Police minister Bheki Cele recently urged parents not to blame the police when teenagers kill. With that, he encouraged them to rather look closely at what they are imparting to their children in the way they discipline them. So, what role do parents play in shaping who kids become?

There are many external factors that may influence a child’s behaviour, and there may be justification in shifting the blame to schools, the community or the violent society we live in. However, Kim Abrahams, a Cape Town-based child and family therapist, says that minors learn to behave by observing and being exposed to the behaviour of their primary caregivers.

“Children ultimately learn what they live. So it remains the main responsibility of parents to ensure they expose them to appropriate and consistent discipline, and by being mindful of their own actions. Morals, values and expectations that are instilled at home. If parents are not actively involved, then the child will learn from others around them, which may not always be in their best interest,” Abrahams says.

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WHAT IS DISCIPLINE?

Mahlatse Diale, a social worker from the Johannesburg Parent and Child Counselling Centre (JPCCC), says it is very important to first understand what ‘discipline’ really means.

“The word signifies teaching and a lot is written on that. Discipline is not about acting after a child has done something wrong. It’s proactive, and involves you teaching a child what’s expected of them, why, and what the consequences are. It’s about teaching what acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are,” Diale explains.

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