By: Poelano Malema
Parents have many ways of disciplining their children. Some parents prefer to use methods like a naughty corner, while others feel the occasional hiding won’t hurt them. However, is giving your child a hiding the right thing to do? Nonhlanhla Makhathini, a social worker in private practice, answers this question for us.
“Research indicates that hitting a child is one of the ineffective ways of disciplining. In South Africa hitting or spanking a child is illegal, hence it was abolished in schools, although parents still continue to hit children in their private homes,” says Makhathini.
She adds that “any amount of hitting has a potential to impact negatively on a child’s cognitive ability, especially on how they see the world around them. Physically the child experiences pain from a parent whom they trust. Excessive hitting can result in body marks. Parents can receive a jail sentence for causing bodily harm to their children.”
Not only is hitting an ineffective way to discipline a child, but Makhathini warns that it may have the following effects:
• The child may model the behaviour observed from the parent by hitting other children.
• Anti-social behaviour may develop often because of a lack of self- respect and increased feelings of rejection.
• Anger may be internalised with recurring outbursts.
• Anger is expressed through hitting, striking and inflicting pain on others.
• Because of anger, the child may be emotionally detached, making it difficult to form a meaningful and trusting relationship with others – including parents. Many children and teens may find it difficult to open up to their parents about issues of life due to the threat of being punished.
• Parents often fail to train their children, resorting to hitting their children due to frustration.
• It can lead to abuse due to life frustrations in the lives of parents which is often expressed by hitting children.
• Children often do what is expected mostly out of fear of being punished.
• They might repeat the same mistake because the children did not come to an understanding of why they should behave.
• Hitting may lead to anxiety attacks due to fear of failure. Hitting is often associated with shame and low self- esteem.
Makhathini advises that parents should use alternative discipline methods:
• Parents should get into the habit of training their children before making an unrealistic demand on them. They should never give up on training. It is a lifelong process. It is the most crucial process before the age of ten.
• Rules should be clear and parents should be consistent.
• The expectation should be age appropriate.
• Withdrawal of privileges is often effective as children don’t like to lose them and reasons must be explained.
• Schools still utilise break period as a form of discipline because every child wants to be with their friend during that time.
• Once the disciplinary measure is completed the parent must continue to train a child until the behaviour is internalised. Children are often excited about mastering new behaviours.
Lastly, Makhathini says parents should always remember to reward good behaviour and affirm their child.
Image courtesy of Pexels/ @Monstera