Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I swear these people are getting stranger

The give me section 59 or give me death letters to the editor are always a bit bemusing to read.* The latest suggested that Sue Bradford should be marooned on an island with some of the children from Lord of the Flies. Some points:

1. Lord of the Flies is a work of fiction
2. That means those children do not actually exist
3. So they don't prove anything about the way children behave.


4. Even if all the above weren't true, the kids in that book were almost certainly hit often enough to satisfy Family First and co. So it's not really an argument for hitting kids.

*Unless my little sister is around, because she's awesome and will rant at great length on the issue. It's so great that being the rantee rather than the ranter with her.


  1. I think their point is that children, left to their own devices can be quite selfish and ruthless. I know from my own four sons (8 and under) that they have to be taught empathy and things like sharing. Without love and guidance it would be a "might is right" scenario where the older and stronger would take what they wanted from the younger.

    That's not to say that are unable to be loving and caring for each other, they can, but because these are values we have instilled and encouraged into them from the beginning.

    I personally am ambivalent about the s59 repeal. Do I smack? Yes, sometimes I do. I am the adult and they have to obey me. That sounds pretty draconian, but if I have four kids running riot then I can't parent properly.

    Do I do it often? No. Do I hurt them? No. They do more damage to themselves leaping around the garden when they play outside. There's no red mark, no bruising. But they don't like it when I smack and they are prepared to obey me when I say "I will count to five and you will do as I say or I will smack you." and they know I mean what I say.

    I don't believe I am harming them or hurting them. I also don't think if I did it to an adult it would count as assault since it's so light. Although I don't think I could lift another adult over my knee...

    Would I do it to another adult? No, because no other adult has to obey me and besides I can reason with an adult and an adult has far greater control over their own behavior. Sometimes children need a short, sharp consequence to remind them that they are not allowed to do something.

    I'd rather give a smack than allow my child to learn the hard way that they can't squeeze their guinea pigs, or run across the road.

    Would I smack if I just had one child? No, because I would have more free time available to use things like time out or other less immediate punishments. But with four children I need obedience and compliance, especially when I am on my own with them.

    I think the push for no smacking comes from people who have (on general) much smaller families, or from people in child care setting where the load is shared with other adults who are totally child focused. Mums at home with lots of kids are also trying to run a household as well as keeping the kids in check.

    I know you a very idealistic, but I do wonder what your opinion would be if you were in my shoes and had the experiences I have had.

  2. My mother had four children and she supports the repeal of s59.

  3. As I said, I am ambivalent and I'd really love to talk to your mother to hear what she has to say.

    I think if you end up being charged with assaulting your children because of serious violence, then claiming you were disciplining them is wrong. No one needs to use a horse whip or a belt to discipline a child. No one. Ever. No way.

    But then what if a parent uses a light smack in public? I'm not talking beating, or smacking an under three child. Is that going to land a parent in court?

    I don't believe that the level of physical discipline I use should be illegal. I'm worried about good parents getting into legal issues.

    Do you know what I would like to see gone, what I think really makes violence in our society? All the violence on television and in the media. Even children's cartoons are horrible, ugly and mean. Remember the Wombles, or Playschool or SuperTed?

    What I find really adds to my kids level of aggressive behavior is violent programmes. Hence we just keep the tv off most of the time, or use DVDs. If they kept watching this kind of stuff, they'd get desensitised and then need a greater level of violence to get that physical arousal. You end up with teenagers watching Saw or Hostel.

    What do you think about that kind of visual violence?

  4. Anonymous11:01 pm

    The s59 repeal isn't there to turn "good parents into common criminals"- the line I have heard so often and it makes me furious.
    The idea would be to stop "reasonable force" being used as a defense if a child was injured. That's it. Fullstop.
    It's illegal to hit your pets- but you don't get convicted unless your pet is injured.
    Why should you're children be considered less important than animals?
    Whether it's right or wrong to use a "tap" on the bum as a form of punishment to control 4 children (or whether you shouldn't have had 4 children so close together if you couldn't control them...)is a different argument all together.

  5. Anonymous9:38 am

    We don't legislate on the basis of best case senarios, we legislate on the basis of worst case senarios.

    By your reasoning rape shouldn't be a crime because most people know the difference between 'playing hard to get' and rape. In general, men do prefer to have sex with partners that give their consent. However there's also a group of men who don't care if their partner gives consent and society should be protected from them.

    We haven't trusted our teachers with physical discpline in schools for almost 20 years because, despite their years of training in child behavior and psychology, too many of them were using physical punishment excessively.

    I'm sorry but there's a large enough group of parents, that merely need functioning reproductive organs to become one, are using physical punishment excessively to close this legal loophole.

  6. Anon:

    My kids are controlled, they're very loving, cute kids. But all kids push boundaries and all kids need discipline. I use a very light smack on the clothed bottom as a punishment. It's the shame that's effective. I don't want to hurt them.

    I could do the same with time out or a naughty chair, but with a smack everything is over in five minutes. IME it's just faster.


    My mother offered the same argument and I think it's one that has merit. Hence as I said, I'm ambivalent about the repeal of s59.

    I don't trust teachers with physical discipline because they don't love their pupils. I mean, they may, but then they also are likely not to.

    Me and my husband are the two people in the world who love our children the most. They are our life. I don't know that other people would definitely feel the same way about our babies.

  7. Anonymous8:39 pm

    Muerk- I want to apologise for being rude to you in my previous post. I really didn't mean to imply that your kids weren't good kids, I was just in a really shity mode when I wrote that... sorry!
    But unfortunatly there are enough people who don't use a "light tap" to disipline their children and will hit in a fit of rage. This has to be stopped.

  8. Anonymous10:32 am

    "violent programmes"
    Indeed its shocking - but the problem is that we are a liberal society. To start running around banning everything that might be bad would be a big step. (one that would require quite a bit of justification) That applies also to Stef’s argument. In general in a liberal society we refrain from passing laws that restrict the rights of the general public in order to stop a minority. I.e. we don’t allow police to search our homes at random (unless you are the USA, I guess).

    "The s59 repeal isn't there to turn good parents into common criminals"

    That isn't what it's main intent is but most people don’t doubt Bradford has good intentions.

    Actually I think a good parent won't need to smack so what it is doing is turning average parents into criminals but I don’t think that is a smart move either.

    "It's illegal to hit your pets- but you don't get convicted unless"

    I wish people would care about what is illegal rather than ‘what will get you convicted” after-all it appears rape is very unlikely to get you convicted – do we really want to foster that attitude by having more laws we make embarrassingly weak attempts to enforce.


    "By your reasoning rape shouldn't be a crime because most people know the difference"

    not sure how your analogy works.
    a smack (in its loosest sense) is equivalent of something like a "unwanted sexual advance"
    rape is equivalent of "a senseless bashing with a cricket bat"
    Both of the last two are already illegal the former two are potentially legal.

  9. Anon:
    Apology accepted :) I know it's a very emotional issue.

    I think the worst part of this debate is that it has turned the focus on good parents who choose to use physical discipline rather than those who actually hurt their children.

    Punching, using straps, belts, whips, canes, hitting around the head or stomach, leaving marks/bruises... These are things I think that we could all agree are totally inappropriate for adults to do to children.

    Something Elie Weisel (who wrote 'Night about surviving the Nazi camps) said was that when he was asked "...what advice can you give my generation on how to prevent future humanitarian catastrophes in the world?"

    His reply was deeply meaningful for me:

    "As a teacher and a writer, I can tell you I teach and I write in order to sensitize the student or the reader—and I hope that the reader is my student and my student is the reader—but that's the main thing: Be sensitive."

    That's something I think about in regard to our boys. So yesterday, when Tommy (5) hurt his toe in an accident with William (6), I was ready to tell William off for being careless, but Tommy asked me not to because William didn't hurt him on purpose. So I listened and agreed, then James (2) came and hugged and kissed Tommy because he was hurt. They told each other that they loved them.

    Then I got William to come and comfort Tommy (I wanted to subtly show him what happens if we are careless), but Peter (8) came too and put his arms around Tommy, then I explained to William that I had wanted to tell him off but Tommy asked me not to because it was accidental. William wrapped his arms around Tommy, kissed him and said "Thanks for sticking up for me."

    Then they helped Tommy into the living room and sorted out a snack for him.

    Something I have really tried to instill is sensitivity to other's pain, compassion and empathy. To see the 'enemy' as still someone to love and forgive.

    If you feel another's pain, you don't want to hurt them, you want to love and protect them. Parents who beat their children aren't sensitive to them.