Discipline doesn’t mean to punish. It means, to teach or to train. As parents we need to focus on what we hope to instill in our children in the long term, such as respect and self-control, and take the age appropriate steps from today.
Many experts believe that parents shouldn’t spank children as a form of discipline. Adversaries of corporal punishment argue that frequent spankings teach children that violence can be used to resolve conflict situations.
It is also now illegal to spank your own child in South Africa. This new ruling was passed by the South Gauteng High Court on 19 October 2017. Although smacking a child (your own or someone else’s) in the home environment has always been classified as an assault, there was previously a loophole where the parent could plead the special defence of “reasonable chastisement” in the event of being taken to court on the matter. This common law defence has now been revoked by the South Gauteng High Court’s ruling, which has rendered this plea inadmissible and not in keeping with the Constitution.
Corporal punishment in schools has also been banned for 21 years, as well as psychological abuse.
There are many ways to effectively discipline your children, but there’s no one right way to do it, and not all methods work as well for everyone.
Here are four alternative discipline techniques to spanking:
The choice and consequence technique
The choice and consequence technique differs from the punishment and reward system in that parents provide a choice for their child. By providing a choice as to how he wants to behave, you can still channel your child’s behaviour in the right direction and he’ll feel in control of the situation.
The choice and consequence technique teaches children that when they choose to behave in a certain manner, they’re choosing the consequence for that behaviour as well. This system aims to bring back the child’s choices and sense of responsibility to behave well instead of the parents letting the child know when his behaviour is unacceptable or not.
Focus on good behaviour
Notice when your child is doing something good. Children usually misbehave because they know they’ll get attention from you when they do. So, next time you’re on the phone and your child sits quietly on the floor drawing a picture for you, praise him on how well he behaved, keeping himself busy while you were having an important conversation. This technique will work much more effectively than if you overreact when he tears up your emails while you’re on the phone, because next time he wants attention, he’ll do something even more mischievous to get attention from you. Try to always give a quick appraisal of what he’s doing, whether you’re commenting on his beautiful drawing or giving him a quick hug, even if you’re busy. By doing this, there’ll be little need for him to misbehave just to get some attention from you or Dad.
Explain to your children what sort of behaviour you expect before you discipline them. For example, make it clear that under no circumstances are they allowed to draw on the walls and furniture with their crayons. Explain why they can’t do this and what will happen if they do (you may decide to take away the crayons for the rest of the day and get them to help you clean the wall, for example.). If they then draw on the walls, remind them that you’ve told them they’re not allowed to draw on the walls but that they can draw on paper instead. Remind them what will happen if you see them doing it again. If they’ve chosen to ignore your warnings and draw on your walls again, enforce the consequences – take away the crayons for the rest of the day and get them to help you clean the wall.
Time-out involves physically removing your child from the situation/setting in which he misbehaved, and taking him to a boring room or corner. Time-outs usually work very well when children need a “cooling off” period, and it gives them time to think about what they’ve done wrong. Experts suggest one minute of time-out for every year of the child’s age. If he refuses to stay put or sit still, take him back to the corner or chair as many times as is necessary to keep him there. Time-out should be used wisely and not for first-time offences. Only after you’ve warned him that there’ll be consequences if she continues her poor behaviour, should you send her to time-out. The time-out should also take place in a safe environment where parents can still see their child. He shouldn’t be banished to a dark room or somewhere where he can hurt himself.