OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: "Smokescreen," I scream

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I'm still stuck on how its a bad thing eliminating a legal defence for punching your children in the face, or attacking them with a riding crop.

    For many people that's what Chester Borrows was trying to do, they think Bradford's bill was aimed at eliminating a legal defence for punching your children in the face, or attacking them with a riding crop, or lightly smacking them.

    I also suspect that many parents were miffed at being lumped together with child abusers ... if proponents of the amendment had toned down the rhetoric and instead argued:

    we know the vast majority if parents who smack aren’t violent, and don’t beat their children, are just as sick at the levels of child abuse in this country as we are. This law change isn’t about parents who smack, it’s about the violent ones, the ones who use the law to get away with abuse. This law change bans smacking, but if we don’t do it we won’t even be able to begin to address the needs of those children who do grow up in violent homes. Most parents who occasionally smack their children, feel guilty about and know that there is a better way to raise happy and healthy kids; these people – the vast majority of New Zealand parents – will have nothing to fear from this law change – the police will not investigate or prosecute a minor smack. Yes smacking will not be something you’re allowed to do any more, but you already know you shouldn’t do it, and feel guilty when you do; and isn’t it a small price to pay to offer some protection to the children who do grow up in violent households?

    I suspect the last two years would have been somewhat different.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Exactomundo.

    I have always suspected this word was genuine Italian...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I raised the matter in response to Russel's incredulity that someone was *blaming* children for being smacked.

    I was referring specifically to the rhetoric from Family First and McCroskie. Responsibility for any incident always rests with the child (or at least not with the parent -- McCroskie's refusal to criticise the Masterton father in even the mildest terms was sickening).

    The idea that parents need to exercise self control as part of their duty of care doesn't really feature. Does anyone else really think the father who grabbed his teenage daughter, threw her over his knee and "smacked" her over an argument about her boyfriend was acting wisely?

    There's a weird dissonance here with respect to intervention too. Christine Rankin can blather on about how CYF stands by and refuses to act while babies are abused -- and then you read that tendentious list of cases on the Family First site and you'll see CYF routinely demonised for even taking an interest. One could be forgiven for thinking that kids are fair game once they can walk.

    I think that most parents would think that if a child hasn't done anything wrong, why would any form of discipline or punishment - physical or not - be appropriate?

    And parents who hit their kids for missing the mark on toilet training think they're doing the right thing too. You say it like it's a clear principle, and it isn't.

    I also suspect that many parents were miffed at being lumped together with child abusers ...

    I think that's right -- that's what they thought. It's the basis of the way that in this rhetoric, parents -- even those who very plainly lose the plot, like Jimmy Mason -- have become the victims.

    if proponents of the amendment had toned down the rhetoric

    Uh, if proponents had toned down their rhetoric?

    and instead argued:

    You've lost me here. Isn't that pretty much what Sue Bradford and others actually did argue?

    From Hansard, Bradford, third reading of the bill:

    Neither the select committee, myself, nor anyone else supporting this bill has ever intended that all parents who ever lightly or occasionally hit their children should be subject automatically to investigation and police prosecution. What we have been simply seeking to do is remove a defence that has allowed some parents to get away with quite badly beating their children and, most significantly, that has stopped police from taking action in many situations of violence against children.

    She's followed by Chester Borrows, also speaking in support of the bill:

    Those parents who are worried that this legislation will criminalise lightly smacking a child can rest assured that Parliament’s intention is that this should not be the case, and if at some future time they find themselves on such a charge, they should advise counsel to research Hansard and cite these comments in their defence.

    Yes, a couple of the cases cited by Family First seem ludicrous on the face of it. A woman suspend from her employment at a daycare centre for giving her daughter a "tap on the back of the hand"? Ludicrous! As silly as a man being charged with assault for merely flicking his son's ear ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Uh, if proponents had toned down their rhetoric?

    Um, yes... or do you really think Idiot/Savant's (and I don't mean to pick on him, he's just the first example that comes to mind) habitual cry of "child beater" was adding much to the discussion. I generally stayed the hell out of the debate, because I really didn't want to have to choose being being a fundie child-killer and a tree-hugging lesbian who wouldn't be happy until every parent was dragged away in chains.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Briefly back on topic:

    It don't take a genius to work out that the new protective equiptment for corrections staff isn't so much

    “Our corrections officers deal with some of the country’s most difficult and dangerous people. It is essential that these frontline staff have the tools to keep themselves as safe as possible,”

    as, "This is the cheapest way to get the union to agree to all that double bunking."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    But it would be okay if this guy's girlfriend had been sent to her room or told she couldn't watch TV?

    Let me counter that.

    I coach and referee a contact sport. The team I coach is under 13s, and we have behaviour issues from some of the kids that we have to deal with. Some of it is dangerous, some of it is disruptive to the rest of the team, some of it is just plain annoying.

    If I was to hit one of the kids, as their coach or referee, I would be in a seriously big hole and likely wouldn't be doing either job again for a long time, if ever. In both roles I'm allowed to physical restrain the kids, for their protection or the protection of others, as well as sending them from the ice for some period of time, or other punisment (laps, push ups etc).

    What about the parent/caregiver - child relationship makes it the only one where violence is allowed to play a role? It's not part of the coach-player relationship. It's not part of the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. It's not part of the caregiver-elderly person relationship. It's not part of the sibling relationship (at least in law). It's no longer part of the teacher - student relationship.

    There are lots of instances where people in authority can apply punishment to people, including children. We have moved past where violence is part of that suite of tools.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Graeme is not arguing in favour of smacking, I think it's pointless to debate him on this point. If the PAS readership were to be polled, we'd probably ban parental smacking by a pretty large numbers. But it was explicitly not what the law was meant to achieve.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Um, yes... or do you really think Idiot/Savant's (and I don't mean to pick on him, he's just the first example that comes to mind) habitual cry of "child beater" was adding much to the discussion.

    I agree.

    I should note I have used some harsh words myself -- calling Family Integrity "Christian sadists" -- but only when I think I can directly back up what I say. (When you look at what Family Integrity thinks the law should allow, it's not an unreasonable description.)

    But in general, I think the pro-smacking group's rhetoric has been way more out there than the other side's.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    if proponents had toned down their rhetoric?

    ...

    You've lost me here. Isn't that pretty much what Sue Bradford and others actually did argue?

    No. That was what Sue Bradford argued sometimes. Other times she talked about a law that gives parents to right to hit or beat or smack without any sense that many parents who smack might be horrified to put in the same group as those who beat, and become automatically defensive when they were.

    Other times it was references to the right of all children to grow up without violence, without any recognition of the possibility that many people wouldn't consider a smack to be violent, and without a recognition of what "violent" actually means - I haven't found a single dictionary that has a definition that would include smacking (although I've only looked in like two...).

    It's statements like this I was talking about:

    so many kids are brought up in a family that believes that they should be smacked, beaten or hit when they are kids, they grow up with the idea of a parent’s right to beat.

    Kids who are smacked grow up thinking that beatings are okay? WTF? I think most parents think there is a difference between smacking and beating. I think most children think there is a difference. Sue Bradford really didn't seem to think there was. I can accept that someone might think that both are wrong, I can accept that someone might think both should be crimes, but the idea that they are even in the same league was downright offensive to many.

    Plus I/S's (and others') references to even even those who oppose smacking, but just don't think it should be a criminal offence, as "childbeaters" or favouring child abuse. That's not a way to convince an opponent - or even a fence-sitter - of the justice of your cause.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    No. That was what Sue Bradford argued sometimes.

    It would seem fair in this context to note that Family First and McCroskie touted the shining ideal of the "light smack" even while it championed parents whose actions could by no stretch of the imagination be described in that way: most notably, the woman who hit her disturbed son with a riding crop and a piece of wood.

    By sides have over-reached, but I very strongly maintain that the rhetorical gap was consistently larger on that side of the argument.

    Kids who are smacked grow up thinking that beatings are okay? WTF? I think most parents think there is a difference between smacking and beating.

    Well, of course. But is it not evident that what "some parents" regard as a "smack" looks like a beating to others? You argue the difference as if it's a clear bright line, whereas it is clearly -- and sometimes dangerously -- subjective.

    But maybe we should leave it here. We seem to be arguing about different things.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I should note I have used some harsh words myself --

    And to be self-critical myself, I'm no stranger to bringing a flame thrower to a knife fight -- which isn't exactly constructive. :) And, yes, I do agree with you that if you're not a horse riding crops should only come out in private, between consenting adults.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Inflicting pain, be it physical or mental, on another person in order that they comply to your demands is illegal under article 26 of the Geneva convention, is it not?. Well, if you are a prisoner of war it is, maybe we don't treat our kids as well as that.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I am quietly enjoying the fact that a post on diversionary tactics regarding prison sentencing has ended up discussing smacking. Are we sure there isn't a 9th Floor PR puppet master amongst us? :>

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Inflicting pain, be it physical or mental, on another person in order that they comply to your demands is illegal under article 26 of the Geneva convention, is it not?. Well, if you are a prisoner of war it is, maybe we don't treat our kids as well as that.

    You probably aren't allowed to shoot them if they attempt to run away either.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    You probably aren't allowed to shoot them if they attempt to run away either.

    If I lock them up will the red cross bring them packages? Because that would make my food budget go so much further.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Inflicting pain, be it physical or mental, on another person in order that they comply to your demands is illegal under article 26 of the Geneva convention, is it not?. Well, if you are a prisoner of war it is ...

    No it isn't.

    I'm pretty sure Article 26 guarentees the right to tobacco.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    >quote>I'm pretty sure Article 26 guarentees the right to tobacco.</quote>I stand corrected Sir, my keyboard lied, it was meant to say Article 17.
    I usually quote article 26 in pubs. ;-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

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