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Society Responds to "Anti-Smacking" Spokespersons

9 June 2006

Society Responds to "Anti-Smacking" Spokespersons

Beth Wood, a spokesperson for Unicef, has stated that all the ten organisations, including her own, that are supporting the repeal of s 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, do so "primarily because it endorses the use of force in discipline and physical discipline [smacking] is associated with many poor outcomes for children... including an increased risk of child abuse"(Letters 01/06/06 Dominion Post).

Here she misleads the public by failing to distinguish between "reasonable" and "unreasonable" force: the law only legalises "reasonable force" used against a child for domestic disciplinary purposes, not physical ABUSE of any kind (i.e. unreasonable force) and certainly not that delivered under the pretence of carrying out 'physical discipline'. Under present law, physical discipline such as smacking is not unlawful, but it will be, along with all forms of force used on children by parents, if s. 59 is repealed.

Wood was delighted that all the organisations, "sang the same song" when they recently made their oral submissions on Grenn Party MP Sue Bradford's private member's bill before the Justice and Electoral Committee. She was no doubt pleased when the Children's Commissioner, Dr Cindy Kiro, cited the case of the Timaru lady who used a "riding crop" to phyically punish her son for wrongdoing, as clear 'evidence' of a case of 'child abuse' 'masquerading as physical discipline', illustrating in her view the urgent need to repeal s. 59. The Society can demonstrate why the majority of New Zealanders (over 80%) reject the arguments of lobbyists, like Wood and Kiro, who are calling for the repeal of s. 59.

1. The 'antismacking' lobbyists employ rhetorical devices to advance their dishonest and spurious claims. They deliberately conflate the concept of "force in discipline" which includes "smacking"; with "physical ABUSE". In their minds all smacking IS physical abuse. It is violence against a child and therefore cannot be endorsed in law. The vast majority of New Zealaners reject these absurd ideologically-driven premises.

2. Dr Kiro is on record as having drawn a clear distinction between the disciplinary use of smacking and "physical or corporate punishment" in her June 2004 publication "The Discipline and Guidance of Children: A Summary of Research" (see p. 10). Under the heading "The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment", she says that research shows a clear link between "physical abuse" and the use of "physical or corporal punishment" which she defines as "the use of force to cause pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control". She does NOT claim a link based on research between "physical discipline" [e.g. smacking] and "child abuse" as Wood claims. However, both Kiro and Wood believe it exists.

3. Dr Kiro accepts a definition of discipline as "guidance of children's moral, emotional and physical development, enabling children to take responsibility for themselves when they are older" and recognises "smacking" as one legitimate form of "discipline". She thereby makes a clear distinction between "physical discipline" and "physical or corporal punishment". But hang-on! Smacking, a form of discipline, IS also a form of corporal punishment: one that it designed to inflict a level of pain, "but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control." The semantic trickery (conflation of terms) Wood and Kiro employ is designed to sell their dishonest message that the use of smacking by parents for child discipline has been linked to child abuse.

4. Contrary to the politically-correct utterances of the 'anti-smacking' brigade, it is universally recognised that child discipline requires, on occasions, the use of a level of force on a child by its parent. For example, when removing a recalcitrant child to a "time out zone", removing an instrument from a child who is being using it to annoy a sibling, or removing a toy from a child so that other siblings can get a fair chance to enjoy it too. Arguing that any "use of force" in itself is wrong, harmful and socially backward, as Wood does, is dishonest.

5. Dr Kiro has defined discipline to include "smacking a child for doing something wrong". She calls smacking a "negative discipline [that] focuses on doing what you are told in order to avoid being hurt or punished." Wood, Kiro and their supporters want nothing in our legislation that "endorses the use of force in discipline" and yet claim that the police will turn a blind eye when complaints are brought by CYF social workers and others against parents for committing technical assaults on their children when they physically discipline them.

6. By removing s.59 they want all parents to be treated under the law as an adult dealing with any other adult. An adult has no defence in law against a charge of common assault if he has used force to put another adult in a time out zone, or has removed a cricket ball from a team player who is refusing to return it to the field of play at a sports function. Such actions involving adults do regularly lead to charges being laid for common assault.

Once s 59 is repealed the level playing field that supporters of the bill dream of, will be laid. The defence in law for parents to use reasonable force on a child for disciplinary purposes will be erased.

7. If s. 59 is repealed, CYF social workers will be free to publicly accuse parents and foster parents of child abuse, merely bacause they admitted to applying a light smack to a child as discipline or 'threatened' to use a smack. Furthermore, as they have already pursued such cases vigorously to the Courts by pressuring the police, and ensuring that parents are convicted, even before s 59 is repealed; the passage of the bill into law will lead to further convictions of assault by good parents instigated by CYF and other agencies.

Recently CYF Operations Manager, Lorraine Williams, attacked two CYF foster parents, Don and Anne Eathorne, as child abusers, on the TV One Sunday documentary. The only 'crime' they had been convicted of was "smacking" a boy with a wooden spoon for an act of vandalism that caused $6,000 damage to their employees farm equipment.

8. The Society's position Sue Bradford's bill, which it opposes, can be found on its website www.spcs.org.nz
under "submissions".


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