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Opinion - Hitting our children is part of our heritage.

Think about it. Your parents probably hit you. Their parents hit them and so the tradition of violence against children was passed down from one generation to the next.

In some homes, other than the open palm, a father’s weapon of choice was the belt. For mums it was the rolling pin, wooden spoons or even shoes.

Not only was bad behaviour punished. Any attempt at sharing an opinion or arguing an opposing view was stifled because, not too long ago, the prevailing culture was that children were meant to be seen, not heard.

In schools, teachers were free to hit. Some victims still remember, almost with fondness, how they feared telling their parents they were assaulted by a teacher. If they did, their parents would punish them because teachers were never wrong.

These victims of violence often argue that there was nothing wrong with how they were treated because they turned out okay.

Well, that’s not entirely true. You just have to look around you at the level of violence in our homes, our community and in our society to realise we are not okay.

There are many reasons for this. High levels of unemployment and inequality is one reason. A failing criminal justice system is another. But equally important is the fact that parents have legitimised the use of violence at home.

A parent who hits his son is saying it is okay to use force when someone does something or says something you don’t like. A parent who hits a daughter is telling her it is okay to be slapped or kicked by someone who loves you.

It may not be the intention. But it is often the unintended consequence. After all, children copy more of what their parents do than what they say.

We therefore welcome the decision by the Constitutional Court that spanking your child is unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng noted in the judgment that parents had the responsibility to mould or discipline a child into a future responsible citizen.

He spoke about a positive parenting approach which is about teaching a child good behaviour and the dos and don’ts of life.

“It also entails a more effective parent-child communication to help a child realise the adverse consequences of unacceptable conduct and to generally guide her on how best to behave in life,” said the Chief Justice.

For many it will be a new way of parenting. They will have to start by unlearning much of what their parents taught them.

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