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New Zealanders Vote for More Smacking
August 21, 2009 2:52 AM   Subscribe

New Zealand voters want to smack their children. 1.4 million New Zealanders (87.6% of votes cast) have voted "No" to the question "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?". Regardless of opinion, this seemingly innocent question has been steeped in controversy. Voters have been confused, ambivalent, and perhaps misunderstood the law. The Prime Minister indicated he would ignore the result, and even the referendum initiators (intent on legalising smacking for corrective purposes) are divided on what the result means, some wanting explicit rights to use wooden spoons.

Two years ago, New Zealand law was modified to remove the defence of "reasonable force" for assault on a child - bringing it into line with the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child. In its place, the law provides for "justifiable force" for specific reasons (preventing harm, criminal offence, poor behaviour). The law explicitly denies the right to use physical punishment to "correct" children (think "correctional facility" - using force to correct children after the fact).

Despite these facts, lobbyists have tagged the law change as "anti-smacking", incorrectly implying that it denies any right to use physical force. The non-binding referendum intends to add permission for corrective smacking, but is seen by many as an overall vote of no-confidence in the law change. As such, the PM is openly ambivalent about the result, raising the ire of other politicians.
posted by pivotal (94 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

"good parental correction"? Bit of a loaded question for a poll, isn't it?
posted by amuseDetachment at 2:58 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Quite amazing that it even got to the poll stage isn't it? Some suggested the question be changed to "Have you stopped beating your children?", to accentuate the absurdity.
posted by pivotal at 2:59 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The commission said new evidence on family discipline practices to be presented in Wellington today showed that the incidence of child smacking was declining. Although four in 10 parents said they occasionally smacked their children, fewer than one in 10 felt it was effective.

Any numbers on of how many of the 1.4 million that were parents themselves, and how may were of the "I was smacked a lot as a kid, and ..."-variety?
posted by effbot at 3:00 AM on August 21, 2009


Should a punch as part of good husbandal correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

I'm pretty sad at the results......
posted by scodger at 3:01 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


May be a loaded question, but I don't understand how it could be ambiguous as some have claimed. Can anyone explain how voting "Yes" could be interpreted as meaning parents should not beable to smack their children?
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:09 AM on August 21, 2009


Can anyone explain how voting "Yes" could be interpreted as meaning parents should not beable to smack their children?

Sure. The question is "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

Clearly this is proposing that we define a new class of criminal offence, applicable only to children and for which one of the punishments consists of "good parental correction" by which we mean smacking them. Should we do this?
posted by juv3nal at 3:24 AM on August 21, 2009


I fail at reading.
posted by juv3nal at 3:25 AM on August 21, 2009


Four comments in and someone has already equated a smack with a beating. I'd say it's par for the course for an online discussion.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:30 AM on August 21, 2009 [16 favorites]


It seems a bit contradictory to be critical of misunderstandings and ambiguity yet be outright translating "I think X should not be criminal" as "I want more X to occur."

This issue has nothing to do with abortion and I'm not trying to imply any association like that but rhetorically this is exactly the same tactic as pro-life advocates claiming that because pro-choice voters do not think abortion should be criminal, this means that pro-choicers want there to be more abortions.

(I'm not a New Zealander, though, and otherwise apart from this thread I'm uninvolved in the smacking debate.)
posted by XMLicious at 3:34 AM on August 21, 2009


Fair call XMlicious, but the way I read it, our law allows for some smacking, and voting "No" implies a demand for smacking under less stringent conditions. Hence more smacking.
posted by pivotal at 3:39 AM on August 21, 2009


"New Zealand voters want to smack their children"
Talk about misleading title for the post.
1. Some people voted 'yes' and some voted 'no'. They aren't the one group.
2. Some might vote against making smacking illegal, but it doesn't mean they want to smack their kids. Maybe some voters are OK with other parents deciding for themselves. So it's possible to be anti-smacking but also against criminalising it. Many people feel the same way about marijuana use for instance, or abortion...

Personally, although my kids did get the occasional smack when they younger, I now believe there are better ways to handle discipline. But I'm not at the stage where I think parents should go to prison if they decide to give their kids a smack.
posted by joz at 3:42 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I voted Yes.

This has been an ongoing issue in New Zealand ever since the organisation of the citizen-initiated referendum came to light. Specifically there has been a huge outcry over the poor wording of the question as indicated above, and at the NZ$9m price tag of the referendum. According to the news, some voted No simply as a means of protest, while some leading politicians openly said they would not vote due to the poor question wording, an example which probably contributed to the 54% turnout - very low considering it's been in the news constantly and nearly every voting age New Zealander has some opinion on the issue.

I must say I am disappointed and a little suprised at the margin No to Yes, but not at the overall result. Before the referendum the Prime Minister said he would take the result into consideration, but that it would not make him change the law as he believed it was working. This too probably had a big effect of on the result.

I wrote a really long letter to the most prominent (out of say... 5 overall, nationally) current events personality John Campbell about the referendum and what it says about democracy in New Zealand, but the issue never got raised unfortunately (I guess the notion that it might have would be strange to some from bigger countries, but with a population of 4 million you feel you have a chance). We tend to take the existence of 'democracy' for granted here.

Overall: A disappointing result, but of no real domestic consequence - the international coverage and subsequent 'bad publicity' may be more significant than anything else.
posted by atmosphere at 4:11 AM on August 21, 2009


Perhaps allowing New Zealanders to smack adults as well would add some perspective to the situation.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:13 AM on August 21, 2009


Simple battery is simple battery is simple battery. This is the twenty-first century, for crying out loud. Do people really still think it's wise to model authoritarian violence for their children?
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 4:40 AM on August 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


I didn't vote

I work in the radiology department of New Zealand's largest children's hospital where part of my job is to identify and describe child abuse injuries in live and murdred children.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think that this referendum would have any impact on the frequency or severity of child abuse that I see on a daily basis, none of which could ever be considered "...good parental correction...".
posted by dp at 4:48 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Heh.

"Should locking children in basements and forcing them to subsist only on bread and water while slowly but surely training them to kill as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense in New Zealand?"

Er, no...

"Ha ha! Trick question! I said 'good parental correction'!"

But I can't imagine a situation where...

"No buts! I tricked you fair and square; just admit it and sit down already."
posted by koeselitz at 5:02 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


identify and describe child abuse injuries in live and murdred children

I'm guessing that most of that abuse and murder would be as a direct consequence of quite a bit more than "a good smack."

That is such a strange phrase. A good smack? What's a smack? What's a bad smack? Smack smack smack. The word's lost all meaning.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:02 AM on August 21, 2009



I was wondering that too. I didn't see the word "spanking," in any of the links. From the Wikipedia article on spanking;

In Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, the word "smacking" is generally used in preference to "spanking" to describe striking with the punisher's open hand, rather than with an implement. Whereas a spanking is invariably administered to the buttocks, "smacking" is less specific and may refer to slapping the child's hands, arms or legs as well as its buttocks.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:11 AM on August 21, 2009


"good parental correction"? Bit of a loaded question for a poll, isn't it?

That is such a strange phrase. A good smack?

Unfortunately that's the way the Citizens' Initiated Referendum process works; get enough signatures and you can put forward any kind of poll you like, doesn't have to be on a sensible topic, nor does it have to make sense as a question. Of course, there's no obligation on the government to actually do anything in response to the poll result.

But yes, it was a terrible question: it should have said something like "should the amendment to s 59 of the Crimes Act be repealed?" and then explain that s 59 provides defences to a charge of assault, in certain situations, for parents. That way at least we'd know what we were voting for.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:16 AM on August 21, 2009


"should the amendment to s 59 of the Crimes Act be repealed?"

Heh. Replace a fairly clear question with lawyer speak and that will make things better?
posted by smackfu at 6:03 AM on August 21, 2009


New Zealand voters want to smack their children

How about "New Zealand voters don't want to be thrown in jail for spanking a child during a temper tantrum." Or "New Zealand voters don't trust officious and self-righteous members of the child-welfare brigade to know the difference between child abuse and loving but stern parenting." Or "New Zealanders assert that in a democracy society entrusts, parents, not the state, with the raising of children." Or "New Zealanders don't fancy giving their nosy neighbours the ability to call the police on them when they disapprove of their parenting techniques." Or "New Zealanders, unlike a lot of online commenters who've evidently never been spanked or had children, know that sometimes a quick smack is far more effective at raising children who are well-behaved, courteous and safe than all the time-outs, discussions about feelings or whatever the latest trend among self-appointed experts is." Or "New Zealanders to government: how about you stop trying to criminalize normal, healthy, middle-class families who choose to raise their children the same way every child was raised half a century ago and find something else to do."
posted by Dasein at 6:09 AM on August 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


How do you not smack your children? Really. I avoid it as much as possible, but sometimes those guys are little assholes.
posted by fungible at 6:09 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"New Zealanders, unlike a lot of online commenters who've evidently never been spanked or had children, know that sometimes a quick smack is far more effective at raising children who are well-behaved, courteous and safe than all the time-outs, discussions about feelings or whatever the latest trend among self-appointed experts is."

Given that "fewer than one in 10 felt [smacking] was effective", that would be rather misleading, don't you think? And what's with that "evidently never been spanked or had children" trolling nonsense?
posted by effbot at 6:14 AM on August 21, 2009


I do not believe that giving your child a swat on the bum should be considered assault. I also do not believe that ordering your child to their room is forcible confinement, sending them to bed without supper is forced starvation, or telling them to think about what they've done is mind control. You might believe the non-physical punishments are not equivalent to the swat on the bum, but if you deem them acceptable modes of discipline then we agree that parents are legally allowed to act against and control their children in ways they could never against other adults.

The problem, of course, lies in the severity of the physical punishment - where, exactly, it crosses the line into true child abuse is a very tricky question - much as depriving your child of one meal is not abuse, but not feeding them for a few days would be. The easy answer would be to say parents should never, ever be allowed to use physical force upon their children, but then you're opening a can of worms. Should, say, grabbing them by the arm and forcefully pulling them along be considered an act of violence? My mom, in a moment of anger when I was acting up in a department store, once did that and left me with a small bruise afterward. Should she have faced legal repercussions for this?
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:22 AM on August 21, 2009 [20 favorites]


How long should a parent have to spend in prison for the act of assaulting their child by giving them a firm spank? On, say, a first offense?
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:27 AM on August 21, 2009


...get enough signatures and you can put forward any kind of poll you like, doesn't have to be on a sensible topic, nor does it have to make sense as a question.

Not quite any kind of poll, it does have to be a Yes/No question. The Clerk of House of Representatives is the one who determines how the question is worded, not the poll organiser.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 6:29 AM on August 21, 2009


I don't know about NZ but here in North America we have the PS3, Wii, cell phones, Gameboys, Nintendo, XBox, 100 channels on the TV and computers with internet. When we want to make the little shits suffer we take the electronics away. Works great, no stigma, and no "hurts me more than it hurts you".
Technology, is there any problem it can't solve?
posted by vapidave at 6:29 AM on August 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


Surely there's a line somewhere between 'corrective slapping' and 'child-beating'? Should mothers be imprisoned for burping their baby, which is a repeated open-handed corrective slap to the child's body?

I got smacked many a time and even got the belt a few times as a kid and it mostly served to impress upon me that whatever I'd done had not just crossed but really crossed the line; I entered adulthood certainly not screaming nor believing that I'd been child-abused or beaten, and mostly being happy that I'd stopped acting like such a little shit.
posted by stelas at 6:30 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


And what's with that "evidently never been spanked or had children" trolling nonsense?

You're right. There are plenty of people who have children who are convinced it would be wrong to ever spank them. I note in passing that children are much more likely to be rude to their parents, teachers, babysitters, etc. today than they were 50 or 60 years ago.
posted by Dasein at 6:32 AM on August 21, 2009


If you can't beat your kids, who can you beat?
posted by chunking express at 6:37 AM on August 21, 2009


I got the wooden spoon growing up and it didn't do me any harm. I'm glad my dad punished me that way when I deserved it.

It taught me to fear the consequences of actions that I knew were wrong but thought I could get away with. When I didn't get away with it and got the spoon, I learned not to repeat those actions.

Taking away TV privileges or grounding me didn't have the same effect; they just didn't stick.

I simply can't equate a swat on the ass with a spoon or hand with child abuse from punching, kicking, or other forms of violence. My dad never used his fists, because he knew where the line was and never crossed it.

If it weren't for him I'd probably have ended up in jail.
posted by bwg at 6:44 AM on August 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


New Zealand parents want to give heroin to their children?
posted by hippybear at 6:47 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Finally!! Someone needs to teach those f*cking toddlers a lesson!
posted by mahke at 6:48 AM on August 21, 2009


"Somebody gonna get ahurt real bad."

~Russell Peters
posted by bwg at 6:48 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: sometimes those guys are little assholes.
posted by borkencode at 6:50 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


How about "New Zealand voters don't want to be thrown in jail for spanking a child during a temper tantrum."

Of course, that never happened anyway under the current law, so it's something of a strawman.

Heh. Replace a fairly clear question with lawyer speak and that will make things better?

[I work in a law firm, and used to work in central govt...instinctive reaction is to quote Act + Section...]. But I did say "provide an explanation of what it meant". And there had been an absolutely huge debate on this issue about two years ago, when the most recent changes were made. So I'd expect people would have a reasonable idea of what the lawyer speak meant.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:51 AM on August 21, 2009


Metafilter: sometimes those guys are little assholes.

Sometimes?
posted by bwg at 6:51 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


We live in a physical world where there are physical consequences for many of our actions. Children should also be MADE to eat their vegetables and cleanup their rooms. Making them endure things that are unpleasant but reasonable is part of being a parent.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:55 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Watch many large mammals parent and you will see them swat at their offspring or nip them, though not very hard. The behavior is probably built-in. It's very difficult to legislate degree; exactly how many Newtons of force can be delivered over what area in how short of a time? Is it a swat or a session with the belt, buckle and all? Precisely how tightly may I grip in hauling a toddler away from something? The line is very hard to draw and you mostly end up being comfortable with the level of force with which you were treated as you matured.

For example, in my family, slapping children in the face was part of "normal" parenting and could be expected on a semi-regular basis even during a low-voiced disagreement. If your reasoning was not sufficient to the task, the adult responsibility was simply to smack someone in the face and say something nasty to resolve the issue. This happened pretty much as long as I can remember until I was just shy of eighteen and finally had a growth spurt.

I was having a disagreement with my mother about spending my allowance on yet another pair of jeans, as growing an inch a month on a regular basis really cuts into your clothing options. My mother grew tired of me pointing out that I was yet again too tall for my clothes and hauled off to hit me. This time, I caught her hand, made like I was going to hit her instead, and then pulled her close and hissed, "Try that again and you'll be shitting your teeth for the next week."

I learned my lessons well: at that moment I knew I was a grownup, because I could be counted upon to succeed in hitting people smaller than me.

The things we teach our kids, eh?
posted by adipocere at 6:58 AM on August 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


Simple battery is simple battery is simple battery. This is the twenty-first century, for crying out loud. Do people really still think it's wise to model authoritarian violence for their children?-- haltingproblemsolved

I really dislike black and white thinking. So a slap on a hand of a kid about to touch a hot stove is simple battery? The parent should be dragged to jail, the children put into foster homes???

Assemblywoman Sally Lieber tried to pass a law in California that would have criminalized spanking.

She said that everyone had it wrong. She said she was just trying to strengthen the law so they could go after child abusers, and that it would be usable against a parent's light swat on a kid's bottom. But she was like a used car salesman. "Don't look under the hood--just believe what I'm telling you." The law was pretty clearly written. That spank could put you in jail for a year.

I don't believe in spanking. I'm a pretty calm person (except occasionally on the blue) so my kids know that just a slight change in my voice means I'm pretty upset with what they've done. Kids adjust to whatever parenting style their parents give them.

But....

I once hear a parent tell me that you should never, ever shout at a child. I remember once when my young son, on his bike with training wheels, decided to turn down a driveway onto the street to go across a crosswalk. He was slightly out of reach and a car was coming. I shouted louder than I thought I was capable, and he stopped in a panic. He of course cried and I had to calm him (and myself) down afterwards.

Should we have a black-and-white rule of never, ever shouting? If so, my child would now be dead, and I consider that pretty lousy parenting.

Criminalize abuse, but make it very clear that it is only abuse you are criminalizing, or you end up criminalizing parenthood.
posted by eye of newt at 7:16 AM on August 21, 2009


I'd like to spank my toddler, but he's developed a mean left hook. I figure if I pepper him with a few quick jabs, then go for the body I might be able to get a few shots in when he drops his guard.
posted by electroboy at 7:30 AM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Speaking as one who was raised in a non-spanking household, where rule-breaking was punished by psychology, I tend to think that a smack on the ass would have been a lot less traumatic than an hour of Jungian analysis with a bitter Swiss woman and my two bickering parents.
posted by thivaia at 7:30 AM on August 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


The bright line for me is whether you'd get away with doing to your spouse whatever you're about to do to your child. Shove her/him out of the way of a speeding car? Whack their hands away from that heating element? Those are unambiguously OK given the immediate threat to someone's personal safety that you're trying to prevent.

Induce pain to get your way? Not so much. If nothing else, it's a horrible example.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 7:31 AM on August 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


... to get your way?

That's terrible wording. There's a distinct difference between 1) personal desire and 2) the childrearing requirement of instilling a sense of discipline or a basic meaning of right and wrong.
posted by stelas at 7:41 AM on August 21, 2009


"Somebody gonna get ahurt real bad."

Heh, good to see Russell Peters fans out here. Little known fact, but that sketch is actually dedicated to his dad, who died just before the DVD came out. Like all good Bollywood comedy, Peters' vaudeville also has some basis in pathos :)
posted by the cydonian at 7:59 AM on August 21, 2009


Kiwis want to smack everybody's kids. I say we let em. They have the cutest accents.

C'mon. Say "chemist".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:01 AM on August 21, 2009


My mother loves to tell the story of my older sister developing a biting problem -- other children at kindergarten, the pets, her siblings... everyone she had a minor beef with. The punishments and talking-tos just didn't work. She'd listen and agree, but would go back to biting in the heat of the moment. At one point, she bit her best friend hard enough to cause serious welts and send the poor girl off crying for a while. My mom, who heard the scream, ran over and starts yelling at my sister. Sister is still mad at whatever wrong the friend had done and gets busy explaining her justifications. My mom suddenly grabs her arm and chomps down on it. Not enough to leave any mark, just going through the motions mainly. Sister starts screaming like she's been gutted, and runs off for the rest of the day. Never bit anyone again.

I now try the same trick with my cats with less success
posted by FuManchu at 8:07 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


(...) a basic meaning of right and wrong.

Hitting people is wrong.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:15 AM on August 21, 2009


There's a distinct difference between 1) personal desire and 2) the childrearing requirement of instilling a sense of discipline or a basic meaning of right and wrong.

But when you're righteously furious with your "little asshole" of a kid ... I submit that unless you're a saint, that difference becomes much, much fuzzier. And even if you do manage the tremendous amount of emotional stability and self control, what kind of lesson is it to teach your kid that "a basic meaning of right and wrong" comes at the end of your arm?

On preview, dirtdirt said the same thing in fewer words.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 8:20 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


... the tremendous amount of emotional stability and self control to keep the two separate ...
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 8:22 AM on August 21, 2009


Hitting people is wrong.

That's far too black and white; if non-contact discipline methods are not working or are proving ineffective, the parent has to either a) leave their child unpunished, thus reinforcing the bad behaviour and tying the action to a lack of consequence, or b) provide a contact discipline method (within reason, of course - I am not advocating beating the kid black and blue) which may hurt the child, but hopefully also provide greater understanding that they've done something wrong.

What's better parenting? I'm certainly not saying 'you should only hit your kids'. But if appeasement or verbal or restrictive methods don't work, what's the parent to do? You're leaving them in a catch-22. There is, again, a difference between 'hitting someone' and 'instilling a sense of discipline'. Doing the first is bad; the second is distinctly fuzzier.
posted by stelas at 8:26 AM on August 21, 2009


TOO MUCH 'FUZZIER'
posted by stelas at 8:29 AM on August 21, 2009


Hitting people is wrong.

We should advocate the replacement of smacking with wet-willys.

That would also ensure that no authoritarians grow up actually appreciating their punishments.
posted by FuManchu at 8:30 AM on August 21, 2009


That's far too black and white

I don't think it is. You can't realistically say that it's a good idea to treat children in a way that you wouldn't, COULDN'T, treat anyone else, or that it is a good idea to treat children in a way in which you don't want them to behave. It doesn't make sense. Hitting people is wrong, in all but the most fringe cases.

If you get to the point where the only thing you can do to have your kid behave differently is wallop them, haven't you already lost that battle? And, if "appeasement or verbal or restrictive methods" don't work, what do you do if a smack doesn't work? Take off your belt? Get a tire iron? Absurdity aside, I'm saying why not draw the line of what you are not going to do to a kid the same place you draw it for every other person in the world.

I say this as a person who was smacked and spanked as a child. Not in an abusive way, in a fairly normal, run-of-the-mill way. My parents also let us roll around in the back of the Vega, unsecured, while they smoked cigarettes, with the windows rolled up. They just didn't know better.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:42 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


...the implication being that, much like I know to buckle my kid in a seat, and limit my smoking to delicious, magnificent, illicit, guilt-ridden, moments of weakness at bars, I know that it's probably best to treat my kid the way I treat other people and the way I want to be treated - with limits and discipline, sure, but with reason and consistency, and respect most of all.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:46 AM on August 21, 2009


I'm saying why not draw the line of what you are not going to do to a kid the same place you draw it for every other person in the world.

So, you don't think a parent should be able to: limit what their child eats, where they go, when they must be home, who they hang out with, what they watch on tv, etc?
posted by Bort at 8:47 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, that is precisely what I mean.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:48 AM on August 21, 2009


Your children aren't 'every other person in the world'. They are your charges and your descendants and people that you, as a parent, are expected to raise and teach. They may or may not also be bundles of joy as optionally required / experienced.

What if your kid hits someone, and you cannot impress upon them verbally that this is wrong? You either break your rule as a parent, or you break your rule by reinforcing to your child that hitting someone carries no punishment. Barring the world disappearing in a pop of paradox or your walloping fist being out of shape (since all physical contact with a kid is high pain, of course, no middle ground here) what would you do?

I realise I haven't answered your question in kind, and that's kind of my point - there is no nice nifty scale of escalation and no clear-cut lines to childcare, it's all relative and subjective and grey-area, which is why a yes/no opinion on the whole thing just doesn't work very well.
posted by stelas at 8:53 AM on August 21, 2009


Devo would be satisfied if you'd slap your mammy.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:54 AM on August 21, 2009


What if your kid hits someone, and you cannot impress upon them verbally that this is wrong?

How are you impressing on them it is wrong, by doing it to them?
posted by dirtdirt at 8:55 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I was walking around upside down, I would be using my hands to clutch trees and banisters and whatever else might keep me from falling off the earth, and not worry about smacking anything.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on August 21, 2009


I agree with those saying this is all a waste of time and money. They should have spent the $9 million on something nice for the kids.
posted by orme at 9:33 AM on August 21, 2009


How are you impressing on them it is wrong, by doing it to them?

That it hurts like holy fuck. This fact may be lost on some children as it's not particularly painful to slap someone else.

At any rate, I look forward to the next New Zealand referendum on whether it should be illegal to declaw cats.
posted by GuyZero at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2009


For those who think child abuse is defined by the extent of physical damage done to the child:

I was spanked as a child. My parents used spanking as punishment from the time I was a toddler. I recall being told to "Come here this instant," being ordered to bend over a chair, and having my bottom paddled. And if that was all that had ever happened I might be in favor of spanking today.

In later years my mother suffered from depression and became mentally unstable, and spankings became longer, fiercer. There was no longer a command to "Come here." Instead we were grabbed by the arm and bent forcibly over the table or chair. She used a wooden spoon once - the very spoon I had painted in preschool and presented to her as a Mother's Day gift. She broke that spoon over my body.

If I fell off the table/chair and onto the floor she would kick me in the stomach - only a few times. If I cried too loudly she would grab my hair to pull my face to hers and tell me to "Quit being such a whiny little bitch" before she slapped me.

At seven years old, when my mother came towards me in the kitchen, I grabbed a knife from the butcher block. But she threatened to call my school and tell all my teachers what a horrible child I was. I made straight A's, I prided myself on being the best in the class, I lived for the praise my teachers gave me. I couldn't bear the thought of having that taken away. I put down the knife and took my beating.

But she never broke any bones. She never cut me. Never burned me. Never left any bruises so severe that they didn't heal in a couple days. And she loved me. And I loved her.

I'm not saying it's my mother's fault I entered an abusive relationship at 15 years old. I made my own choices, I was responsible for my own actions. But I do wonder sometimes, would I have reacted differently the first time he hit me if I wasn't so accustomed to being hit? If it wasn't normal to me for someone to beat me and then tell me they loved me?

I do not have children yet so I cannot speak to the efficacy of other disciplinary measures. But I can say that I will not spank, and if I ever catch myself, in a moment of rage, wanting to strike my child, I will run to my therapist.

Now, I'm not saying that spanking should be criminalized. I know good parents who spank their children, and I know good people who were raised by parents who spanked. But I sympathize with those who want to protect children at the cost of a potentially useful parenting technique. I see the logic in dirtdirt's arguments. And I want to emphasize that there is a potential cost to abused children that is far greater than the damage done to their bodies. I barely escaped my first boyfriend with my life.

So please, do not dismiss those who oppose corporal punishment as meddling or whining. The point has been made many times that once you allow spanking it becomes nearly impossible to draw a line between acceptable physical discipline and abuse. So for those who believe there is a need to draw an objective line somewhere, the only logical place to do it is at the first intentionally painful physical contact.
posted by Redacted at 10:05 AM on August 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


This comment thread has proved what I said in the original post. People completely misunderstand the issue and are voting out of passion, rather than reason.

In an effort to get this straight for New Zealanders and non, I'll spell it out:

The current NZ law permits you to hit your child for all the favourite reasons: running onto the road, temper tantrums in the shops, putting a hand near the hot stove.

What it expressly criminalises, and what the referendum really seeks to permit is the "oooh just wait until your father gets home"-style post-event smacking/hitting/belting/paddling.

It's a very clear line in my opinion. I oppose hitting kids at all, BUT I can understand that others see the merits of physical violence to stop out-of-control kids in the heat of the moment. This is completely analogous to the tiger swatting her cub for biting too hard.

What you do not see is the tiger biting or swatting her cub hours later because "the way you bit your brother cub earlier today was mean". That's premeditation, and nothing other than common assault in my opinion.

And yes by fucking fuck the government has a right to legislate parenting in this degree. We don't live in a bloody anarchy for fucks sake. For a change, please won't someone think of the children?
posted by pivotal at 10:38 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing about laws... people who abuse others don't really care about them. If laws prohibiting violence against adults worked (where slapping in the guise of discipline is most definitely considered abusive), then the thousands of men and women abused by their partners every day wouldn't happen. When you're being abused, it's not just physical, there's psychological manipulation being woven in through your whole life preventing you from escaping.

We don't need laws against smacking taking up so much time and enraging those who, on the whole, are just trying to guide their children onto a good path. We need more funding put into organisations that spot signs of domestic violence, give the abused the ability to speak without fear, bring it to an end and provide safe routes away from it for all ages and genders. Because right now, regardless of what country you live in, there's really not enough.
posted by saturnine at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2009


So for those who believe there is a need to draw an objective line somewhere, the only logical place to do it is at the first intentionally painful physical contact.

I think the point other people are trying to make is: maybe it's just not possible to draw that sort of "objective line." Parenting is messy business, and there's never going to be one standard that's appropriate for everyone. There just isn't.

At one end of the spectrum we have stories like Redacted's, and at the other end we have people who think that their parents' use of physical punishments kept them out of jail or other serious trouble as kids or adults. That's a no-win situation right there.

So rather than argue about where to draw that bright white line, maybe instead we should discuss how we can detect abusive home situations earlier and get kids out of them, without trying to create a one-size-fits-all law that is going to help some kids at the expense of others.

By getting into a spanking/no-spanking argument we lose sight of the real issues and expend a lot of effort on fruitless fighting that could be better spent trying to find ways to stop real abuse (maybe by empowering teachers or other adults outside the household, or by offering better mental-health resources to parents, or better childcare, or a dozen other things).

It just seems like a waste of time and doomed to fail someone, either way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2009


There is a line between corporal punishment and abuse, and it's not in the action, but in the intention and manner.

My mother spanked me as a child, but I was never abused by her. I was only spanked in response to serious wrong-doing, and only after a warning which I intentionally defied, and when she spanked me she was in control and did not lose her temper. I never feared being struck without warning, and had implict trust of her. The only other time she ever struck me was a light slap once when I hyper-ventilated during a temper tantrum, and that just to get me breathing again. (Did I mention that I was a horrid little child?)

She was very careful of this because she had been abused by her own mother who, like Redacted's mother, would lose her temper and beat my mother for minor transgressions, without warning and out of proportion to anything she did. She had no trust of her mother, she never knew when she was going to get slapped or spanked, she lived in fear and also self-loathing because she was "the bad child".

This is the line: I grew up happy and confident in my mother's love, because her punishments - corporal or non - were always predictable. It's the unpredictablity and the disproportionate response that creates the feelings of fear and distrust that are so corrosive in the abused person. I have felt this fear as well - for a bad period in our teens, my brother started hitting me. That was abusive - it would come out of nowhere, for some trumped up reason. I didn't know when to expect it and would just start flinching. This is not what children of parents who use corporal punishment responsibly feel. But you don't even need to have corporal punishment to feel this fear - you can be on the receiving end of a disproportionately negative verbal response as well, and that will have similar effects on your well-being. It's the irrationality, the unpredictability, and/or the disproportionate nature of abuse that creates this kind of fear.

I know it's hard for the law to draw lines here. Frankly, I'm not sure that the law, blunt and crude instrument that it is, is the best tool for dealing with family problems. I would much rather see a more flexible approach from social and community services to help parents be better parents and deal with their own problems, while still protecting the safety of children.
posted by jb at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that predictable but still disproportionate corporal punishment - like being beaten up - is not abusive. I'm just trying to pull out what I have seen as the line between moderate corporal punishment, and abusive hitting and slapping. It's probably a mixture of disproportionate and unpredictable/irrational which creates the abusive relationship - hitting in anger.
posted by jb at 10:55 AM on August 21, 2009


You can't realistically say that it's a good idea to treat children in a way that you wouldn't, COULDN'T, treat anyone else.

Since when do we treat people equally? Would you act the same in all circumstances around:

1. Your child
2. Someone else's child
3. Your boss
4. Your mother-in-law
5. Your mayor
6. Your Prime Minister
7. Your wife
8. Your ex-girlfriend

I mean, c'mon. Young children can't always recognise boundaries or know right from wrong. Parenting in a physical sense is often necessary. My brother was a biter and the only way to teach him to stop biting was to bite him back. My dad said it broke his heart at the time, but it sure cured the kid. I was raised in a spanking house, and it did me no harm. I wouldn't like some irrational, idealistic bleeding heart judging me if I wanted to give my kid a smack on the ass for intentionally being a little shit. Kids often test boundaries and they need to know where they stand on certain issues.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2009


Striking children is wrong, wrong, wrong -- tactically, that is. I prefer to *fake* the jab to get their guard up then shoot for the takedown, pass their guard (toddlers can't fight from their backs for shit), and submit them.
posted by LordSludge at 11:13 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would you act the same in all circumstances around: (list of all sorts of people, NONE of whom should or would I hit, except, according to you, my child )

Do you really think there can be no boundaries without a threat of violence?
posted by dirtdirt at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


And here, this guy in the photo whooping it up in celebration of the result, is the man that said "I'm not opposed to the wooden spoon or ruler because you can control things with that better than you can with an open hand."

Excuse me while I get all ad hominem for a moment:

What a fucking cock.
posted by pivotal at 11:30 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


At one end of the spectrum we have stories like Redacted's, and at the other end we have people who think that their parents' use of physical punishments kept them out of jail or other serious trouble as kids or adults.

You're putting speculation on a par with experience?! Ok, I think my parents' lack of use of physical punishment kept me from becoming a sadistic maniac oppressing my peers and lovers, and torturing puppies. There. All settled then?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:32 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've found that many people opposed to smacking, or spanking, as we Americans generally call it, don't even understand that one principal effect of spanking, and perhaps the one that is most effective for many parents is the startle reaction that occurs when an adult hand meets the well-padded, moisture-barrier wrapped butt of a child too young, or too emotional, to have the verbal skills needed for reasoned verbal correction to be effective. It's pretty hard to hurt a toddler with an open hand slap delivered through several layers of cloth or paper diaper, including air trapped by the customary moisture barrier plastic outer layer, or plastic pants. Someone spanking a toddler dressed thusly does make a loud noise, in conjunction with generally interrupting the objectionable behavior of the toddler, by pulling the child away from his previous orientation, and getting his bottom up for the spanking stroke. So, by simultaneously re-orienting the child physically, and swiftly creating an auditory startle reaction, a quick spanking stroke is a very effective, and painless means of issuing a "system reset" to a mis-behaving child's emotional and cognitive functions. It instantly overrides their own rage and related emotions, and sets up a few seconds where a parent can get a necessary word in edgewise, or more likely, a parental face-to-face moment, and accompanying tone-of-voice correction, that can be acknowledged by the toddler.

In my experience, a parent can mimic that behavior with an older child, who is having momentary self-control issues, up to about the age of 6 or 7, and get a similar "reset" response, even though proportionately more slap force makes it through to the seat of a less padded, toilet trained child. But a child in an angry temper tantrum, or in an unacceptably aggressive mood, or in a situation where they are too excited to pay attention, is often operating on adrenalin. In those adrenalin fueled states, a young child may not even feel the slap on their buttocks, as much as they again react, via the auditory startle reflex. What I find interesting, and have also seen be effective in creating the startle reflex, is a parent using, sometimes nearly instinctively, a very loud, sharp vocal effect, such as a yell, to get nearly the same "reset" response in a mis-behaving child.

So, if by padding, or by adrenalin, a child being spanked does not even feel the spanking stroke, but is startled into paying attention to the parent, does the means of inducing that startle reflex matter? What if the parent uses a very loud, sharp tone of voice, and doesn't strike the child at all? Does a 110 decibel cry of "Stop!" count as "spanking?"
posted by paulsc at 11:35 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do not have children yet so I cannot speak to the efficacy of other disciplinary measures. But I can say that I will not spank, and if I ever catch myself, in a moment of rage, wanting to strike my child, I will run to my therapist.

Save yourself some trouble and anguish - you WILL want to strike your child, so don't worry about that, it's going to happen, it's normal. Save the freaking out for if you actually do lose your head and do in fact strike the child. That's the loss of control that is meaningful.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:36 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're putting speculation on a par with experience?!

No more so than the people claiming that without violence they would have turned into a healthy person without neuroses and willingness to take a beating.
posted by FuManchu at 11:38 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


All very well explained paulsc, and exactly as intended by current New Zealand law.

Tell me again why we needed a referendum?
posted by pivotal at 12:02 PM on August 21, 2009


someone has already equated a smack with a beating

Is the difference the number of blows?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2009


How do we feel about corporally correcting hipsters?
posted by everichon at 12:30 PM on August 21, 2009


Is the difference the number of blows?

Absolutely. Two drunken a-holes in a bar square off. One strikes the other, open-handed, across the ass. Was there a beating?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:22 PM on August 21, 2009


"New Zealanders to government: how about you stop trying to criminalize normal, healthy, middle-class families who choose to raise their children the same way every child was raised half a century ago and find something else to do."

Dasien - please give me one example where this has happened in New Zealand. I know you can't, because it hasn't happened, and it wont. Talk about straw man!

[P.S. Normal is a cycle on a washing machine.]
posted by vac2003 at 2:02 PM on August 21, 2009


"Does a 110 decibel cry of "Stop!" count as "spanking?"
I excel in that command voice. Haven't had any of my kids head toward the road after yelling "Stop!" and giving them the lecture on why the cars can hurt them, showing them how you can't see a little person from behind the wheel, etc.
That probably wears them out more than the shout. Hell, they'd probably rather be spanked really. But I can't imagine picking up groceries or anything else I've got planned around that kind of time is more important then teaching them 'why'.

Personally tho, I'd never strike a child. In part, philosophy (I teach my children about violence in other methods of application, self-defense, etc. not as a matter of interpersonal control and I don't want it to be confuse with legitimate authority), in part I'm disciplined in diffusing genuine anger while projecting dire urgency so I can't imagine I'd ever need to, but mostly, I'm a pretty big guy and I absolutely would not ever risk the misapplication in execution under emotional stress (concern for your child is stressful even if you're not angry).

Printers, on the other hand, I throw a vicious beating. I've got no tolerance for inanimate objects acting out.
There's no reason a machine should not do the same thing the same way every time when given the exact same command/stimuli.
Kids are not machines tho.
But I'd consider an a priori judgment of someone else's parenting as somewhat moot.
With the exception that law enforcement does often require a tool to investigate as to whether actual abuse is going on.
Of course that brings the flip side of that - such laws can be abused and can be invasive.

I'd have to agree with the (as expressed above) sentiments more sensitivity to domestic abuse and more social support to get children and others out of that situation would be a greater priority than passing a law.
Although perhaps this law is a component of that. I don't know.
I just know that I don't hit my kids.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:51 PM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is the difference the number of blows?

Absolutely. Two drunken a-holes in a bar square off. One strikes the other, open-handed, across the ass. Was there a beating?


How many blows constitute a beating?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:54 PM on August 21, 2009


How many blows constitute a beating?

Yeah, but how many blows constitute a job?

Sorry.
posted by bwg at 4:28 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]



How many blows constitute a beating?


I'm not sure, but I'm told they'll continue until morale improves.
posted by thivaia at 6:17 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can't realistically say that it's a good idea to treat children in a way that you wouldn't, COULDN'T, treat anyone else

Well, this is both late to the party and impolitic, but that's the stupidest thing I've heard in at least 2 days.
posted by taliaferro at 11:46 PM on August 21, 2009


Well, this is both late to the party and impolitic, but that's the stupidest thing I've heard in at least 2 days.

Well, thanks for adding to the conversation.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:20 AM on August 22, 2009


dirtdirt, someone disagreeing with you does not equate to failing to add to the conversation. You basically ignored what had already been said above by The Card Cheat:

I do not believe that giving your child a swat on the bum should be considered assault. I also do not believe that ordering your child to their room is forcible confinement, sending them to bed without supper is forced starvation, or telling them to think about what they've done is mind control. You might believe the non-physical punishments are not equivalent to the swat on the bum, but if you deem them acceptable modes of discipline then we agree that parents are legally allowed to act against and control their children in ways they could never against other adults.

...when you declared that others "can't realistically" disagree with you. "Stupid" is harsh (which is what taliaferro meant when he said he's impolitic) but I agree that you're either being willfully obtuse or cravenly rhetorical to literally insist that it's impossible for people to realistically not share your point of view on this.
posted by XMLicious at 8:00 AM on August 22, 2009


I'm not saying that they can't realistically disagree with me, at all. I'm saying that in a world where it is basically (and rightfully) unacceptable to hit anyone it is unrealistic to think that hitting children is a good idea. Particularly when in this context people seem to be largely saying that the time to hit children is when the children are not getting their words, and not listening to reason, which, to me, is exactly wrong - when a kid (or anyone!) is having a hard time keeping control, for you to explicitly model to them behavior that says, "Words don't work" is at the very best misguided.

I guess I should have used different words though, because you're right: I can see how someone can disagree with me. But I still think they're wrong.

Also, in terms of the law, I don't think this (a swat or slap) should be illegal, I just think it's a poor idea.

At any rate, I don't think wandering in and saying "that's stupid" is a great way to add to the conversation. Do you think it is?
posted by dirtdirt at 8:25 AM on August 22, 2009


I don't think that saying "that's stupid" is a great way to add to the conversation, but I am equally skeptical of the use of what appear to me as rhetorical tactics to preemptively dismiss the comments of others (criticizing the "realism" of contrary opinions and questioning whether a dissenting comment adds to the conversation). I think that calling it "stupid" was as much directed at the rhetorical tactic as it was at the content of your statement.

As far as the content of your statement - the problem I see with the reasoning you present, a problem which I think was reflected in The Card Cheat's comment, is that by the same logic of not smacking children because you wouldn't smack an adult you could rule out confining a child to his or her room, sending a child to bed without supper, or insisting that a child think about what he or she has done. Or, for example, you wouldn't even force an adult to have a mandatory "time out" (at least I wouldn't unless I was, I dunno, a prison officer or something maybe).

I'm not a parent but I agree with you that in general the parent or parents should model adult behavior; but if you were going to strictly model adult behavior it seems like you'd have to rule out doing almost any discipline at all. So "you can't do X to a child if you wouldn't do it to an adult", or asserting that it's not realistic to do X on that basis, doesn't seem to be a tenable principle IMO. There might be other reasons to refrain from smacking children but this particular argument does not seem valid to me.
posted by XMLicious at 9:26 AM on August 22, 2009


Almost certainly too late to get in on this... But the biggest problem with the question is that it doesn't provide a clear answer about what should happen instead. The 'No Vote' lobby didn't really propose a clear alternative to the existing. Some suggest that the changes to the law made a few years ago should be revoked entire, others was an amendment that basically says you can smack as long as you don't use an instrument. But then one of the referendum's main promoters believes that instruments like sticks and wooden spoons should be allowed. And that's from people that are keenly aware of the law and the issue.

Trying to draw a conclusion about actions or changes from the question that was voted on is impossible.

The law was amended initially to prevent people who commit serious assault against their children from being able to claim that it was, in their view, reasonable physical correction. This was a common defense. The difficulty of creating legal verbiage that can allow for a 'light smack' but still clearly criminalise assault is huge.
posted by sycophant at 3:31 AM on August 24, 2009


Yeah, but how many blows constitute a job?

20, same as in town.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 5:16 AM on August 24, 2009


Do you really think there can be no boundaries without a threat of violence?

It's how every human society works, ultimately.

The law was amended initially to prevent people who commit serious assault against their children from being able to claim that it was, in their view, reasonable physical correction. This was a common defense.

If it was really a common defense it'd be trivially easy for you to come up with, say, 5 examples. Common, right?
posted by The Monkey at 8:06 AM on August 26, 2009


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