Is a law banning spanking in South Africa necessary or is our government trying to ingratiate itself with human rights activists? Child spanking has become a topical issue in these shores since the Minister of Social Development announced that her department is spearheading the abolition of corporal punishment. The words attributed to the minister on www.news24.com are:
“If a husband beats a wife it’s a crime, but if a parents hits a child who is helpless, it’s not illegal,” Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini told the newspaper. She said parents had to take responsibility and raise their children with proper values, to ensure they “don’t end up killing your own children”. Can we really compare the beating of a woman by her husband with the mild spanking of a child? Can these two acts rank in the same category?
According to rights activists and some psychologists these two acts are both a manifestation of an abhorrent tendency that seeks to control others through the use of violence. Connecting these two acts is frightening for me because it suggests that people who spank their children are also potential women abusers. If I bring this to my personal life it gets confusing because it is my wife who spanks more than I do.
Does this mean she has the potential to abuse me? Should I be concerned that one day she might become violent with me? Personally I do not like spanking and not because I think it is wrong but because I like to first exhaust other alternatives before I resort to the rod. Speaking of a rod, I have actually not met a parent who actually keeps one at home but many parents use an open hand to hit a child on the bums. Well this too is apparently also going to be banned because it is considered violent.
This now brings me to another issue. When government starts criminalizing millions of parents in this country what would happen to the children when their caregivers are incarcerated? In this country we already have over 2 million orphaned children and many more that are raised by a single parent. What is a sense in creating more dysfunctional families when we are already mired in such difficulty?
Those who argue for a ban in spanking would say that we are already creating dysfunctional families by raising traumatised children who think that violence is the only way to solve disputes and problems. There are studies that apparently prove that children who were spanked are predisposed to violence than those who were not. As one who was spanked I would think of myself as an exception in this case.
However a few weeks ago a New Brighton dad did beat his 12 year old son to death with his hands and feet because he accused of him of stealing R5. It is stories like these and the high prevalence of child abuse that spanking ban advocates would point to as proof that today’s adults cannot just be left alone to raise their offspring. They apparently need the government to micromanage them because they just do not have the common sense to know what is best for their own children.
According to the Social Development Minister, the government wants to legislate on how we raise our children because we have the propensity to kill them. What amazes me is the fact that people are already killing each other in this country while there are laws that prohibit murder. There are already laws that prohibit abuse and the endangerment of children and I don’t know why disciplining your child in love should be conflated with the dastardly act of child abuse.
Don’t we as parents have an innate ability to know what is best for our children? Why then is our government trying to create a nanny state where they presume to know better than us? Countries like Britain have gone down this route and the results of their social experimentation are shocking. Many parents are complaining about the rudeness and ill-discipline of British children.
How does our government hope to enforce this proposed law when one considers their track record in enforcing existing laws? I am not really campaigning for the right to beat my child but for the right to have a choice in how I raise my child. God’s word has enough guidance for me and therefore I do not see why civil government must interfere in my own home. The issue of powerful governments and weak citizens is harmful because next time we might be told that we should not be affectionate in public because it discriminates against those who are single and unattached.
I have a right to discipline my child and with that right comes the responsibility to raise a God-fearing individual. If my child is a well rounded individual, according to the sociologists, but does not fear God then I would have failed as a Christian parent. Similarly, if I abuse or hurt my child I would fail to live up to God’s standard for being a caring loving father. Compared to the prospects of failing God, failing to live up to SA’s legal code is not my biggest worry.