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When Are Smackers Not Abusers?

Dear Sir,

If the Hon. Sue Bradford MP and her cohorts could please refrain from equating people who physically discipline their children on occasion with child abusers it would be most appreciated.

It is truly horrible that 6.9 (10.3 for Maori, 5.9 for non-Maori) out of 1,000 children (6,892) under 17 were abused sexually, emotionally, or physically in the year to June 2002, but does Sue Bradford actually think that is because people are legally allowed to physically reprimand their children?

Anybody who loves their children does not discipline them because they desire to inflict pain on their children for the purposes of avenging wounded pride or any other selfish reason, but in order that the child is prevented from hurting themselves and/or others again - whether it is preventative or informative discipline. An abused child and a well-disciplined child are quite different in their social interactions and achievements, their relationships with authority, and self-discipline.

"Time-out" doesn't work for all children all the time, some children would actually rather spend time in their room with a book in "time-out" than in the lounge with their family around the TV. The high sex and violence content of television programming, incidentally, is certainly a contributing factor in the rise of child abuse in New Zealand.

All repealing a parent's right to "smack" will achieve is to take away the right of loving parents who smack their children sometimes to do so, it will not prevent child-abusers from carrying on as they already do. It is the logical equivalent of reducing the motorway speed limit to 20kph in order to prevent people speeding to 120kph. Ms. Bradford wishes to prevent people from using fair and restrained discipline, rather than addressing the issue of real brutality against children.

It seems strange that in trusting in the inherent goodness of humanity such liberals as Ms. Bradford seem obsessed with preventing people from making their own decisions, preferring rather to make laws requirements in line with their own ethics that punish those who disagree, terrified that their trust in the goodness of humanity is misplaced and they might be proven wrong by the abuse that unfortunately accompanies some peoples' freedom. As the great playwright George Bernard Shaw said, "Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."

- Paul McMahon – New Zealand.

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