Loving Our Children - Child Protection Week 2022
Zaheera Seedat (Educational Psychologist) and Mahlatse Diale (Social Worker)
Protecting our children does not just mean protecting them from severe physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. It’s about ensuring that we are not harmful to our children in our own homes. For instance, some families grew up in homes where corporal punishment was the norm and they grew up to believe that this is the best way to discipline children. However, corporal punishment, no matter how controlled is harmful to our children and their psychological well-being. This is why after years of talks and research; in South Africa it is now illegal to use corporal punishment in our schools and homes. This may be shocking for many parents and even teachers especially when it is hard to think of other ways to discipline children effectively.
Corporal punishment is not the only damaging method that can be used in the home. Harsh and punitive statements can also negatively affect children. Statements like “things would be better if you weren’t born”; “you are useless/stupid”, “you are just like your mom/dad” can have long lasting effects on children - affecting their self-confidence and self-esteem. Unusual forms of punishment like not giving children food, making them sleep outside are severe and harmful as well. Sometimes, we may also indirectly harm our children through neglect when denying access to see a doctor, psychologist or even denying access to necessary medication.
So how to we maintain discipline without causing damage? Positive Parenting provides alternative ways of discipling children that has proven to be effective. It involves being proactive rather than reactive, planning ahead your parenting goals, setting boundaries and having realistic and fair consequences.
Some tips to think about:
Remember, there no bad kids! There are only bad behaviours. We have to try and understand the behaviours and what our children are trying to communicate to us; It’s important to ask ourselves as parents, are our requests reasonable and necessary? What need might our child be communicating through their behaviour?
We have to build our children especially when they are struggling. We have to help them when they have done something wrong and help them get it right;
Don't forget - children learn from their parents’ behaviours. They will not do as you say but rather do as you do. Just as you get angry and frustrated, so does your child. Model to your child how to be calm and kind and not reactive in tense situations. If you react in a calm way, they will certainly pick up on this and respond in the same way;
Always offer your child choices - as far as possible. This allows them to have some control but still allows you as the parent to set boundaries.
Make your child aware of the consequences for bad behaviour. Be clear and consistent and always follow through on a deserved consequence;
Finally, it is important to remember that parenting is an exceptionally difficult task. It can be frustrating and tiring but there are beautiful parts in watching and allowing your children to grow. Be patient and remember that as your child is learning and growing, you as a parent are learning and growing as well.
It may also be important that parents seek out parent counselling if they are struggling to effectively parent their children without being harmful with corporal punishment or emotionally harmful statements. Ultimately, we want our children to feel loved, to trust that they can make good decisions or choices and develop into healthy functioning adults. As parents we are custodians of our children’s lives. It is a responsibility with power but also an honour privilege. As a parent you hold the key to reinvent the way you were parented and create a positive pathway for your child.
Do you need support? Contact The Johannesburg Parent and Child Counselling Centre - 011 484 1734