Child discipline: whose right is it?

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 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?

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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.  


  1. Spot on! Stories of parents killing children few n far in-between to justify interference in our homes,if a person is abusive they would kill their child or spouse, doesn’t justify the rest of us being refused our right to raise our children the way we see fit

    • You are right sis Nomvuyo. Child abuse and child discipline are not the same. Rights activists would tell us that some abusers are people who taught they were disciplining a child but overstepped the boundary. Such people then must be taught what is the difference between discipline and abuse or between disciplining a child and punishing a child. I was discipline as a child and for that I am grateful. Although one relative did abuse me but I know the difference between my mother’s loving discipline and that relative’s abuse. These two acts are not the same. Thank you

  2. Rev I L Karshagen

    Well said Afrika. As you have done, every one of us needs to ascertain who it that we will serve; and this decision will take away our confusion, if there is any. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!

    • Absolutely Rev Karshagen. We must decide who it is we are going to serve. We must decide whether being politically correct is more important than being in right standing with God. Blessings

  3. Again you have made some sound points regarding this topic, Afrika. As for me and my house, we will also serve the Lord!
    When this topic was raised in the media, our children had some good laughs about the spankings they received when they were little (and some more recently!). It reminded them of how naughty they were (sometimes unintentional)and they appreciated the fact that we as parents cared about them enough to dissipline them accordingly.
    The interference of the state in household matters and dissipline is just another smokescreen and time waster as an excuse for them not to have to deal immediately with their own inefficiency to dissipline the “state household”!
    Let us pray that our leaders will come and subject themselves to our Loving Father’s wisdom and for RSA voters to see through the various smokescreens and schemes of the devil, the enemy of all humanity!

    • It is really a strange thing indeed Gradus. Grandparents today, especially illiterate ones, are struggling to understand the government’s logic with this interference. They are not clear on all of this human rights issue. There is today more talk about human rights than about human responsibility.
      There is balance between rights and responsibilities and the result is a spoilt people who live life with a self of entitlement.

  4. I fail to see the logic in equating a child being raised in a loving home receiving a spanking on their bottoms to simply teach them there are consequences to bad behaviour with the inexcusable child abuse of irregular members of society.

  5. To add to my last comment….I guarantee that authentic research will show that it takes very few spankings if done lovingly and correctly to teach a child there will be consequences, and is not that what life is all about. It is nothing but kind and loving to spare a child growing up the pain of learning these lessons the hard way by landing up in jail. When will we learn the Love and Goodness of God when he gives us instruction that works so that we do not end up destroyed. How many well adjusted successful adults in life will tell you they received a good “klap” on their behinds from parents who loved them and they were none the worse for it.

    • I suspect that what researchers do Di is to focus on the worst cases of child discipline or spanking to paint all forms of spanking with the same brush. They will tell us that children who are spanked grow up to be violent and traumatised adults who resort to violence to solve problems.
      I will not argue with these findings but I find it strange that I and many people I know are not violent and yet we were spanked as children. What do you do when a child does something stupid and dangerous? For instance, interfering with the steering wheel while you are driving. Do you pull on the side of the road and talk to him nicely or do you “slap” his hand off? What if you are on the fast lane in heavy traffic and you cannot pull off? These are real situations that we as parents deal with on a regular basis. Are we suppose to read psychology books on how to deal with these situations?

  6. Hey I also agree with you,even at school,I’m working in a psychiatric clinic and kids with who are physically active cannot be gently disciplined but ends up being exposed to Drugs like Ritalin which suppresses the hayperactivity,isn’t that exposing children to drugs?

    • That is an interesting angle Dolph. Surely it should be better to administer gentle discipline to a child than to keep me on drugs that alter his behaviour.

  7. I think the government must be last to say anything on moral values because they fail SA citizens big time!!! from the president down to the local government it is greed, fraud, dishonesty, theft, immorality, lies, ect. How can they now tell parents how do raise a kid if they cannot even supply services after 19 years of democracy?The Bible explicitly teach all parents how to raise a kid. Stick to it. Do not take advice from lairs and immoral. They don’t know the value to raise a kid as per God’s instructions.God cannot lie. I believe they should first come to the Cross of Jesus Christ.

    • You are radical there David. I hear what you are saying though. Indeed our government has a lot of challenges it must deal with and it is unnecessary for them to raise new challenges for themselves by interfering in our homes. We are capable of raising our own children. We are not abusers and government must deal with abusers. Our God and His word trains us in parenting and we don’t need to be policed.

  8. Mike Guest (B.Th.)

    Couldn’t agree more with the comments. A few spankings as a child taught me that there were consequences and the spanking rate quickly dropped to near zero. We, in turn, found the same with our son. Everyone needs to learn that there are consequences.