A new law is being drafted in South Africa to stop parents smacking their children. This is extremely good news: not only in taking a step closer to democracy, but in combating the violence that is crippling our country.
In order to be a true democracy, the rights of all South Africans have to be honoured
And this includes children, who are also people. It is illegal to smack an adult in South Africa, yet we still smack children.
Children live what they see and copy the adults around them, so if they experience adults being abusive and disrespectful, they will mirror this behaviour, perpetuating the cycle of violence.
It is vital that, as adults, we are the kind of role models for our youth that we would have wanted as children, whether we are parents or not.
Choose to be a leader in your home and community by pledging to STOP smacking and using corporal punishment on our children.
There is NEVER a good reason to smack a child, and while many adults argue that they have turned out fine despite being smacked as children, studies suggest that while this may sometimes be the case, generally smacking has a negative effect on a child, and it is not worth putting your child at risk.
Smacking lowers a childâ??s IQ
What are the risks of smacking? Extensive research shows that smacking interferes with the process of learning and in fact lowers a childâ??s IQ. A study at The University of New Hampshire in 1998 showed that the more a child is smacked, the lower their IQ is four years later.
Smacking triggers the fight-or-flight response in children which limits their creativity and ability to think, hence they have difficulty problem-solving. Parents who reason and talk with their children are developing their childâ??s intellectual ability, and teaching them to think critically.
Smacking a child is more about the feelings of the parent (out of control) than the behaviour of the child
No matter what reasons the parent gives for smacking the child, hitting creates fear, by teaching young children that they â??did wrong and must now suffer because they are bad”.
If the only reason children have for not doing something wrong is the fear of being punished, what guidelines will they have for behaviour when no one is there to punish them?â? asks Pam Leo author of Connection Parenting.
Hitting is violence
When a child is born â??parents intend to teach their child to be courteous, respectful, responsible, kind and loving. Hitting is not courteous, respectful, kind or loving. Hitting is violence.
The only â??lessonsâ?? that hitting can teach a child, is to hit and to fear and distrust those that hit them,â? explains Leo. When the same hand that loves him also smacks him how can a young child distinguish that heâ??s being smacked because of â??what he did and not because he was a bad child?
“He may in fact have been trying to be helpful by trying to tidy up momâ??s plates on the table, when they accidentally broke, or heâ??s smacking his friend because she is â??being naughtyâ? and wouldnâ??t share her toys. Does he get a smack for smacking his friends or other children? After all, he gets a smack when he misbehaves.
Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights agrees that, â??Violence against children is a violation of their human rights, a disturbing reality of our societies. It can never be justified whether for disciplinary reasons or cultural tradition. No such thing as a â??reasonableâ?? level of violence is acceptable. Legalised violence against children in one context risks tolerance of violence against children generally.â?
Smacking can unintentionally cause physical damage
Smacking can result in injuries such as burst ear drums, concussion, whiplash, injury to the pelvis, genitals, coccyx and spine, burst blood vessels, and the early onset of osteoarthritis, as well as the possibility that the child could fall and hurt himself while being smacked, according to The Opposition to Corporal Punishment of Children.
Children become indifferent to the pain of others
Parents smacking their child â??numbs the child to pain over time, which then translates to indifference to the pain of others.
Smacking teaches children they do not deserve respect
Dr. Alice Millar, author of The drama of being a child explains that smacking teaches children that they do not deserve respect. How can they, as adults, choose partners who treat them with respect, if they grow up believing they do not deserve it?
â??As long as the child is trained not by love, but by fear, so long will humanity live not by justice, but by force,” concurs Dr. Boris Sidis.
Spanking children can also be considered sexual abuse
Spanking children can also be considered sexual abuse, as it increases the risk of sexual problems as adults. Remember that the bum is situated near the sexual organs and so smacking can also be arousing. Professor Murray Straus looked at four studies which showed that there is a probability of three sexual problems in teens and adults who were hit as children:
Verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex.
Risky sex such as premarital sex without a condom.
Masochistic sex such as being aroused by being spanked when having sex.
These results, together with the results of more than 100 other studies, suggest that spanking is one of the roots of relationship violence and mental health problems.
Smacking damages the parent-child relationship
Parents may plan to stay calm when they smack their children, but more often they do not, and then regret their actions later, according to the American Academy of paediatrics.
Smacking damages the parent-child relationship with smacked children being more likely to rebel against their parents and engage in risky behaviours, as well as using deception and lying to their parents to avoid being smacked. It is also likely that they may continue with this pattern of behaviour even when they are older, according to Dr. Aletha Solter.
Children learn to solve problems by smacking
By smacking their children parents are also teaching them â??That it’s alright for people to hit people, and especially for big people to hit little people, and stronger people to hit weaker people. Children learn that when you have a problem you solve it with a good swat,â? explains Dr. Sears.
Smacking is ineffective
Several studies show that smacking is ineffective, because it does not change childrenâ??s behaviour. Children might stop the moment they are smacked, but then repeat the behaviour later, with parents getting into the repetitious behaviour of having to smack them again.
Clearly smacking doesnâ??t eliminate negative behaviour.
Smacked children are more susceptible to delinquent behaviour
Besides being more susceptible to delinquent behavious, smacked children are 80% more likely to suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide, Professor Murray Straus explains. He also discovered a correlation between spanked children and an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Even an occasional smack can make children more aggressive with their peers and siblings. Smacked children are also likely to grow up to be belligerent adults who may smack their own children, Dr. Gershoff discovered in his many research studies on smacking.
â??Since 1979, 20 countries have prohibited all forms of corporal punishment of children, with the latest being Costa Rica, which prohibited corporal punishment in 2008. To date, no African country has done so,â? according to the SANCHPC. There is however, a white paper waiting to be voted upon in South Africa against smacking. Parents in Sweden were recently jailed for smacking their children.
How do these countries manage their children without smacking them and using corporal punishment?
The method most commonly used by Swedish parents is â??verbal conflict resolution,â? where parents and children express their anger through discussion. Preverbal children are given lots of attention and parents childproof their homes, according to professor Haeuser.
Meeting the needs of children
Most children, even very young children, are able to control themselves and ask for what they need, even with a limited vocabulary. Children whose needs are met feel safe, secure and acknowledged, and will respond to a gentle request by a parent without the parent having to lose control.
I have two articles ‘Throw out the time-out’ and ‘Positive Parenting’ on www.inspiredparenting.co.za which show how meeting the needs of children and giving them a say in their life leads to self determination.
â??Punishment…renders autonomy of conscience impossible.â? – Piaget
Pledge: â?? I promise that I will not SMACK MY CHILDREN or use CORPORAL PUNISHMENT with them from today and for the rest of their life.â?
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By Claire Marketos, www.inspiredparenting.co.za