22 February 2007

Smacking ban?

I’ll admit this debate has challenged me. I sympathise with those who don’t like smacking, but I also sympathise those who believe criminalising it is more destructive than not. I don’t like smacking, I wouldn’t use it against my children when I have some, because I remember how I felt when I was smacked – I thought it was disproportionate and thought it meant that I was hated. As a kid I figured people only hit other people when they don’t like them, as a punishment it seemed cruel to hit someone for making a mistake. I would rather have been explained to. Of course below a certain age I can’t remember being smacked, and below a certain age I wouldn’t have been easy to reason with. The question is also what smacking is – I had my hand smacked quickly when I tried to first put my fingers near something hot and was told why, I didn’t do it again.
So I can understand why some want to ban it – I don’t like it and don’t think it should be used – but, making it criminal bothers me. It bothers me because it lowers the threshold for state intervention in what are otherwise healthily functioning families. It bothers me because there are pretty robust laws against child abuse, and beatings and the like are illegal. It bothers me because it could be used by older children to threaten parents who attempt discipline that they’ll tell the Police. It bothers me because it seems to be unenforceable.

There are chronically negligent and despicable parents out there in droves, and it can be seen in those that use an extended family for parenting purposes – which leaves many adults partly responsible for kids, including teenagers responsible for children. Banning smacking will do nothing about this. It wont stop James Whakaruru’s mother, who handed the child’s murderer the vacuum cleaner pipe used to beat him to death, from having more children, hooking up with dysfunctional men who have further access to abuse her children – while she does nothing. It wont stop the state paying for these people, or paying welfare to convicted violent offenders, or stop violent offenders from having custody of children. At best it will send a message of non-violence, at worst it will criminalise otherwise good parents, who social workers, doctors and others will dob in for a smack on the bum.
I don’t like those defending it because they think it is a legitimate way to punish children, the only reason to not change the law is because criminalising this behaviour outright will go too far. If anything, there may be a case for reviewing and defining what is acceptable and what is not. However that is a tweak, perhaps defining physical abuse as any hitting that causes bruising. Think about this, if you are attacked by a child (remember this could be between ages 12 to 18 depending on who you talk to), would retaliating be counted as abusive? Imagine children accusing people of smacking them – with no evidence – adolescents aren’t stupid when they want to be despicably manipulative.
As Not PC says, the laws as they stand have done little to stop many many cases of abuse. Sue Bradford has a wider agenda, and you see it in Childrens’ Commissioner Cindy Kiro – it is the state having a greater and greater role as parent – in funding children, regulating children, regulating and funding their health and education, media, housing. No Right Turn supporting the Bill says in respect of most parents smacking "they are highly unlikely to be prosecuted unless the assault is considered serious enough to warrant it" in which case, doesn't the law adequately cover that now?
Child abuse is a complicated problem, and banning smacking will at best stop parents from whacking their kids in public, a humiliating practice for the child. This will be deterred and that is that – but hardly a great win.
If you’re serious about reducing the rate of abuse, then perhaps policy needs to be tough. How about this?

- Those convicted of serious child abuse are banned from living in any household with people under 16 or being alone with any child. This should be part of sentencing, beyond a certain threshold this should be a matter of course. Breaches of this will see prosecution and imprisonment. Those who are accessories to this also face prosecution (so mothers who love convicts may become convicts themselves);

- Eligibility for welfare and state housing is denied to anyone convicted of a serious violent offence (anything beyond mild single assaults), second time round you lose access to state health care and national superannuation (go ask for charity, see who cares after you ruin the lives of others);

- Parents/guardians able to be charged as accessories if their child is physically or sexually abused in their presence, and the crime has not been reported promptly.
A useful measure is to remove those who brutalise and destroy childrens’ lives from being able to receive money from the state, and from having access to children in the future including being parents. By the way this applies to rapists too. Once you have brutally violated another person, you have no right to expect any of the privileges of state, except to be left alone with those who choose to be with you – children don’t count in that.
I hope the smacking ban does not proceed. I would like smacking to end as a culturally acceptable practice, I don't believe banning it achieves that - I believe it deflects attention from it and is an "easy" answer, but then some on the left are strangely reluctant to take away welfare and privileges from violent criminals.


Anonymous said...

This is one of the most thoughtful posts I have read on this issue.

The psychological effects of using pain to discipline children can last a lifetime - and most of the effects are subtle and never make the news.

Back in ancient Rome parents were allowed to kill their children without censure - it wasn't seen as the done thing to do, but nevertheless they got away with it. We have moved on with children's rights and Bradford's bill is an idea whose time has come.

I don't like the Green Party and their politics as a whole, but I disagree that Bradford's bill is egregious or that it is a conspiracy.

What is disgusting about taking steps to reduce the terrible amount of child hitting/smacking/violence that occurs? She strikes me as a good example of a human being; even if you don't like her politics she spends a lot of her time helping others, and as a mother of 6 must know a lot about child rearing.

Anonymous said...

Never say never, especially when it comes to child rearing. I never thought I'd spank, but occasionally that's what the situation calls for, running out into the parking lot by himself, not listening after 2 or 3 time out/naughty chairs, etc. It's none of the government's business if I choose to spank my child, unless it's done in anger.