In a recent edition of You Magazine (23 February 2006), there was an article titled “Mom, Dad, you can’t hit me” about the possibility of smacking one’s child becoming illegal in South Africa (it already is in our schools). Following on from that article, there was a whole page of letters from irate parents, saying how they had spanked their children to discipline them without any ill effect on the children later in life.
It seems that there is confusion in the minds of many parents between “discipline” and “physical punishment”. They are really quite different, however. To quote from a guide to disciplining children (Discipline 0-12 years, from http://www.parenting.sa.gov.au/pegs/), “Discipline is about teaching. It is not necessary to physically punish children in order to teach them what they need to know. Unfortunately many adults don’t always know what to do and tend to treat their children the way they were treated.”
Our Shelter staff are very aware of the need to teach parenting skills to the women who stay in the Shelter. Many of the women come from homes where they themselves were physically abused as children and are hardly aware that there are other ways of teaching their children what to do and what not to do. What is so important is that they begin to make the connection for themselves between the beatings they have received from their husbands/partners and the hidings they give their children.
Granted, the other methods of discipline often require energy and patience from the mothers, both of which their experiences of domestic violence have not left them much to spare. But with education and practice and much support, it is possible to for the mothers to end this form of the cycle of violence.
Other useful websites for parenting advice: