Children's Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
LAST week, I got an email from Michael Tembo of Ngabwe district saying:
Morning madam. I do follow your writings whenever I can. Unless I missed it, how I would appreciate if you did an article on how parents or guardians can discipline children without spanking.
Last month, on October 19, 2017, the South African High Court in Gauteng in a case of YG v The Children’s Institute and three others (case no A263/2016), ruled that it was unlawful for a parent to spank a child as a way of correcting because the act constituted assault. The facts are simple and well explained in that case.
In the case, a father is alleged to have assaulted his 13-year-old son for watching pornography on a family iPad; an act that goes against their religious beliefs. The man referred to as YG to protect the identity of his son was also slapped with a second charge of assaulting of his wife. The two alleged assaults occurred at the family home on the same day, but at different times.
The High Court ruled that the common law defence of “reasonable or moderate chastisement” breaches the rights of children under the 1996 Constitution and, is therefore, unconstitutional. In South Africa, the common law has, until now, recognised a defence to the charge of assault for parents who use force to discipline their children, provided this falls within the bounds of ‘moderate or reasonable chastisement’. The ruling did not create a new criminal offence: it only gave children the same protection from assault as adults by removing the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’.
This is because some parents and guardians have a tendency of using excessive force to ‘discipline’ children like YG who allegedly spanked and kicked his son referred to as M. During the trial, YG held that he was merely exercising his right as a parent to chastise his son by meting out reasonable corporal punishment. YG told the court that as a Muslim family, M knew that their religion strictly forbade the watching of pornography.
In her judgment, Judge Raylene Keightley said: “I am satisfied that it is permissible to require religious parents, who believe in corporal punishment, to be expected to obey the secular laws, rather than permitting them to place their religious beliefs above the best interests of their children.”
Discipline teaches a child to exercise self-control, confidence and encourages modelling appropriate behaviour, which is more effective than spanking. Punishment is physical because it involves such acts like spanking, hitting, or causing pain. This may be psychological because often, it results in disapproval, isolation, or shaming of a child. It offers little or nothing to help a child behave better in the future; it only builds up resentment for those in authority. And the parent or guardian who enforces the punishment becomes responsible for the child’s behaviour.
A child who is raised where positive discipline is stressed will often endeavour to be well-behaved. Such a child will show independence, respect for others and often does not want to disappoint the parent or guardian by misbehaving.
In my personal view, I believe it is possible to instil discipline without necessarily spanking or using force on a child; there is a marked difference between discipline and punishment. For example, when a child is spanked, the act of spanking is based on anger to make a child accountable for committing an offence whereas instilling discipline is motivated by love as a way of promoting responsible behaviour. A parent or guardian can exercise ‘tough love’ without using force; often a child will respond positively when spoken to with reason as opposed to spanking. In some cases, spanking only contributes to hardening a child to continue in its wayward ways.
Finally, it is important to note that Government banned corporal punishment that includes spanking in 2003, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in November 1989 and came into force in September 1990. Zambia is party to the CRC and the African Charter on the rights and welfare of children that both denounce any type of physical punishment against children.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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