As adults, we are our childrens’ main role models. If kids behave in a way we dislike and we resort to physical violence (yes, even a smack is just that), then how can we expect our children not to do the same thing when they dislike something someone else does?
True, effective discipline means ensuring that the child is told the rules/boundaries and also understands what the consequence of breaking the rules. Then it is a matter of following through - firmly and assertively on the enforcement of those consequences.
The trouble is that most adults talk too much, reason for too long and then literally 'lose their cool'. And kids know just which buttons to press!
What does the law say?
The clauses in the Childrens Act regarding the use of corporal punishment in the home were eventually removed because of the rigid, inflexible attitude of some of the 'dinosaurs' who vote on our laws in parliament.
As a social worker, I have been called to intervene in situations in which a stressed and confused parent went too far in their use of smacking as a method of discipline. That smack on the hand for the toddler, became a hiding for the 6 year old and then a lashing with a belt for a rebellious 10 year old.
Parents should move away from trying to justify the reasons for the hiding and develop methods which can be used throughout the child’s life. And parents should not be pre-occupied with their fear of being sued by their children! If they work at their communication and relationship skills, and develop mature and effective methods of behaviour management (which does not mean reasoning and appealing for hours!), then they should never have to even think about their children becoming vindictive and reporting them to child protection agencies and the courts.
Yes, children do need boundaries and discipline.
Yes, children do need adults who are mature and assertive and are positive role models.
No, parents should not be permissive and afraid of upsetting their children.
No, children should never have to report their parents... To anyone.
And finally, effective discipline is essential. It makes children feel secure and emotionally safe. It means teaching, guiding and socialising our children. It means learning from the consequences of choices which calm and consistent adults are able to put in place when they set the age-appropriate rules and limits.
And a consequence need never, ever be a smack.
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