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  • Writer's pictureP.E.T. South Africa

The days of physically disciplining your child in South Africa are numbered

Updated: Nov 13, 2018

South Africa's Department of Social Development has officially published the Children’s Amendment Bill for public comment. In short, this Amendment Bill will make it unlawful for parents to physically punish their children.

Section 12A of the Act reads:

(1) Any person caring for a child, including a person who has parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child, must not treat or punish the child in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.
(2) Any punishment, within the home or other environment, in which physical force or action is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or harm to the child is unlawful.

Read the full Amendment Bill and more information here:

There's no doubt that this Amendment Bill will have many parents up in arms. Many are frustrated; feeling like they have no alternative options to disciplining their children. It is clear that parents want to be able to raise their children with the methods they choose and rely upon, without any interference or judgement from anyone.

Parenting can be hard — that’s a given! And when fed up, many parents turn to punishments, bribery, or rewards. But while these strategies might “work” temporarily, there is a risk of damaging trust between the parent and child.

Parent & Educational Training offers a parenting course called Parent Effectiveness Training, and a topic often discussed is parenting styles that rely heavily on authoritative power. Whether parents are pro- or against physical punishment is not the point. One of our goals is to show parents, irrespective of their parenting style, that they all have things in common:

  • They all want children that listen when spoken to.

  • They all want to resolve conflicts and problems in their family so that problems stay solved.

  • Mostly, they all want children that "behave" when they are not around.

In other words, a child that acts out of consideration for him/herself and others, when the parent is not around. To achieve this, parents first need to understand that physical punishment is not the answer. Instead, studies have shown it has the opposite effect.

The reason for this is that physical punishment creates fear, anxiety, and dependency within the child, which could lead to a child acting out of compliance, not consideration. In other words, a child that "behaves" only when the parent is around.

"With the self-disciplined child the responsibility for, and the control of, his or her behavior resides within the child...
With the second kind of discipline – that exercised by parents and teachers over children – the responsibility for, and the control of, the child’s behavior resides within the adult. This fundamental difference is one of inner control versus external control. Suffice to say, my argument is that externally imposed discipline cripples children; certainly self-discipline does not." - Dr Thomas Gordon

In summary, it’s important for parents to understand the difference between a disciplined and a self-disciplined child - the difference shows when you are not around.

We’ve all heard the argument: “I was spanked, and I turned out fine.”

Yes, while you might have turned out to be a well-functioning adult, there still are plenty of long-term effects that you might not even be aware of. The question you should instead ask yourself: “How is my relationship with my parents today?”

If you can honestly say that your relationship with your child/your parents is open, honest, and closer than ever, then congratulations you no longer have to continue reading. But, if you doubt your answer ever so slightly, then perhaps there’s something to explore?

Parent Effectiveness Training is a programme that can help a parent adjust their mindset concerning the parenting styles we cling to from our past. The course shifts away from relying solely on power, control, and fear in the parent-child relationship, by instead focusing on self-disclosure and communication.

Some of the core values of P.E.T. include the importance of a safe space, family rule-setting, boundaries, and most importantly acceptance.

It’s a family without bosses. It’s an alternative.

Learn more:


Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.

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