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By transforming the way we raise our children, we can t...

Defend Truth


By transforming the way we raise our children, we can transform our country


Lwando Xaso is an attorney and a writer exploring the interaction between race, gender, history and popular culture. She is the author of the book, ‘Made in South Africa, A Black Woman’s Stories of Rage, Resistance and Progress’.

We have the opportunity to change our societies by changing how we parent our children. It is evident that, more often than not, children are raised in loveless circumstances.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

One of the sites of revolution is the home. What I mean by revolution is the deployment of the ethics of love to diminish and eventually annihilate the systems of oppression rooted in fear such as racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and many others.

A question worthy of consideration is how have we transformed our households in light of the values of the Constitution? So often I hear a parent say they are raising their children the way they were raised because they, allegedly, turned out fine.

An example of a common refrain is: “Well, my parents spanked me and I turned out all right!” This sentiment is unimaginative thinking. Those who want to stick to how they were parented, no matter how great they were brought up, fail to recognise there is always room to learn. Turning out “just fine” is not the aim. The aim is to thrive beyond what your parents thought possible.

We have the opportunity to change our societies by changing how we parent our children. It is evident that, more often than not, children are raised in loveless circumstances.

Most times they are treated as responsibilities that only need to be fed, clothed and sent to school. In extreme cases children are abused, neglected and exploited. What happens in a household will not be confined within its boundaries. It becomes all of our concern, as it will reverberate in the world. Our loveless world is an extension of our loveless homes.

Changing how we parent doesn’t mean completely discarding what came before. There are useful things we can keep from how we were parented, but there are always new learnings that emerge, and changing our minds on what we once thought was good parenting is often necessary. The law has limited application in the home. It cannot tell parents how to love their children, nor can it provide a manual on how to parent. But progressive law does have a limited role to play in wrestling us out of our unquestioned and sometimes outdated traditions.

This Human Rights Day we can reflect on how we can enhance a culture of human rights and our constitutional values in our homes. One of the ways in which the Constitution has been used to nudge us along is the Constitutional Court’s judgment of 2019, which found that spanking children is now assault under our law.

The same people who complain about how violent our country is wanted to reserve for themselves their right to assault children. The court’s judgment is an invitation for us to eradicate one of our longest-standing epidemics – violence. We all know we live in a violent country – a country established with violence and that used violence to maintain inequality between races, sexes and many other differences. A civilian was just shot and killed for being in the vicinity of a student protest. Our quick resort to violence is an abnormality born from fear, which is validated in the home as a legitimate method of suppression.

The Constitutional Court recognises that the home is a necessary site of transformation if we are to transform our country. How we raise children will determine the future of our country. How we reimagine parenting will bring forth a reimagined South Africa not easily angered to violence.

The quality of our future is determined by the quality of our children, and in recognition of this fact our Constitutional Court has held in another case as follows: “If a child is to be constitutionally imagined as an individual with a distinctive personality, and not merely as a miniature adult waiting to reach full size, he or she cannot be treated as a mere extension of his or her parents, umbilically destined to sink or swim with them… Individually and collectively all children have a right to express themselves as independent social beings, to have their own laughter as well as sorrow, to play, imagine and explore in their own way, to themselves get to understand their bodies, minds and emotions, and above all to learn as they grow how they should conduct themselves and make choices in the wide social and moral world of adulthood. And foundational to the enjoyment of the right to childhood is the promotion of the right as far as possible to live in a secure and nurturing environment free from violence, fear, want and avoidable trauma.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


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All Comments 3

  • The ‘deployment of the ethics of love’ is an odd way to start an article regarding the breakdown of the family unit. Absent fathers, and mothers that knowingly protect the violence and bullying of their sons seems a better place to start.

  • Ian and Martin are right – absentee fathers are at the centre of the problem and the high prevalence of this absence bespeaks a severe socio-economic and even educational crisis in SA.

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