrelita Moses is mobile and managing editor of News24.
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