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Friday, August 07, 2009

Giving Family First a Hug, or a Hiding? 

Well I voted YES to one of the more stupid questions I've ever been asked. Namely the referendum on child discipline.

It's a ridiculous campaign that's being fought on several levels.

Firstly "smack" isn't defined. Secondly "good parental correction" is totally subjective, like having a referendum requiring the All Blacks to play "attractive rugby" or some such nonsense.

Thirdly if you look at the law as it now stands there doesn't seem to be anything stopping parents from giving their kids a light tap on the bum or arm or wherever the offending or closest body part is.

Check it...

Parental control
(1) Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of—
(a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
(b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or
(c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or
(d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.
(3) Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).
(4) To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the 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.

Section 59: substituted, on 21 June 2007, by section 5 of the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 (2007 No 18).



Fourthly it doesn't seem as though any parents or caregivers have been prosecuted for anything that they seem concerned about. There was one case which was jumped on early involving South Island father Jimmy Mason who in his words did nothing wrong, but was later found to have punched his 4 year old son in the face. The twits who have an axe to grind over this tried to make out as though he was being prosecuted for nothing more than an ear pull. They went strangely quiet later.

And fifthly, the ads on radio are absurd. Saying that parents have always had the right not to smack and imagine how they would feel if a law change said that all parents had to smack?!

That is such a fucking dumb line of logic it beggars belief. It's a bit like saying that they should put the speed limits up to 60kmph because people who go under 50 have always had the right to go under 50 and imagine how they would feel if we made them drive above 60 at all times. Or non drug users have always had the right not to take drugs and so imagine how they'd feel if we told them they had to take crack once a week. Although in saying that, this whole referendum makes me wonder if some people haven't been living that lifestyle before coming up with it.

The point of the law change was to protect ALL kids, not just those of people who supported it.

It sends out a message that people should look to other solutions first, second and third. Violence is officially off the agenda. Force on the other hand may be used in the circumstances stated in the law change.

Also the idea that this law won't make child abuse go away is entirely correct. Just the same as speed limits won't make speeding go away and coaching won't make a team win every time they take the field. Especially not one with 3 old has beens coaching it (I use 'coaching' in the loosest sense possible). But it will certainly reduce it in the same way that speed limits reduce deaths and coaching improves performance (well usually anyway).

Terry Dobbs in today's Herald has some interesting findings that are well worth reading.

Check them...

But how real is this - what do children tell us? In 2005, as part of my Master's thesis at Otago University, I interviewed 80 children aged between 5 and 14 years old about their experiences and understanding of family discipline. They were from ordinary New Zealand households with no history of child abuse or neglect.

The children's reports contradict some of the commonly held adult claims about the way physical discipline is administered. Most of the children I interviewed said physical punishment was the disciplinary technique most often used in their families, and it was often used as the first line of discipline rather than the last resort.

When asked: "What are some of the things that happen to children when they do things they shouldn't?", some typical responses were: "They [parents] get a stick and smack it [bottom]," (6-year-old girl); "You get a smack in the mouth," (7-year-old boy). Some 91 per cent of children in this study said they had been physically punished. Adults may define a smack as something a lot gentler than a hit, but children were clear that a smack is a hard hit that hurts both emotionally and
physically.

Smacking made children feel sad, angry and fearful and they said that it spoiled their relationship with the person who smacked them. "You feel real upset because they are hurting you and you love them so much and then all of a sudden they hit you and hurt you and you feel like as though they don't care about you because they are hurting you," (13-year-old girl).

Fear and pain may sometimes achieve short-term obedience, but in the long term these emotions are unlikely to contribute to positive behavioural outcomes or promote children's effective learning. Children also reported being smacked for hurting others. Children were told that it was wrong to hurt someone else and yet they are hurt in response to hurting others.

Supporters of the use of physical punishment say that parents should not and do not hit in anger, but children's experiences suggest otherwise. "Depending on how angry they [parents] are because if it's something they get really angry about then they will probably hit you because they won't be able to control their anger and stuff," (13-year-old boy).

In this context parents may get emotional release and satisfaction from smacking, which may then be confused with effectiveness. "I think when they [parents] get so angry they just do it [smack] and then afterwards they think, 'Oh I shouldn't have done that'," (13-year-old girl). Many of the children also described being smacked or hit around the face and/or head and with implements. It is clear that some children's experience of physical punishment is not that of a "mild smack" or "loving tap". "My Dad uses the tennis racket," (7 year-old boy). "I get smacked in the back of the head with a hand, or I get smacked on the arm with a spoon," (9-year-old girl).

Many of the children believed smacking did not work as a disciplinary tool. They said that the use of time out, having privileges removed or being grounded were far more effective means of discipline. The children's responses render many adults' claims and justifications highly suspect. It is also concerning that quite large numbers of children reported adult behaviour that was in fact abusive. One of the hopes of those who supported the law reform was that it would encourage parents who love their children and want the best for them to explore other options for guiding their children's behaviour. Doing this requires moving on from a number of deeply held and understandable attitudes and emotions - coming to terms with the fact that your own loving parents hit you (they knew no better), that you may have harmed your child's development (it's never too late to change that) and that the law can be regarded as a positive move for children rather than an unwelcome imposition on adults.

Our 2007 child discipline law is only two years old - let's give it time to help New Zealand grow happy, healthy children.

* Terry Dobbs lectures at AUT University in the Institute of Public Policy and is also doing research for Amokura Family Violence Prevention Consortium based in Whangarei.



GOOD STUFF MR. DOBBS.

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Comments:
I voted Yes for all the reasons listed above.

Glad I'm not in the country to hear those stupid ads. They'd infuriate me to the point of recommending smacking advocates be neutered.
 
I crossed both options out, and wrote on the form “Stop asking me stupid fucking questions”

Perhaps not the most productive response, but it made me feel good, and that’s the main thing.
 
I can still 'smack that' tho'eh?
 
“Stop asking me stupid fucking questions”

That was my second choice if we were allowed preferential voting.
 
I was going to spoil my ballot paper but to me I always think of "spoil" as meaning to take a dump on it or something like that. And I was worried I might get some on my fingers when I put it in an envelope.
 
Yam,

Surely you of all people should realise the benefit of a virtual spoiling.

Seriously, I've never felt so good about "voting" as I have over this.

I just wish I'd sworn more.
 
Yam,

Surely you of all people should realise the benefit of a virtual spoiling.

Seriously, I've never felt so good about "voting" as I have over this.

I just wish I'd sworn more.
 

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