In a landmark ruling the South African Constitutional Court has ruled that corporal punishment is illegal in South African homes. This means parents or guardians may no longer use spanking or smacking as a form of discipline. 

People say hitting children for misbehavior, especially aggression, sends mixed messages as the child may wonder why it’s fine for the parent/guardian to spank her, but not right for the child to spank a sibling.

It has been argued reasonable chastisement that has been deemed very difficult to interpret. “One person’s tough love could be another’s merciless beating. So the Department of Social Development decided to table this matter to establish a full ban on physically disciplining your children,” according to The South African publication. 


This ruling upholds the dictates of Section 12A (1), Children’s Amendment Bill which provides that: “Any person caring for a child, including a person who has parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child, must not treat or punish the child in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way. Any punishment, within the home or other environment, in which physical force or action is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or harm to the child is unlawful.”

Understandably, many parents or guardians who feel that spanking is an effective way to deal with a child’s behavior, have to consider alternatives. A publication called Very Well Family has useful tips.

Following are 10 ways to discipline a child without using physical punishment:


Place Your Child in Time-Out

Placing a child in time-out is a much better alternative.  When done correctly, it teaches children how to calm themselves down, which is a useful life skill. For this to be effective the children must have plenty of positive time-in with their parents/guardians. Then, when they’re removed from the situation, the lack of attention will be uncomfortable and that discomfort could remind them to behave better in the future.

Take Away Privileges

Doing so has a longer effect than a minute’s spanking. Take away the TV, video games, a favourite toy or a fun activity for the day and the child will have a reminder not to repeat that mistake. Make it clear when the privileges can be earned back.


Ignore Mild Misbehaviour

This doesn’t mean you should look the other way if your child is doing something dangerous or inappropriate. But, you can ignore attention-seeking behaviour.

Teach New Skills

One of the main problems with spanking is that it doesn’t teach your child how to behave better. Spanking your child because he/she threw a temper tantrum, won’t teach him/her how to calm himself/herself down the next time he/she is upset. 

Children benefit from learning how to problem-solve, manage their emotions and compromise. When parents teach these skills it can greatly reduce behaviour problems. Use discipline that is aimed at teaching, not punishing.


Provide Logical Consequences

Logical consequences are specifically tied to the misbehavior. For example, if your child doesn’t eat his dinner, don’t let him have a bedtime snack. Or if he refuses to pick up his trucks, don’t allow him to play with them for the rest of the day. 

Linking the consequence directly to the behavior problem helps kids see that their choices have direct consequences.

Allow for Natural Consequences

Natural consequences allow children to learn from their own mistakes.  For example, if your child says he’s not going to wear a jacket, let him go outside and get cold – as long as it’s safe to do so. 

Use natural consequences when you think your child will learn from his own mistake. Monitor the situation to ensure that your child won’t experience any real danger.


Reward Good Behaviour

Instead of spanking a child for misbehavior, reward him for good behaviour. For example, if your child fights with his siblings often, set up a reward system to motivate him to get along better with them. 

Providing an incentive to behave can turn around misbehaviour fast. Rewards help kids to focus on what they need to do to earn privileges, rather than emphasize the bad behavior they’re supposed to avoid.

Praise Good Behaviour

Prevent behaviour problems by catching your child being good. For example, when he’s playing nicely with his siblings, point it out. Say, “You are doing such a good job sharing and taking turns today.” When there are several children in the room, give the most attention and praise to the children who are following the rules and behaving well. Then, when the other child begins to behave, give him praise and attention as well.


Stay consistent. 

If multiple caretakers watch your children have everyone enforce the same behavioural standards. if Grandma has different rules than Dad, your 3-year-old might get confused (or, in my experience, use the knowledge of different standards to undermine the entire system).

Take a timeout for yourself, too. 

If your child has pushed you to the point where you feel you can’t respond without spanking or yelling, take some space.


-Sourced from: Very Well Family; The South African and The New York Times