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Why disciplining your child with a belt is ‘unconstitutional’

#ChildProtectionWeek2024: A social worker argues a parent can discipline their child without hitting them.

Parents can discipline their children with influence by explaining logical consequences and setting clear boundaries for behaviour.

“A parent should never enforce their power with physical punishment. If you learn to communicate effectively and set boundaries, your disappointment in their behaviour will be punishment in itself,” advised Karen Badenhorst, a social worker, and internationally certified parenting and personal/ professional development trainer.

She addressed the Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA) during a webinar as part of a series educating the union’s more than 65 000 members during National Child Protection Week (until June 5). This year’s theme is Every Conversation Matters.

MISA asked Badenhorst to empower parents with alternatives to discipline their children after a father (36) was imposed a suspended sentence of five years imprisonment in the Pretoria Regional Court for hitting his daughter (7) with a belt.

The father from Centurion disciplined his daughter after she threw a tantrum. He was punished the same way as he was punished as a child, not knowing it was unconstitutional to hit a child. His estranged wife reported him for the assault of all three of his children after she saw a blue mark on the body of the eldest daughter. He pleaded guilty to three charges of assault.

Badenhorst added children must be taught that conflict is normal in any relationship, but not toxic or destructive.

She further explained the three methods of handling conflict.

“Authoritarian parents are very strict with a lot of rules. The parent must always use force to get the result and reward afterwards. The result is that the child avoids and resents the parent because of not having a voice. This child will fight back and become aggressive and be a bully at school because the child feels bullied at home.

“A lot of children submit to this type of parent, but never develop good self-esteem, becoming a people pleaser. There is a difference between punishments and explaining logical consequences. Parents should not be the source of consequences. Life and reality will sort out the consequences of the actions of a child. Change the word discipline with influence.”

According to Badenhorst, permissive parents just let the child be.

“This child becomes unmanageable and problematic, the child feeling unloved.”

She also believes that parents should follow the win-win parenting style, with mutual respect and consideration through creative co-operation between parent and child.

“Use words, let’s put our heads together to make plans towards a win-win solution. Listen to the child’s unmet needs sharing your unmet needs. Allow the child to put solutions on the table before you share your solutions. There must be boundaries and understanding. Evaluate and find a solution acceptable to both.”

According to Badenhorst, every child has a basic need for survival, freedom, power, love, belonging and fun.

“They want us to spend time with them. Always allow a child to speak.”

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