The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as any punishment in which physical force is intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort. It includes hitting (with a hand or object), kicking, shaking, throwing, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair, forcing them to stay in uncomfortable positions, locking or tying up and burning.
Section 7 of the Children’s Act, 2005, states that children have the right to be protected from any physical and psychological harm. Corporal punishment in any setting is a violation of that right and results in physical, emotional and psychological harm.
For many parents, smacking is seen as an effective way to discipline their children, however, where does one draw the line between a ‘safe smack’ and one that causes harm? There are, however, various other ways in which parents can discipline their children.
Because children look for approval from their parents, positive reinforcement is important.
This involves praising them when they do something good so that they are more likely to do the positive behaviour again.
Changing the environment also changes the negative behaviour.
For instance, before your child throws all your clothes out of your cupboard, lock the cupboards, or if they are fighting over a toy, take the toy away.
Having age appropriate rules and consequences is important.
The key here is to be consistent about following through on the consequences when those rules are broken. Posting rules and their consequences somewhere in the house is a good way to remind children what they are, as well as hold parents accountable with enforcing the consequences. If house rules say that your children must pick up their toys before bedtime, make sure it’s done every time. Rules don’t work if they are enforced only when you feel like doing so.
Ignoring bad behavior is also another option when disciplining children providing that there are no life threatening consequences of their behaviour. It can work very well with children who are craving attention. Although annoying, there is no harm in allowing them to throw a tantrum.
Time out is another useful tool. This involves setting up a dedicated and safe space where you send your child to when he/she disobeys the rules.
Placing your child in time out for a minute per year of their age – ie: a five-year-old can go to time out for five minutes, is a good rule of thumb. When the time is over, ask the child for an apology and move on from the incident.
Be careful not to shout at your child out of frustration when trying to discipline them. When you’re disciplining them, it is important that you remain calm and explain to them what they did wrong — making sure that they understand the negative consequence of their behaviour. Make eye contact, be calm, and tell your child what to do (Pack your toys away) and not what not to do (Don’t make a mess!).
If your children are older, be flexible enough to negotiate with them.
Involving them in the disciplining process helps them take responsibility for their actions.
Should any of the above resonate with you or if you would like assistance or further information, please contact Jewish Community Services on 021 461 1100 (temporary contact number at Highlands House).