Surprise! I'm a single parent

This smacks of crazy
July 25, 2009, 4:32 pm
Filed under: politics

If you live in New Zealand and you are a parent you would have to be a seriously unconnected person not to have known about The Smacking Bill as it was unfortunately known.

You will see my bias right away when I summarise the Bill for non-kiwis like this: Its a bill that firms up the law regarding physical disciplining of children. The reason the Bill was needed was because parents and caregivers who have harmed their children (mostly parents) have often used a defence about the right of a parent to administer a smack or two to reprimand their child. There was a grey area in the law and courts were less able to deal with parents say, hitting their children multiple times with a leather belt or jug cord, than two drunks clobbering each other in the pub car park.

There was a lot of public debate about The Bill when it went through. But it went through. Done and dusted right? Nope – now we are having a referendum.

Next month if you choose you can answer the following referendum question:

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

What????? The question is confusing – John Key said it seemed it had been written by Dr Seuss but that gives it too much credit. It was written by people who think it is so important to retain their right to smack that they are happy for other people’s children to suffer. It is a manipulative question. It does not address the extremes of society the bill set out to deal with. It insinuates good parents have become criminals. 

A lot of people have expressed more emotion about the wording of the question than the question itself. There is a risk, I think, that the extreme right (who believe government should be less interfering) and more fundamentalist Christians (who want to use the rod in order not to spoil the child) will be out in larger numbers than those who have found more effective ways to communicate the rules of safety and socially acceptable behaviours and have just moved on in the culture of parenting.

I guess I’m one of the latter – I’ve been reading the plunket book, had the fortune to have witnessed trained early childhood caregivers resolving small disputes between kids and larger problems like hittng and biking without violent tools. I had parents who mostly responded with reason and ran our household in a way that more democratic than autocratic or despotic. I can count on one hand the times smacking has been an option for me. But it’s not about me – I’m part of the cultural shift away from smacking. When I vote yes, I will be saying yes smacking children should be a criminal offence in New Zealand because if it isn’t it sends the message that degrees of violence towards and between children is ok. And what I expect to happen in society because of that clear ruling is that nobody thinks twice about making a complaint about a violent or abusive parent, that interventions happen sooner because there are no grey areas, that children grow up exposed to more effective ways of negotiating their expected behaviour. That ultimately children who might have grown up to be unable to communicate about conflict and used their fists, use their heads.

2 Comments so far
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  1.    Boganette 07.29.09 @ 4:04 pm      

    Well said! Couldn’t agree more! Finally some sanity on this topic is out in the blogosphere.

  2.    scrubone 08.26.09 @ 4:40 pm      

    “It does not address the extremes of society the bill set out to deal with”

    Um, removing “reasonable” deals with extremes? How does that work exactly?

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