Wednesday, March 14, 2007



The state does belong there

One of the key arguments used by opponents of Sue Bradford's Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill is that smacking is not the business of the state. It's an argument seen clearly in Gordon Copeland's speech on the bill's second reading, where he said

The bill as it stands, in my view, is gravely flawed. I say that because of my deep conviction that the right and the responsibility to train and discipline children belongs to parents. The role of the State should be limited to ensuring, for the common good, the safety of New Zealand children. But subject to that overriding criterion, the choice of which particular means parents use to discipline their children belongs to them, and to them alone.

He goes on to say that the bill intrudes into the home, and that "the State does not belong there". Which is exactly what people said in the past against progressive attempts to criminalise domestic violence, child abuse, and spousal rape. They all happen in the home, but the state very definitely does belong there. And the reason is precisely that duty to ensure people's safety Copeland speaks of - a duty which encompasses all New Zealanders, regardless of age. The core duty of the state is to protect people from violence - and "violence" includes smacking. We would not tolerate bullies giving people a "loving smack" on the street to "discipline" them; we do not tolerate people smacking their partners, even when it causes no more than "transitory and trifling" harm. We should not tolerate people smacking their children either. While parents have a right to raise their children how they wish, they have no right to use violence against them.

20 comments:

Apart from conflating corrective discipline and non-disciplinary assault,I think you may have misinterpreted what Gordon said in his speech. The state does not have to step in when the leaders of the state do not think an action (such as light smacking) should lead to a criminal record - unless of course it is a criminal offence and the law needs repealing, an example of which is homosexuality.

Imagine the outrage if a party was to criminalise homosexuality because they maintained it leads to the spread of aids - the smacking/abuse argument is no different to the gay/aids argument. Not all gays will get aids. Not all parents will abuse their kids. Leave both groups alone.

Posted by Dave : 3/14/2007 02:04:00 AM

While parents have a right to raise their children how they wish, they have no right to use violence against them.

And does that include the psychological violence of the 'time out' - which has me muttering 'bullshit' every time I hear someone claim it's a non-violent means of discipline.

After all, what makes it so bloody effective is that you're conditioning children to associate undesirable behaviour with physical isolation and emotional withdrawl from a parent.

I suspect if that was my standard method of dealing with my co-workers, Ms. Bradford would regard that as harassment and intimidation. My employer and the Employment Court may well agree.

And if you do it to your partner, many would consider that an even more insidious form of domestic violence because the scars aren't physical. (Though I suspect physically dragging your adult partner to the 'naughty step' would most certainly be assault in Ms. Bradford's book.)

So, is anyone going to ban a pretty nasty and commonplace form of mind-fucking children that is increasingly unacceptable towards adults? Or is that political correctness gone mad?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/14/2007 04:15:00 AM

And does that include the psychological violence of the 'time out' - which has me muttering 'bullshit' every time I hear someone claim it's a non-violent means of discipline . . . I suspect if that was my standard method of dealing with my co-workers, Ms. Bradford would regard that as harassment and intimidation. My employer and the Employment Court may well agree.

If you dealt with co-workers by enforcing 'time outs' then that would be inappropriate. But it's accepted that parents have authority over their children, while you do not have authority over your co-workers. Your employers, however, do have authority and if you throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the office (say) then it's totally acceptable for your Manager to tell you to go outside and get a grip on yourself.
It's also acceptable (and sometimes very wise) to refuse to discuss an issue with your partner when they are incandescent with rage.

Posted by danyl : 3/14/2007 07:07:00 AM

a time out is rather more than just telling someone to get a grip - it is more like a kidnapping. It tends to involve a specific space that you are not alowed to leave as opposed to just defining a small area you cannot return to. Also time out generally requires physical force and intimidation to put the person there and return the to that spot.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/14/2007 07:27:00 AM

This comment has been removed by the author. Posted by Psycho Milt : 3/14/2007 07:45:00 AM

Absolutely - you aren't allowed to arbitrarily imprison another adult, so why should the state permit such abuse if the victim is a child? Perhaps the Greens can get to work on resolving this abuse of human rights once they've sorted out smacking?

Posted by Psycho Milt : 3/14/2007 07:46:00 AM

Well if you aren't allowed to smack or give time outs what exactly do all you parenting experts think parents should do? If you think it is possible to reason with a two year old who is for eg intent on kicking everyone in sight and doing their best to pull a heavy bookcase down on themselves I'm just going to laugh at you.

I don't use smacking myself but in such a situation I'll stick my daughter in a time out without hesitation. And yes it may involve some necessary force. Better that than I let her injure herself or someone else or allow her to grow up thinking the standards of civilised behaviour don't apply to her.

Posted by Make Tea Not War : 3/14/2007 07:55:00 AM

a time out is rather more than just telling someone to get a grip - it is more like a kidnapping. It tends to involve a specific space that you are not alowed to leave

Once again, I think you'll find that if you meltdown in the workplace and your manager tells you to 'go wait in my office for ten minutes' or 'go sit in the sick room until you've calmed down' then they will be within their rights as an employer and unlikely to be charged with kidnapping.

And if dozens of parents start showing up in court being charged with neglect after locking their kids in the basement for five days and evading prosecution because they claim they are just administering discipline by the use of 'time out' then I think it would be appropriate for Parliament to pass legislation governing the use of 'time out'. But this seems pretty spectacularly unlikely.

Posted by danyl : 3/14/2007 08:58:00 AM

So is there a s59 equivalent for kidnapping?

Posted by Lyndon : 3/14/2007 09:09:00 AM

"So is there a s59 equivalent for kidnapping?"

Nope.

As someone's guardian, however, you have a rights/obligations such as determining where they live, which might help - for the next ten minute you have to live in your room, etc.

Posted by Graeme : 3/14/2007 10:08:00 AM

By the same argument you could argue that all common assault should be legalised - after all why should the state interfere in the "choice of means" New Zealanders use to settle arguments? Most fights do not result in a prosecution, so it's clearly an unenforceable law.

Posted by Rich : 3/14/2007 10:21:00 AM

Excellent post - any form of corporal punishment toward those that cannot defend themselves is barbaric and most certainly the State's business.

Children should never be hit. If you cannot teach, guide and discipline your child without resorting to hitting or other acts of violence, you are not fit to be a parent. There is no excuse.

I cannot believe some of the comments over this legislation - how wedded people are to the 'right' to use pain to punish chidren. How astounding that we claim to be such an advanced society.

When asked what he thought of Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied, 'I think it would be a good idea.' Now we know why.

Posted by Ruth : 3/14/2007 11:48:00 AM

Just to add my 2 cents: I also think 'time out' is cruel and unnecessary, but some organisations recommend it as a way of giving the parent/caregiver their own 'time out' to avoid a spur-of-the-moment-smack, which is worse.

aladin

Posted by aladin : 3/14/2007 01:31:00 PM

Gordon Copeland just put out a press release welcoming Sir Geoffrey Palmer's letter (for the law commission) in relation to 'time-out' for corrective purposes.

Copeland's assertion the said letter supports Copeland's contention that the bill bans 'time out' is at odds with bits of the letter quoted elsewhere.

Crazy old Gordon Copeland.


So how analagous is kidnapping to assault with respect to lack of explicit protection for caregivers?

Posted by Lyndon : 3/14/2007 02:11:00 PM

Children should never be hit. If you cannot teach, guide and discipline your child without resorting to hitting or other acts of violence, you are not fit to be a parent. There is no excuse.

Yes, Ruth, the hideous bitch who was having a screaming fit at her toddler - who was cringing and in tears - in the middle of my local supermarket last night was such a role model.

Then again, I have a pretty short fuse with bullies, full stop - and don't really give a damn if they're using their fists or their mouths.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/14/2007 03:25:00 PM

Just to add my 2 cents: I also think 'time out' is cruel and unnecessary, but some organisations recommend it as a way of giving the parent/caregiver their own 'time out' to avoid a spur-of-the-moment-smack, which is worse.

Worse? I've never physically smacked a child in my care, but I have reduced a couple to tears - including one little cherub who won't come near me after two years. Apparently, I can be rather scary when I lose my rag - especially when I've got three decades and a considerable amount of physical bunk to my advantage.

Do you think I'm proud of doing that, or think it's any less abusive or ugly because no physical contact was involved? Bull - there is no excuse or mitigation for my lack of self-control.

Anyway, there is one rule of thumb recommended by many childcare experts I whole-heartedly endorse: Attention-seeking acting out is just that, so don't play the game. Unless there's a clear risk of self-harm or injury to others, you're wiser to just walk away and make yourself a cup of coffee. Easier said than done, I know, and it requires a bit of patience. But it's funny how often children turn out to be much smarter than you give them credit for.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/14/2007 03:41:00 PM

Absolutely - you aren't allowed to arbitrarily imprison another adult, so why should the state permit such abuse if the victim is a child?

Is this tongue-in-cheek, or further evidence that socialists (including socialists masquerading as liberals) can't tell the difference between adults and children?

Imagine a child throwing a raging tantrum at the dinner table. He’s throwing food, and howling at the top of his voice. You anti-time-outers want to prevent parents from doing anything except attempting to “reason” with the child???

Children are not adults! Children don't (and nor should they) have the right to enter contracts, drive cars, vote, etc. and so on. These restrictions exist because we recognise the difference between children and adults; that a child's rational faculty is not fully formed and that they are (generally) not yet capable of the judgement that adults (generally) exercise.

There may be good reasons for this legislation (although I'm not convinced), but the absurd equivocation that “we don't do this to adults!” is not one of them.

Posted by Justin : 3/14/2007 04:53:00 PM

Tongue-in-cheek, Justin. But the bit about the Greens moving on to that aspect of childrens' rights next was deadly serious.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 3/14/2007 05:57:00 PM

Funny how the actual "harm" of smacking has been quietly forgotten for the most part. There's a good reason.

Everyone knows smacking doesn't cause long term damage - that's abuse. So people used to talk about the "psychological" damage.

Of course, this falls over rather badly indeed when one considers that the only alternatives to physical punishment (smacking) is psychological punishment (timeouts etc).

Posted by scrubone : 3/14/2007 07:36:00 PM

"While parents have a right to raise their children how they wish, they have no right to use violence against them."

Quite.

Just explain to me how "trifling and transitory" is violence.

Physicial force is part of everyday life. People are getting hung up on "force" but forget simple uses for it... like say, typing on a keyboard.

Not all force is bad. You can no more stop parents from using force than you can stop children from ever crying. It's necessary for good parenting.

Posted by scrubone : 3/14/2007 07:41:00 PM