'Parents need to know the difference between discipline and assault'

How to discipline children is a contentious issue. Dr Shaheda Omar from the Teddy Bear Clinic chats with Eusebius McKaiser about drawing distinctions between discipline and assault.

According to a study compiled by Parenting association SA

• 94% of 3- and 4-year-olds have been spanked at least once during the past year, according to one study. • 74% of mothers believe spanking is acceptable for kids ages 1 to 3, says another study. • 61% of parents condone spanking as a "regular form of punishment" for young children, according to a different study.

Sticking with the topic of discipline, CapeTalk and 702 host Eusebius McKaiser asks whether a sensible distinction can be drawn between spanking and assault.

There's actually a very fine line here. It's a very delicate boundary that we are looking at.

Dr. Shaheda Omar, Director of clinical services at The Teddy Bear Clinic

Omar notes that when discussing disciplinary measures for children, it is important to take into consideration the legislation. Corporal punishment in schools is banned and the use of it is accompanied with legal consequences. She goes on to say, in households, one needs to look at reasonable chastisement.

When we talk about reasonable chastisement, it means there is no intention to harm, to inflict any emotional or physical injury or subjecting a child to any form of humiliation. It is orderly and predictable.

Dr. Shaheda Omar, Director of clinical services at The Teddy Bear Clinic

When physical discipline goes beyond excessive with an intention to harm a child then you are looking at assault and that constitutes a criminal offence within the school context, explains Omar.

She adds that if it is beyond reasonable chastisement, then the parent will also be subjected and charged with physical assault.

Omar says 80% of the parents she's worked with at the Teddy Bear Clinic have admitted to being victims of assault as children where it was normal for them to be beaten with a belt, ruler or cane and went on to perpetuate this cycle towards their children.

These were parents referred to us by the courts because their disciplinary attempts towards their children had become so excessive that it was brought to the attention of law enforcement agencies.

Dr. Shaheda Omar, Director of clinical services at The Teddy Bear Clinic

Violence begets violence says Omar.

For more on this interview listen to the audio clip below:

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