Brian Edwards Media

To Smack Or Not To Smack

Here’s the thing I find difficult to understand – that any civilised person should be so upset by the idea of it being against the law to hit children that they would go to the trouble of organising a  petition to parliament seeking a referendum on the issue, with the express aim of having that law overturned.

Some explanation of the mindset of the more high-profile apologists for a change in the current law is to be found in their connection with, and in some cases membership of the ACT party, the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Family First, the Destiny Church and other conservative political and religious groups. These are people who cannot see beyond punishment as a response to unacceptable behaviour whether in the family or society at large. Their field of vision ranges from hitting naughty children to locking up violent offenders and throwing away the key.  Neither response has ever been effective in improving children’s behaviour or in deterring violent crime. Quite the reverse. 

Equally concerning is the willingness of these groups to dishonestly manipulate public opinion. The 1999 Law and Order Referendum, initiated by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, provided a striking example of the ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ style of survey and was deliberately designed to offer respondents Hobson’s choice. It read:

 Should there be a reform of the justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?

Three questions but only one available answer – either Yes or No. So if you were in favour of ‘greater emphasis on the needs of victims’ and ‘providing restitution and compensation for them’ – as I am – you also had to be in favour of ‘minimum sentences’ and the brutal Victorian concept of ‘hard labour’ for all serious violent offences’.  Which, needless to say,  I am not in favour of.   

Ninety-two percent of respondents apparently were. But most thinking people would have realised that the referendum presented impossibly conflicting options within the one question and would not have responded at all.

In an interview I did with the Sensible Sentencing founder on Radio Live a couple of years ago, Garth McVicar agreed that the Law and Order Referendum question was so flawed as to be meaningless. One might have thought the advocates of smacking - essentially the same people -  would have taken care to ensure that the same mistake would not be repeated.

But the ‘Anti-Smacking Referendum’ has again  been deliberately phrased to bamboozle respondents. It reads:

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

This is the equivalent of asking: ‘Should doctors recommend an exclusive diet of McDonalds and KFC as part of a healthy weight loss programme?’  McDonalds and KFC cannot be part of a healthy weight loss programme. And it is open to serious doubt whether smacking can be part of ‘good parental correction’.

If they are to have any validity at all, the language of referenda questions must be neutral. To make the ‘Anti-Smacking Referendum’ neutral, the word ‘good’ has to be deleted from the question. Even its title is misleading since there is no reference at all to ‘smacking’ in the Act. The word simply does not appear.

Bradford’s bill  was designed to prevent abusive parents using Section 59 of the Crimes Act to escape penalty.  Its purpose was clear:

To abolish the use of reasonable force by parents as justification for disciplining children.

The wording of the current Act reflects this:

Nothing in the Act or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

And it includes the following clarification:

To avoid doubt it is affirmed that police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child, or person in the place of a parent of a child, in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

That is precisely what the police have done.

Well, in the end it comes down to whether or not you think it should be legal to hit children. ‘Smack’ is such an innocuous word. But you cannot ‘smack’ a child without ‘hitting’ or ‘striking’ the child. And the word includes a range of possibilities – from the ‘tap on the bum’ which the proponents of the referendum would have us believe a smack means, to the volley of frenzied thumps which most of us have observed from frazzled parents on the street, in supermarkets and on buses.  Indeed, one of the best arguments against smacking is watching a parent smack a child. Generally the child is squirming or struggling to get free. The parent restrains the child by holding onto its arm with one hand, while using the other hand  to paddle its bottom.  Usually the child is crying or screaming. It is not an edifying sight.

But it is instructive. Smacking invariably means that the parent has lost control. Reasoning and constructive communication have been abandoned in favour of physical force.

I suspect most parents feel bad after they have hit their child. And, as a parent of five children and grandfather of ten, I understand very well the stresses that can impel the most loving father or mother to strike out.  We should be careful, as the Act allows,  not to prosecute the parent who on a rare occasion lightly smacks a misbehaving child.

But that is very different from the state legitimising or sanctioning the smacking, hitting, striking, corporal punishment – whatever synonym you prefer -  of children by their parents. That is a very slippery slope. Proponents of a change to the law want a ‘light slap’ to be legal, but the term defies definition and the police and the courts will be faced with the same impossible task they faced in defining ‘reasonable force’.

At present children are protected in law from all corporal punishment in 24 countries. They include Spain, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Israel,  Norway, Finland, Sweden – and New Zealand.

We should be proud to be on that list.

 

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44 Comments:

  1. A great summary of the problem facing everyone when the refererendum comes up. Perhaps the third option after yes/no, is to vote but strike out the ballot paper which must be counted. If say 80% (ha ha ) struck out the paper it would send a clear message.
    Just found your blog Brian and will include it in my daily viewing.

  2. Brian, you are right on so many points … including that parents feel bad when they hit.
    Recent research shows more parents are using positive parenting because it works better and improves a child’s behaviour, and it feels a whole lot better than inflicting violence.

    The Police discretion in the Act is working well. If ACT MP John Boscawen gets his Bill into parliament it would remove this discretion and in so doing would increase the risk of parents being criminalised. Bizarre!

    Thanks for your insightful article. We need more Kiwis like you.

    Deborah

  3. There is another kind of hitting that doesn’t occur in anger and is the thing that, for me, is at the nub of the issue.

    I understand parents who smack in anger, as I am who has done that, and I have also always apologised afterwards and made peace with my wronged child.

    What I would like to see challenged also is the notion of “the belt in the drawer” and “wait till your father gets home” punishments, which are meted out in cold blood aka lovingly, depending on your point of view.

    • I entirely agree, Patrick. The often ritualised, ‘this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you’ beating, meted out in cold blood after the offence, is to me much more difficult to accept than a smack in anger or frustration.

  4. Ianmac, an informal vote will not necessarily send a clear message, as there are many reasons that a vote may be counted as informal – Section 43 of the Referenda (Postal Voting) Act 2000 says “A voting paper is informal if the Returning Officer is satisfied that the voting paper does not clearly indicate the response for which the elector wished to vote” … and that can mean anything.

    Organisations like Barnardos, Plunket, Save The Children, Unicef and many more are all backing The Yes Vote, as it sends a much clearer message.

    As Brian so cleverly points out above, a smack cannot form part of good parenting practice any more than an exclusive diet of KFC and McDonalds can form part of a healthy weight loss programme. The act, the way it is currently worded, adequately protects parents against unwarranted prosecution.

    See The Yes Vote web site at http://yesvote.org.nz/ for more info.

  5. Thank you for highlighting so truthfully the challenges, frustrations and unbelievable statement which forms this referendum.

    It is so hard to understand why so many people in New Zealand condone the act of a big person doing something hurtful to a much smaller person. Surely this would in any other situation be termed bullying and criticised endlessly?

    How and why have we in New Zealand developed such negative attitudes to children so that 300,00 people would sign something to take legal protection from physical harm away from children?

    I hope that others take time to read your article and vote ‘yes’ to support the present law which is protecting children.

    Thank you for so eloquently describing this situation and hopefully stimulating New Zealanders
    to think through their vote for this referendum.

    Janet

  6. Brian your efforts to discredit the petition and referendum by associating it with SST, Destiny, etc show that it is you and the supporters of the law change that try and resort to misleading and underhanded tactics.
    My wife and I organised the petition and spent many hours all over the country collecting signatures from ordinary NZers. Support came from a wide cross section of NZ society.

    Polls still show that over 80% are opposed to the law change and want it repealed. You cannot seriously be suggesting that 80% of the country are being misled by a small minority with little resources.
    This can be contrasted with a minority of supporters of the law who occupy positions of influence within the office of the Children’s Commissioner, Barnardos, Plunket, Save the Children, and UNICEF have been spending considerable resources on propaganda.

    The debate over this law had been ongoing for at least two years before the law was passed and has continued for nearly two years since. The fact that so many have not changed their views is not a result of ignorance.
    Perhaps you should be considering the reality that it is you and your friends who are really the minority in NZ. The social changes introduced by your former employer, Helen Clark, have not led to a better country, less crime, child abuse poverty etc.

    If the defence of reasonable force under the old sec 59 was the cause of so many abusers being acquitted, where is the evidence that there are now so many prosecutions of the real child abusers?
    We do however, have a small increase in good parents pleading guilty to assault after legal advice that this was the best thing to do to avoid further intervention by CYFS and the police. These parents are not those who have beaten their children abusively and certainly cannot be compared to those responsible for 12 horrendous child deaths since the new law was passed.

    I regret I have not had the opportunity to have a debate with you on this subject in the media.
    I look forward to that possibility at some time before the referendum is held if you would accept the challenge.
    I am confident that most New Zealanders are not as ignorant and stupid as the intellectual elite in this country believes.

    They will be able to answer the ref question with full understanding of what it means.
    All forms of Correction (which includes a smack which most parents know is different than a beating and abuse) should not have been explicitly made illegal in NZ. No credible research anywhere has shown that appropriate parental correction has been detrimental to the development of healthy children.

    Of course any parent should be entitled to make
    their own decisions about how they raise their children and you are certainly entitled to not correct your children if you so wish.
    You have expressed your derogatory views about any parent that smacks their child on many occasions. You are entitled to your views.
    My wife and I have raised 3 children, have 4 grandchildren and our offspring would not share your negative views on our parenting.

    I think the response so far to the anti-correction
    law shows how much New Zealanders object to the government trying to tell us all we cannot use parenting methods that our parents and grandparents used that we consider have been effective and not destructive.

    • Dear Mr Baldock

      In the interests of fairness and transparency I am publishing your response unedited and in full. I will briefly reply to your main points:

      1. There was nothing at all misleading or underhand about my reference to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Family First, the ACT party or Destiny Church. All have been significant and vocal supporters of your petition. All have the same mindset.

      2. I am uninterested in the number of people who signed your petition. First, the framing of the question made it meaningless. Second, moral issues cannot be decided by headcount.

      3. The organisations which are opposed to a change in the current law and which you choose to deride – Barnardos, Plunkett, Save the Children, Unicef and the Children’s Commissioner – have one significant thing in common. They are all organisations whose main purpose is the protection and advancement of children.

      4. I would have no interest in meeting or debating with you. You want New Zealand parents to have the legal right to hit their children. I don’t. We are morally poles apart.

  7. Great piece Brian!
    Larry fails to acknowledge that a “smack” is a hit – is an assault. Most horrendous assaults on children start out as “physical correction” – He also talks of “appropriate correction” – isn’t this just code for violence against someone smaller?

    His argument is flawed throughout – if he truly believes that a “smack” is a part of good parenting I wonder if he would be prepared to extend the same “smack” to correct a grandparent suffering from Alzheimer’s and who consequently acts out like a child?

  8. Larry Baldock is quoting percentages and majorities but he conveniently overlooks the majority that counts!

    Why is Larry not reminding us of the PARLIAMENTARY VOTE that so magnificently rolled the nasty intentions of the extreme right wing pressure groups?

    I believe these guys wanted to turn this very reasonable legislation into an opportunity to beat up the government through Sue Bradford, the Green Party originator of the private members’ bill.

    But look what happened – John Key and National found it within themselves to do what is best for children! I wish it happened more often. But has Larry heard the news about all this – he is carrying on as if he did not.

    So we have a dead issue on our hands here. The National government will see no reason to turn back the clock here. They seldom do anyway, about anything.

    There is absolutely no reason to repeal what was done.

    The right wing and the Christian fundys would be better off to move onto new issues now but PERLEASE can we leave the American Roman Catholics to do the abortion rant?

  9. Interestingly, when I was at a picnic in Long Bay last summer (2007/2008) I challenged people collecting signatures for this petition, POLITELY pointing out that that they were using emotive language and mis-representing the law change. For my troubles, I was violently hissed at and insulted by a group of nearby people who clearly had swallowed the propaganda line of Family First hook, line and sinker.

    Since I believe that occasional political violence is actually the sign of vigorous democracy I didn’t back down, and an unseemly fracas was only narrowly averted.

    I relate the story because it shows the depth of hysteria whipped up at the time by likes of Mr. Baldock, and it shows just how much these self-styled christians tapped into the psyche of the “ugly Kiwi.”

    Of course, the real reason (carefully hidden from the voters) that Mr. Baldock and the rest of his believers want to smack is they think they have a biblical right to do so.

    My view is the best response these self-righteous, superstitious people and their dishonest and foolish petition is to boycott the whole thing. Let’s have boycott parties while the angry people get an ulcer over their petition, let them get 100% of the vote and make the whole nonsensical exercise meaningless.

  10. Nice work Brian.

  11. Another new (and impressed) reader here. I would say you read my mind but considering that you’re the respected commentator I probably read yours instead.
    I remember the first time I read the wording of the proposed referendum I thought it was emotive and manipulative, and that I would take great pleasure in voting YES. I then thought “Hey, this is just like that stupid referendum at the 1999 election where the question was all over the place and crammed in as many buzz words as possible!” I was surprised to learn that so many people had voted yes on that one.

  12. That was an exemplary blog, Mr Edwards.
    I too am new. Thank you for having me.

    Referendum: It’s the wording that really gets me.

    Define: Smack
    Define: Good
    Define: Parenting
    Define: Correction

    Dodgy as sin.
    And I’m pretty scared it’ll go through. Because of its leading language and also the (utterly irresponsible and criminally thoughtless) media misnomer: “anti-smacking”.

    Was this question run through some type of government (or perhaps, critical literacy) filter, or can citizens pretty much write up whatever bollocks comes into their heads and get people to vote for it?

    I suppose we’ll see.

  13. I too have just discovered your blog.

    Thank you for that thoughtful piece of logic.

  14. Hi All,

    I have comments for Brian, Deborah and Janet.

    Deborah, the people who want s59 reversed want the decision about criminality to be made in court, where they can deploy expensive lawyers. It’s a series of precedents, achieved with expensive lawyers, that made the hole so big it couldn’t be ignored, so that has been a workable strategy in the past.

    Brian and Janet, the people who want s59 reversed do have something to be genuinely afraid of, even if I don’t share it with them. One account of how masculinity and femininity are constructed says that there is a difference in how boys and girls are treated, where boys get physical punishment and girls get psychological punishment. If this is prevented, then those constructions of masculinity become invalid and may disappear. Mr Baldock’s final paragraph above amounts to a reference to this. I assume that he, and the people he shares his position with, understand this intuitively, even if not in words.

    I got the contents of this reference through a university library; I don’t know whether it’s available in another way:

    Sex Roles, Vol. 19, Nos. 1/2, 1988
    Gender Differences in Friendship Patterns
    Richard Aukett, 1 Jane Ritchie, and Kathryn Mill
    University of Waikato
    http://www.springerlink.com.helicon.vuw.ac.nz/content/k75760x67qh138kn/fulltext.pdf

  15. Congratulations on your site. I hope you can keep up the high quality of discussion.

    Perhaps the pro hitters of children could be issued and licensed with electric shock rods with control dials, sort of mini tazers so that the voltage or current administered could be adjusted to suit the level of child misdemeanor or the degree of internal parental rage. That way would ensure more accurate control, reasonable force and no excuse for causing excess injury.No! Really I’m joking!

    • Thanks ROL. Glad you said you were joking. We Kiwis aren’t too clued up on irony and tend to take what is said literally. Your comment reminded me of the headmaster of a large Wellington boys school many years ago. He was heavily into caning and had recruited a number of senior boys to act as guinea pigs for his technique. He claimed this was because he was anxious only to hit boys on the bum, not to miss the target and end up hitting them on the legs or lower back. So that he could “study the flight of the cane” he videotaped these sessions and took them home to watch. Strange, I thought!

  16. “At present children are protected in law from all corporal punishment in 24 countries. They include Spain, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Norway, Finland, Sweden – and New Zealand.

    We should be proud to be on that list.”

    ————————

    Yeah really??

    Do you reckon its got any relevance to the position of so many of those countries on this list?

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_tot_cri_percap-crime-total-crimes-per-capita

    • No relevance whatsoever. Your conclusion seems to be that hitting kids prevents them from committing crimes. I find that preposterous. The evidence is overwhelming that poverty, unemployment, lack of educational achievement and family violence are among the principal drivers of antisocial behaviour.

  17. “The evidence is overwhelming that poverty, unemployment, lack of educational achievement and family violence are among the principal drivers of antisocial behaviour.”

    Obviously you’ve never lived, (as I have) among the Tuareg of the North African desert, or the Bedouin of the Middle East, or the subsistence farmers of Indonesia, where poverty and unemployment and and lack of educational achievement are all abundant, but crime is negligible and good manners, respect and consideration for your fellow men are paramount.

    This would seem to show that crime is not as you claim associated with social conditions but rather morality. Or more accurately the lack of it. An inability to distinguish right from wrong.

    As another pointer to this conclusion, why do socialist countries, where one would think that social conditions conducive to crime were at a minimum, all feature in such high places on the list I referenced?

    I’ll tell you. Same reason as before. A widespread inability to distinguish right from wrong.

    Now, why don’t you tell me why this condition exists, and why the two lists of countries (those who don’t have corporal punishment and those with high crime) correlate so well?

    • Well, not having lived “among the Tuareg of the North African desert, or the Bedouin of the Middle East, or the subsistence farmers of Indonesia”, I suppose you have the advantage on me. But I’m guessing that these are fairly cohesive societies with strong inherited social codes and value systems. And of course none of them is urban. Crime flourishes in towns and cities.

      For the record, I don’t at all dismiss the decline of traditional morality (including religious belief) as a factor in crime, but I see no relationship at all between morality and hitting children. The idea of Christ smacking a child is simply untenable. Children need love, boundaries and teaching by example. Persuasion through violence is not an example I would want to pass on to my children or grandchildren.

      I suggest we agree to differ on this topic. As I replied to Larry Baldock: “We are morally poles apart.”

  18. Yeah Brian, hope this good feedback encourages you to post as frequently as you can.
    A solid supplement to your anticipated Panel showings.
    Bit of a fan I’m afraid. There it is.

  19. “I suggest we agree to differ on this topic. As I replied to Larry Baldock: “We are morally poles apart.”

    OK, I agree with that summation, but I have to make one more point- that I was trying too to argue against your thesis that corporal punishment of children was a bad idea, and I was assuming that you were making this comment in respect of children of all ages.

    For example I was caned at high school. Quite viciously. (mainly for being lax with my Latin) Along with almost every other of the 600 boys at the school. Funny thing is, most of those caned profusely turned out to be very good citizens. Not criminals at all. Strange what??

    • OK. I’m glad your friends turned out to be ‘very good citizens’ after all that caning. But I doubt there’s a causal relationship between the two. Kids were caned at both my primary and secondary school. Mostly it was the same kids again and again. There’s a body of research to show that kids who aren’t succeeding academically often get kudos from being identified as rebels or troublemakers. Being sent to the headmaster to be caned becomes a badge of honour. My personal view is that punishment for academic failure, often a reflection of poor teaching, is an absolute disgrace. Thankfully, with most civilised nations, we’ve outlawed corporal punishment in schools. Bad news probably for the dominatrix profession.

  20. Mr Edwards, thanks for a good, rational dissection. The one angle I think that could be explored more is the “so what” of any outcome?
    If the Yays take it then presumedly all stays as it is
    If the Nays take it then… what precisely? The incredibly poor wording of the referendum has no direct leaders into any form of legislative change.

  21. Brian, if only you could get a “BBC-Question-Time” type position on our local television to get reasoned discussion back into the public domain. It is unfortunate that you have to deal here with prominent trolls on blog sites. RB of course exposes the real desire for reverting S59 is to be able to “punish” as he sees fit and to think that he supports physical punishment for intellectual failings – says it all really.

    • Sounds like a great idea, Logie97. I doubt that the free-to-air channels would be interested, but it’s the sort of thing that would sit comfortably with TVNZ7, which, I undestand, will soon be available on Sky. And how about a New Zealand version of The Brains Trust or even Grumpy Old Men?

  22. BE laid up with ‘flu.
    Thanks for your comments, Gareth. What will be the outcome? The short and sad answer is “probably nothing”. Unless a referendum is binding Parliament is not obliged to act on it; this one isn’t. So we will probably spend a large amount of money on a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question, which Parliament will quite rightly ignore.
    JC

  23. Hi Brian,
    Firstly I would like to say I think its great that we can debate this issue. After listening to friends talk about ‘hitting children being wrong’ I asked my four year old if she knew what the difference was between hitting someone and a smack. She replied hitting someone is when you are being mean and a smack is something a child gets when they are naughty. I was surprised at how clearly she was able to see the difference. Brian how did you discipline your children I am interested to know?
    I am told that time out in a toilet is the way to go. You leave the child there until they stop screaming and then for a set time after this. Obviously this is to make the child compliant to whatever you are wanting them to do or not do. Would you call this abuse ? I feel some children could be quite traumatised by this rejection from a parent. A smack, a few tears and a hug from Mum or Dad afterwards seems quite humane compared. Remember abuse comes in many forms not just physcial. eg also verbal and emotional.
    And has the repeal of Section 59 had the effect that was hoped for? The 12 children who have died since would probably say no if they could.
    Can we as civilised adults perhaps distinguish between abuse and discipline? Most of us had a smack on the ‘bot’ and lived to tell the tale. I see our society in more danger from lack of discipline and respect than worrying about whether it is okay to smack. Are we becoming so liberal that discipline is actually the dirty word? Since we have left corporal punishment and smacking behind has society improved? Are teachers enjoying teaching in our schools? Do old people feel safe in their homes? Do our young people understand respect for themselves and others? I cant answer yes to any of these.
    Smack or not smack, is our society safer, happier, progressing??
    Should we tell the policeman next time that he shouldn’t lock up the burglars, drunk drivers, murderers, child molesters etc because it is proven not to be a deterrent. Like a parent their job is to uphold boundaries and discipline in society. Brian do you have a better alternative? Talk them into being good perhaps? I realise some of us dont have as good a beginning in life but rehabilitation must surely be done in unison with the punishment for the crime. Its not okay for the person who violently assaults someone to walk free with an appointment for rehabiliation. Brian if has never happened to you or yours you may have to imagine what it might feel like.
    Our societal concepts about crime and punishment have obviously changed in the last few decades but has it all been for the good? Are we a better people, living together in more harmony? I would like to say yes but deep down I feel a concern for what it will be like when I am 80 and vunerable.
    By the way I had four children all smacked at one time or another but very loved as well. None of them are violent, they are respectful of older people, responsible and I am proud of them as fledgling adults in society. I dont tell others they have to smack their children but can I have the right to parent as I see fit? For the most part the proof is in my children.

    • Thanks Cherie. While I don’t agree with you I think you have offered a reasoned opinion. As it happens, no parent has “the right to parent as they see fit”. That would place every child-abusing parent outside the law. The core issue here is whether the law should sanction the smacking/hitting of children. Once that happens you are at the top of the same slippery slope that was made possible by the “reasonable force” provision of Section 59. You are in a grey area. This is rather like the current situation with speeding. Everone knows that providing you’re no more than 10K over the speed limit, you probably won’t get a ticket. So the real speed limits are 60 and 110. And drivers then use their discretion to add a few more Ks to that. It would actually be much better to say, “These are the legal speed limits and, if you exceed them at all, you will be prosecuted.” This is the situation on the open road in Australia where traffic moves much more smoothly and driving is free from stress. I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to punish children by shutting them in the toilet. I think that’s appalling. But like you I believe that children need boundaries and discipline. Can that be achieved without even the most minor violence? Absolutely. Check out almost any episode of Supernanny. Once the smacking stopped, life got much better for everybody. To me, every smack reveals a parent who has, however temporarily, lost control.

  24. BE said:”The core issue here is whether the law should sanction the smacking/hitting of children.”
    I think Sue Bradford said in an interview that She would really like a law that banned any form of hitting kids, but that the Repeal of S59 was a start.
    And Cherie I don’t think that anyone predicted that no child would be saved from serious abuse through the repeal of S59. Those extreme cases will continue for a long time and the fact that the majority are committed by European families has been lost in the mist. But maybe the majority of kids will learn better values to pass on in due course, to their own kids.

  25. I oppose the new law making corporal punishment by parents illegal because it compromises the mental health and well being of children.

    First of all we are making serious abuse legally equivalent to a minor smack on the bottom. That confusion will mean that real child abuse will be lost among the minor cases. Having the police waste their time trying to differentiate which case they will take to court isn’t their job, so they will probably be forced to simply take them all to court.

    There is no evidence I am aware of that would indicate that the law as passed will have any positive outcome for actual abuse cases. In fact, if anything it seems there have been more cases of child abuse recently. It is hard to see how this law has any effect on genuine child abuse, while it is easy to see how it will affect the natural behaviour of parents – aka by limiting physical contact of any kind with children.

  26. All children are different! I am constantly surprised by the fact that all the children I know (my own and those of my friends) are motivated by different things.

    Let’s give parents credit for knowing their children. My son is infuriated by time-out and not even slightly motivated by good behaviour charts or rewards. He’s had a smack, but in all honesty very few – he is a lovely little boy and I’m really proud of how he is growing up.

    In my opinion, pursuing ineffective strategies for discipline leads to the potential for verbal abuse, stalemate, and a breakdown in the relationship between parent and child.

    A smack is a smack. It’s a consequence which the child is 100% able to avoid if they behave as they know they should. A beating is a beating. A child probably has little control over whether they get one or not, and they probably haven’t done much to deserve it.

    Parents who deliver a smack are not the same parents who deliver a beating. Confusing the two confuses the issues. Even Cherie’s 4 year old gets this?!?!

    • All children are different!

      It seems to me there are two types of smacks. One is in anger. Most people think this is bad, but in my view it is more understandable than a dispassionate smack. “Now Johnny, you have been bad and I am going to smack you.” In the “good only days which Latta so favours, this would have been, “Just wait till your father gets home!” Appalling stuff. I’m wearying of this debate now. Loving parents don’t hit their children. All it tells you is that they’ve lost control. End of story.

  27. It is a parent’s right to parent the way they see fit, unless they actually are abusing their children and then the full force of the law should come down on them like a ton of bricks (sadly it doesn’t)

    The anti smacking law undermines parents and adults should have the ability to smack as part of their parenting.

    Why should I be subject to your view of parenting by not being allowed to physically punish my child? It was never compulsory to hit kids.

    I wont be made a criminal of by administering a loving smack, but unfortunately I have been by this dopey nanny State Socialist law.

    85% of us want it gone.

    • It is a parent’s right to parent the way they see fit, unless they actually are abusing their children.

      You say smacking, I say hitting. All you’ve told me is that you can’t control youself. And perhaps you’d like to answer my earlier question: when you ‘smack’ your kids are you in a state of anger or is it a pre-mediated act?

  28. Perhaps the referendum should reflect instances where the courts have deemed that criminal offences have actually occurred.. It could,for example, be worded: “Should smacking your child with a piece of wood, while the child is hog-tied in a foetal position, as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence” or “Should hitting your child in the ear while abusing him with the ‘F’ word as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence.”

    The referendum, as it stands, is misleading as minor smacking will not be treated as a criminal offence under the current legislation.

  29. Your article hits the nail on the head, hard.

    The referendum itself is the tragedy. Much child abuse will occur due to the socially manipulative and assertive question on election stationery.

    • Your article hits the nail on the head, hard.

      The really interesting thing now will be to see whether the populist Key is influenced by the inevitable ‘No’ vote.

  30. I think people should not smack their children