Child discipline is not the same as child abuse

Statistics confirm that we have a predilection to beat our kids. Quote.

New Zealand, which has a population a 4.47 million, has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the developed world. It also has one of the worst rates of child death by maltreatment within the family.

NZ Police respond to one ‘family violence’ call every seven minutes. Police say that in 60% of domestic violence cases children are also being abused and indications are that in a similar percentage of child abuse cases there is also domestic violence occurring.

An international survey found that one in four New Zealand girls is sexually abused before the age of 15, the highest rate of any country examined” End of quote. 

Some experts claim that poverty is the reason for child abuse and that increasing benefits will result in decreased child abuse. This is rubbish. There are good reasons for dragging families out of poverty but stopping child abuse is not one of them, because it won’t.

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Plenty of families who live in poverty do not, and never would, abuse their children and the parent or caregiver who tortures babies and children is not going to change their appalling behavior simply because they receive more money.

In our enthusiasm to curb child abuse, we have lumped child abuse and child discipline together, but in fact they are totally different. Lightly smacking a child to discipline them is not child abuse.  It is more abusive to ignore your child and neglect enforcing the boundaries that keep them safe and sociable.

Many children are simply not disciplined at all, resulting in badly behaved brats who are too awful to be around. They don’t know how to respect others or engage socially. No wonder teachers are demanding more money when they have become the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to sort out the disruptive behavior of juvenile social misfits in the classroom.

Because it is illegal to smack children, good parents are deprived of an effective way to discipline young children. Yes, under this law we can prosecute abusers who beat their children, but unfortunately, good parents are caught up in this very wide net.

This week a father was in court as a result of a complaint by the child’s mother for smacking their four-year-old.  Fortunately, he was discharged without conviction.  These parents clearly disagreed on how to discipline their child.  Rule number one in child discipline is that parents are on the same page, because even very young children are cunning enough to know how to divide and conquer. Quote.

Massey University professor of humanities Chris Gallavin said the case was likely an oddity, but does not represent a failure of the 2007 amendment to the Crimes Act.” End of quote.

Defenders of this catch-all law are quick to defend it but in this case, the law was an ass, even though Gallavin doesn’t think so. I wonder if he has children, and if he does how he disciplines them?

This case most assuredly does represent a waste of everyone’s time and money and is a failure of the 2007 amendment to the Crimes Act.  This case is not an oddity, it represents total confusion in the law about the difference between child abuse and child discipline.  Quote.

The amendment removed the legal defence of “reasonable force” for parents prosecuted for assaulting their children.

“Here at most we have perhaps an over energetic police prosecution sergeant or the officer in charge who has pushed through a prosecution which has resulted in a discharge by way of without conviction,” he said.

I don’t think that that can be necessarily held to say that the law is an ass as it were.”

Prof Gallavin said the law change was important to help reduce family violence in New Zealand and was never intended to bring a flood of prosecutions for people smacking their kids.” End of quote.

Well, the law was an ass when it brought a prosecution against a father who was simply disciplining his child.

Is this law change responsible for ineffectual discipline which is responsible for an upsurge in unruly and dangerous behavior by children in restaurants?  Behavior that drew reactions from diners and restaurant owners sufficient to see kids banned.  Quote.

“I do think it’s an important piece of the puzzle of trying to remove the cold nature of violence within families,” he said.

But he added the prosecution was an important reminder for people who go straight to hitting children when they’re mad.” End of quote.

Another common misconception is that a child is disciplined simply because the parent is angry.  Yes, parents get angry, no parent is perfect but controlled parents discipline to change their child’s behavior, not simply to express their anger as Gallavin suggests.  There are other reasons for domestic violence that results in belting kids.  Quote.

“It’s perhaps a timely reminder for those parents who have a predilection for hitting their kids that you just can’t do that under New Zealand law,” he said.” End of quote.

Gallavin confuses child abuse with child discipline, along with all the other unrealistic hopefuls who think the anti-smacking law will reduce child abuse but it doesn’t because we have seen no evidence of a decline in child abuse.

Parents who love their kids and want them to take responsibility for their actions know that they must discipline them. It is a fact of life that unruly kids will not change their behavior unless they are taught otherwise.

How parents discipline their unruly kids is their business unless it actually is child abuse. In my opinion, a light smack followed by a discussion about the behavior is infinitely better than effectively rejecting the child to “time-out,” where the child is ignored and accurately gets the message that the parent wants nothing to do with them.

If a parent is at the end of their tether with a naughty child, it is the parent who should remove themselves into timeout instead of taking it out on the child.

A light smack used when absolutely necessary does no damage, it is quick, effective and shouldn’t cause psychological issues when used appropriately.  A warning or two, followed by a smack is very effective and a hug and discussion about why the smack was necessary is opportunity to let the child know that they are loved.

Badly behaved children seem to be multiplying.  Parents have been made impotent and it shows.  My heart goes out to some very little mites who do not understand boundaries and are not secure in their parent’s affection.  They are crying out for attention and the real shame is that these kids will grow up to be needy people who are incapable of showing affection or understanding discipline.

Thankfully, in this court case, the judge was reasonable. Pity about the child’s mum, Gallavin and the police officer because they still have a lot to learn about child discipline.


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