Sparing the rod

We here in New Zealand have such perfect children that there is absolutely no reason to place bounds or limits upon them. Certainly no reason to discipline them. Sadly though, most parents are apparently evil beings that beat the living bejesus out of their kids all the time. For this reason, it’s not safe to let parents decide what is appropriate for their children so the government has decided to step in and remove this worrisome burden from parents. We are on the verge of passing a law removing the right of a parent to use reasonable force to correct a child.

I find this law fairly laughable really – it’s impossible to police for a start. Unless the government is planning on installing surveillance in everyone’s house or paying people to spy on their neighbours.

But secondly – why should the government be pursuing this line of action? Reducing child abuse? Fine – I’m for that. Will people that abuse their children pay any attention to this law? No. Even hear about it? Unlikely. They will continue to beat their kids. The cases that come up in the media will be the same ones and will happen with or without this law. But you will have managed to crimialise thousands of parents who have done their children no harm. A poor trade in my book. Furthermore, you would be able to address the cases the goverment agencies find out about under the current laws.

The government has no business getting into telling people how to raise their children.

Sue Bradford is saying that there is no such thing as reasonable force. Any use of force is assault. Ok – lets disband the police, the defence forces, the corrections facility and outlaw all contact sporting codes. Good luck with that Sue.

I think there is a difference between reasonable force and violence. Sue Bradford does not see this distinction. I feel that most people have slightly different (in some cases very different) ideas about where one ends and the other begins. I think that’s the root of the problem.

When is the government going to realise that simply telling people not to do something they find undesirable is the easy part. Actually preventing it is the hard (and meaningful) part. This government has banned a lot of things and taken little to no action in real terms. If we want less child abuse there are some deep problems to address. I don’t have the answers, sadly.

If this law passes then I (and I presume many like me) will not be legally allowed to raise their children in the way they think is best for them. That’s a huge factor in any parents’ decision making set: Can I raise my kids well here?

Why does the government keep inventing more reasons for me to move to Australia?

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13 Responses to “Sparing the rod”


  1. 1 archiearchive 21 February, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Australia is not much better – I believe we are working on something similar! Of course, if it was successfully passed, then Bond would not be able to assault the Aussie Batsmen.

  2. 2 Envelope Filter 21 February, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    The real worry for you guys might be that batsmen would be charged with assault for getting the ball over the boundary and into the crowd…

  3. 3 Michael 22 February, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Yes, there does seem to bit a bit of controversy sounding this bill, although the second hearing did just pass 70 to 51. I however stand on the other side of the fence to you.

    “We here in New Zealand have such perfect children that there is absolutely no reason to place bounds or limits upon them. Certainly no reason to discipline them.”
    Discipline does not have to involve physical force. There are different ways of disciplining children. However if this bill passes, I think the government is responsible for some good education programs on alternative methods.

    “it’s not safe to let parents decide what is appropriate for their children”
    Juries have considered that “reasonable force” includes being hit 8 times with a 2cm by 30cm piece of wood leaving bruises which lasted for days and being hit with a hose pipe leaving 15cm long raised lumps. I do not think that this is acceptable. I believe that the law needs to be changed.

    “it’s impossible to police for a start.”
    I’m curious as to how they will “police this” too. I suspect that it will not be actively enforced, but instead just used as another tool to prosecute child abuser. I think that the government should have made this clearer, because this is one of the sticking points

    “Will people that abuse their children pay any attention to this law? No. Even hear about it? Unlikely. They will continue to beat their kids. The cases that come up in the media will be the same ones and will happen with or without this law.”
    I think that you’re being a bit presumptuous hear. The bill has received a HUGE amount of media coverage, and at the end of the day, if a parent ends up in court force abusing their child they will no longer be able to get away with the “reasonable force” defense.

    “The government has no business getting into telling people how to raise their children.”
    So if I want to keep my child locked in a cage and feed it dog food that’s OK?

    “lets disband the police, the defence forces, the corrections facility”
    Do you think that a perfect society would have to have these things? I think that these institutions are necessities, not ideals. Fair enough, we are a long way from not needing these things (thousands of years), but in order to get to the reality, we have to start with the ideal. I’m not saying that we disband them, but don’t presume that just because we’ve always done something, we need to keep doing it.

    “I feel that most people have slightly different (in some cases very different) ideas about where one ends and the other begins. I think that’s the root of the problem.”
    Absolutely. You could try and construct a law which clearly define how much physical force you could use on a child, or we could just ban it. I think it’s a slippery slope, because once you say it’s ok to hit a child, it’s much harder to control the use of force. I think it is better to ban it entirely.

    “When is the government going to realise that simply telling people not to do something they find undesirable is the easy part.”
    Like when they told us that we couldn’t drink and drive? Or smoke in public buildings, bars or restaurants?

    “Actually preventing it is the hard (and meaningful) part.”
    Agreed totally, but the first step is to make a clear message.

    This government has banned a lot of things and taken little to no action in real terms.
    Example? Drink driving, corporal punishment in schools, smoking in bars are all examples to the contrary.

    “Can I raise my kids well here?”
    Of course you can, you’re intelligent and creative enough to come up with alternative methods of raising your children!

    “Why does the government keep inventing more reasons for me to move to Australia?”
    To spite you!

    Seriously, I understand where you are coming from. But there are huge problems in NZ with child abuse, and I think this could be a good way to begin to address them. Saying that no form of violence is acceptable means that there is no grey area for abusers to hide in, no acceptable disciplining habits which could get out of control. Do you think your right to smack your children is worth more than the lives of the children killed by their parents?

    I would regard any opportunity to reduce the amount of violence in society as progress. I think hitting children just introduces the concept of violence being OK, and an acceptable tool to use. Children who are subjected to violence are more likely to use violence themselves. I think there are better ways to discipline children.

    I think what the government needs to do is to provide families with more support. This bill is the stick, we need more carrots. Education for families, more assistance for families who are struggling, more support from the communities for raising children. If this happens too we could see some really positive changes coming from this bill being passed.

  4. 4 Envelope Filter 22 February, 2007 at 11:52 am

    You are right that there are alternative means of disciplining children. My point is that it’s pretty difficult to reason with a four year old. I believe that using whatever alternatives you can first is important. This will work for some children. Others not.

    One of my major points is that we need clearly defined ideas of ‘reasonable force’ to make the existing law work. Not a new law banning it completely. I find it difficult to believe that a jury ruled the way you say it did, but I won’t say you’re lying. I’m dissapointed if that’s true, of course. Hitting a child with a lump of wood fits my category of assault with a weapon, not smacking, by the way. My limit is an open palm to the backside or wrist.

    I reiterate that this government makes a lot of laws and then does not provide the resources to enforce them. Or worse drains resources from more needed places to achieve them. For example the man in Onehunga that was seriously assaulted, provided the police with Number Plates, witnesses etc, and was told that the police did not have the resources to pursue the investigation at that time. Despite record numbers of police. I want to know what they’re doing rather than investigating serious crimes such as this. The cynic in me says they’re out on the motorway. This goverment did not ban drink driving or corporal punishment in schools, by the way. They’ve been illegal for decades.

    I don’t believe in enacting laws that are stronger than required and then only enforcing them in select cases. That’s inconsistent and allows the possibility of government abuse. I don’t belive in enacting laws that I believe the majority of the population will actively circumvent. Banning smoking in bars and drink driving worked because the public at large supported it. I don’t believe this has that kind of support.

    My point regarding abusers paying any attention to this law was aimed more at the fact that they will ignore it, rather than whether they will hear of it. It is getting a lot of media.

    Society does believe that violence is acceptable in certain circumstances. The existence of the police etc is testament to that. There has always been violence for the reason that it results in personal gain if there are no consequences for it.

    I believe that a child should be smacked when appropriate because the punishment must fit the crime. If a child fights with another child and suffers an alternative method of punishment, it is likely to not be as severe as that which they inflicted on the other. That is unbalanced. Furthermore, there is unlikely to be empathy with their victim as they can not know what they inflicted on the other.

    I feel it is vital that a child realise what inflicting pain is really like for the victim. Explaining that it is a bad thing is simply not enough for most children. Children learn be experiencing. I’m not supporting beating the shit out of your child. I reiterate the need to define reasonable force in this context.

    I believe parents should be responsible for their children. That’s one reason I support smacking, but am opposed to corporal punishment in schools, for example.

    You are right that we have a lot of child abuse in this country. I think we should be addressing that specifically, under the existing laws that already ban that kind of abuse, rather than also criminalising thousands of parents who are raising good kids.

    In short, too much is bad, too little is bad. The problem, as with so much in life, is where the lines lie.

  5. 5 Metro 23 February, 2007 at 8:00 am

    It’s an old army maxim that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” It’ll be interesting to watch the test cases.

    My parents, raising kids in the doc-Spock mad sixties, decided that they were never going to use the word “no”, and something similar regarding smacking.

    “How long did that last?” I asked Mum once.
    “Until you learned to walk.”

    This is one of those itchy lines where individual freedom to raise and discipline kids as one sees fit meets the state’s mandate and responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

    Unfortunately, like pornography, we can only recognize abuse when we see it. Is it abuse to strike a kiddie with a stick? I suspect not, if it is applied judiciously, briefly and with less than lethal force when and only if needed.

    Is it abuse to scream “Baby! Come down off that dangerous swing–ooh! You make Mummy so worried and sick when you do that! Promise Mumsie you’ll nevver evver go on the dangerous swings again. Because Mumsie would die darling, simply die and it would be your fault”?

    To, say, a six-year-old?

    {Nods vigorously} Yeppers.

    We recognize abuse, physical and otherwise, by the damage it does. It’s tragic and miserable, but it means that all we can do is watch for it and then act.

    Imagine if the fire brigade, to forestall the distress of home fires, mandated that from now on no-one was permitted to use matches or lighters. No-one could disagree that it was a law with good intentions. Of course the law would be regularly broken, and the police would wink their eyes and enforce only selected cases. Which is, in itself illegal and wrong.

    Individual freedom must trump state interference where the limiting of individual freedom cannot be proven to benefit the greater society.

    We aren’t worried about Joe Bloggs giving that rotten little bastard of his a good paddling when he sorely needs it. We’re worried about Myrna Smith laying into little Mary’s bum with the belt until she bleeds.

    That’s not discipline, it’s abuse. And there are, I’m sure, already laws against that.

  6. 6 Metro 23 February, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Sorry–concluding thought:
    Money and time wasted publicizing and enforcing this law might be better spent educating parents in the limits of justifiable force as applied to kids, and on anger management and related training for actual abusers.

  7. 7 Michael 23 February, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    “My point is that it’s pretty difficult to reason with a four year old.”
    But not impossible. I would ask: Ultimately which is the better option, Reason or Violence? I would say reason.

    “I find it difficult to believe that a jury ruled the way you say it did, but I won’t say you’re lying.”
    But you’re happy to imply it. Check out the link: http://www.greens.org.nz/campaigns/section59/

    “I’m dissapointed if that’s true, of course. Hitting a child with a lump of wood fits my category of assault with a weapon, not smacking, by the way. My limit is an open palm to the backside or wrist.”
    But Sue Bradford is doing something to make this illegal – and yet you disagree with her.

    “I reiterate that this government makes a lot of laws and then does not provide the resources to enforce them.”
    Such as? Laws are also there to make a message – not just to be enforced.

    “This goverment did not ban drink driving or corporal punishment in schools, by the way. They’ve been illegal for decades.”
    Yes, but they are examples of changes in societies behaviours.

    “Society does believe that violence is acceptable in certain circumstances. The existence of the police etc is testament to that. There has always been violence for the reason that it results in personal gain if there are no consequences for it.”
    Doesn’t mean there always will be violence though.

    “I believe that a child should be smacked when appropriate because the punishment must fit the crime.”
    Crime and punishment. Ooooh! Do you believe that children are criminals who need to be punished? I think this may be at the root of it. Violence can be used to punish children, but I don’t think that parents should be punishing children – but teaching them. I don’t think that violence is a good teaching method.

    “I feel it is vital that a child realise what inflicting pain is really like for the victim.”
    Do you argue the murders should be killed and rapists raped. I don’t think that what you’re saying is true, however neither of us a psychologists, I wonder what they think about the bill … (quick check) … they support it (http://www.psychology.org.nz/ – bottom of the page). Maybe they know better?

    “under the existing laws that already ban that kind of abuse”
    As I have shown, the existing law already allows for abuse.

    Something needs to change, someone is changing it.

  8. 8 Envelope Filter 25 February, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    “I would say reason.”
    – I would say reason also, but I want the option for when reason fails.

    “But Sue Bradford is doing something to make this illegal – and yet you disagree with her.”
    – Sue Bradford is trying to make all of it illegal. I think most juries would find hitting children with planks already illegal under the existing law. The level of violence I disagree with is already illegal.

    “Doesn’t mean there always will be violence though.”
    – Actually I believe that it does.

    “Laws are also there to make a message – not just to be enforced.”
    – Strongly disagree with this. Messages should take the form of policy statements or press releases – dialogue. Laws are there to be adhered to and enforced when broken. If a law will not be treated by the government in this way it should not be passed.

    “Crime and punishment. Ooooh! Do you believe that children are criminals who need to be punished? I think this may be at the root of it. Violence can be used to punish children, but I don’t think that parents should be punishing children – but teaching them. I don’t think that violence is a good teaching method.”
    – You’re taking a tremendously simplistic view of my statement here. I don’t think that children are criminals. I believe that children should be raised by a lot of carrots and a few sticks. I believe that it’s unhealthy for a child to know that if they choose not to listen to your teachings or reasonings that they can do anything they want. Society does not and has never worked like that.

    “Do you argue the murders should be killed and rapists raped. I don’t think that what you’re saying is true,…”
    – These things are different by such an order of magnitude that I think this is an unfair comparison.

    “…however neither of us a psychologists, I wonder what they think about the bill … (quick check) … they support it (http://www.psychology.org.nz/ – bottom of the page). Maybe they know better?”
    – I don’t have the years of training required to raise a child as a psychologist would be able to. It’s unrealistic to expect the entire population to attain that. I believe I would know better what is best for my child than those psychologists and therefore I don’t completely trust their judgement.

  9. 9 Envelope Filter 25 February, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Forgot my final point:

    “Something needs to change, someone is changing it.”
    – Evidence of a requirement for change is no reason to support any change. I don’t support Bradford’s vision for this change.

    I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in changing things by just making new rules, though I accept this as necessity at times. I’m not sure that child abuse should be addressed by a law change.

    That’s my main point here.

    My minor point is that the government doesn’t have any business saying what is right for people’s children in anything more than a few select cases.

    It’s intrusive.

  10. 10 Michael 25 February, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    The current laws make it illegal to use any physical force against anyone. So if I was goofing around, and you gave me a well deserved shove (which I’m sure you have many times in the past), I could call the cops – because you had broken the law. And what would the cops do? Laugh. They would laugh at me for wasting their time.

    Does this law need to be changed because it makes a criminal out of anyone who uses physical force against another person?

    Why should it be different for children? I think not. The police will be able to use their discretion.

    However I think that we have a fundamental disagreement. You believe in the rights of a parent and I don’t want to be a children to be hit. Moving away from this argument:

    Why do you believe that there will always be violence?

  11. 11 Metro 26 February, 2007 at 5:21 am

    Because there’ll always be the All-Blacks, for a start?

  12. 12 Envelope Filter 26 February, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    This post has become fairly gargantuan…

    I’m using the change in topic as an excuse to switch to another post. I’ll upload a post on why I think there will always be violence sometime later on. Probably this evening.

    Mike, I know you were there for this, but Metro – for your benefit (and anyone else who is following this debate) there remains one further piece of info for this post:
    I had a discussion with a Lawyer friend of mine at the weekend on this – he is of the opinion that changing section 59 will make no real difference because it deals only with Assault. Assault (and I didn’t know this) is the threat of violence, not the violence itself. That would be Battery. Section 59 does not deal with the Battery part – there’s another section for that – so violence will be able to be defended under the existing battery legislation, which will no longer agree with section 59. I’m starting to understand how law gets so complicated.

    It’s an interesting thing indeed. I’m not entirely sure how valid the view is, though I put considerable stock in his opinion. This was not a researched opinion, but he seems to know more or less what he’s talking about here. I think it warrants some investigation.

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