Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Anti Smacking Bill.

Today Sue Bradford's Anti Smacking Bill is set to comfortably pass its second reading. This bill would effectively repeal s59 of the Crimes Act which permits parents to use reasonable force against children. My position on this issue is exactly in line with Chester Burrows of the National Party who is set to place certain amendments on the table.

My problem with s59 is that it allows parents the opportunity to get away with unacceptable levels of violence against their children. I know people who have disciplined their children far too harshly such as with a belt or stick. I'm even not a fan of the slipper. Any discipline that leaves the child with marks on their body is surely unacceptable, with no place in modern society. So some change is desirable.

However repealing s59 would effectively criminalise parents who simply smack their children. Sue Bradford says it won't: "Repeal of s59 will not criminalize parents. Police, as always, will exercise discretion about mounting a prosecution, as their procedural rules require them to do. Only abusive parents have reason to fear the repeal of S59." However their actions would still be deemed within illegal bounds, and police time would be wasted on a trifling matter. If criminalising these parents is not the intent why can't we just define reasonable force?

Nanaia Mahuta who has come out in favour of the bill says that "there continues to be far too many instances of young people being abused, neglected or killed, and this cannot continue." Certainly she is correct, but how making smacking illegal will help that is surely anybody's guess. She is clearly radical on this issue, disappointed that the bill does not go as far as it had originally, in other words outlawing reasonable force as a defence. Would she prefer that the parent being attacked by an enraged child just take it, and not defend themselves at all?

A smack, delivered occasionally, is a valuable parenting tool. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been on the receiving end of a smack. I deserved that punishment. And it was effective. It shouldn't be overused however because then it simply becomes meaningless and commonplace. Effectively making smacking illegal however would be a disgrace.

In summary let's hope we get Chester Burrow's amendments. We should keep reasonable force but define exactly what that is by outlawing the use of implements, and simply making the only acceptable physical punishment as an open-handed smack.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Fussy your educated opinion is only let down by your backward looks, however you seem to be on to something. I myself having both an educated opinion and outstanding looks will agree in part (99%).
There is space for smacking yet it is a area most parents can be proven to be ignorant. Every parent I know started out saying "My kids will only watch T.V and DVD's on special occasions" but soon the easy of use and desired effect provoke greater use of these tools until its common place. Smacking has an immediate effect and before to long due to the duress and stress of parenting life the immediate way becomes the first and somtimes often only way considered. This is a real problem for parents, however the flow on effect is that to maintain the desired result smacking becomes more intense, the boundarys become blurred.
Smacking is weapon against children and so should be treated like one. Crimilising smacking won't be the fix people might expected, education is the most effective weapon as it can breed a culture of understanding.
Yes I smack my kids sometimes to often so to educate myself I first had to open myself to critism. Parenting is a team effort involing my partner and our friends, allowing us a reallity check. Otherwise you can get lost in your own little parenting universe.
Final word, smacking is a dangerous tool ask any parent who is a honest sort as admitting to smacking is as hard for some as quiting drugs, parents need support and understanding, gain this from education not from fear of punishment!
p.s we could always force them to listen to fussys CD that alway does the trick, although some might say subjecting kids to that is worthy of imprisonment you be the judge.