Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sue Reid: Smacking laws were never about the real issue of child abuse

This in the NZ Herald today.

It is a shame that we have a Families Commission that is driven by ideology rather than listening to families.

Chief commissioner Jan Pryor espouses her beliefs that "positive parenting should never include a smack" (Herald, April 3).

Her so-called justification for the anti-smacking laws are inflammatory and continue to vilify good parents who may use a smack as part of good parental correction.

As a mother of two young children, I resent the constant barrage that fully funded, power-packed organisations such as the Families Commission can constantly deliver from their lofty soap-boxes.

One can be left wondering who represents mums like me who are focused on the task of raising good, law-abiding and positive contributors to society. Like many other mums, I know that I wish to parent within a sensible legal framework and we owe it to good parents to get this law right.

The new flawed law has tried to link a smack on the bottom with child abuse of the worst kind and has put good parents in the same category as rotten parents who are a danger to their kids and to society.

Not surprisingly, the child abuse rate has continued unabated, with 12 child abuse deaths in the 21 months since the law change - the same rate as before the change. The smacking laws were never about addressing the real issue of child abuse but to undermine and criminalise good parents.

Contrary to Pryor's comments, the new law did introduce a new criminal offence - smacks for the purpose of correction, no matter how light, are a crime.

Police reports show four prosecutions in a six-month period for "minor acts of physical discipline" and report a 200 per cent increase in families being investigated - yet fewer than 5 per cent were serious enough to warrant prosecution.

And there has been a huge 32 per cent increase in CYF's notifications, but the cases warranting further investigation haven't increased - in other words, valuable resources and time are taken away from the front line to deal with the real cases of abuse.

Family First NZ has plenty of evidence on its website of families being investigated and traumatised for complaints of light smacking, including parents who are referred to CYF by so-called helping agencies when they are simply seeking help, and of children ringing CYF to complain about their parents - imagine what that is like for a family.

Pryor asks families to seek help but in a culture of being labelled "lowest common denominator", this will do nothing to support and foster good parenting.

She says "there is no legal justification for the use of force to correct a child's behaviour", so why does "positive parenting" not include correction? As a mother I need to be able to teach my child right from wrong and it is an ongoing process to "correct" my child's behaviour - society expects me to fulfil this role.

We can all lament the daily cases in the media whereby individuals have not "corrected" their behaviour and have become a blight on society. Many parents would testify to aspects that are less than positive in the training of a child for the adult world.

I am sure the child does not see "time out" in a positive light nor see grounding as positive. Parents are often seen in negative light when they proceed with knowing best what will work for their child.

The role of parent is set apart from other relationships such as in the workplace or a sports team. Parents have the reserved responsibility to raise, train and shape the will and character of their child to maturity. Adults have already mastered that task - so the argument that Pryor puts forth about smacking another adult is null and void.

It is important to progress through to a referendum in July. This issue continues to be a strong, unresolved matter for most parents. After all, this was a citizens' initiated referendum and the democratic process needs to complete its cycle by asking the voting public, "should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence?"

People who don't like the question in the referendum simply don't like the answer they come to.

Organisations such as the Families Commission would better serve families when they consider the attitudes, needs and requirements of families rather than using their government-funded weight to impose a flawed ideology on to good, healthy, functioning families.

* Sue Reid is a researcher and writer for Family First NZ.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The NZ ‘anti-correction law’ and the referendum – your ‘unemotional’ guide to Section 59’.

A very simple question

 cross-posted from Big News, 14 April 2009

Bill English was asked on Radio Live today whether a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction. He was asked at least six times. Here's the transcript. It's a classic.

Radio Live Breakfast Show - 14 April 09
INTERVIEWER: The Labour Party seemed to have amended their position on Section 59, the smacking legislation. What do you think? Should a smack be allowed as part of a good - as good parental correction?
BILL ENGLISH: Look, the Government's position hasn't changed since a compromise was done with the previous Labour Government. And the Prime Minister has said many times, as has the rest of the Government, that if there is evidence that law abiding parents are being wrong(ly)prosecuted inconsistent with the spirit of that law then we would look to change it. And has been - and there hasn't yet been considerable enough evidence to warrant changing it.
INTERVIEWER: Well, did you think - do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, look, I think the law, as it is, is the law of the land and needs to be enforced in a sensible way. And...
INTERVIEWER: But do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction?
BILL ENGLISH: I - I think the law, as it is, is the law of the land that should be enforced. If there is evidence that it is being enforced in instances where it's - where it's inappropriate because the event is
trivial or [indistinct]...
INTERVIEWER: No, no. Sorry, Minister, I just wanted to know whether you could answer that, that should - do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction?
BILL ENGLISH: Look, it's a matter of complying with the law of the land.
INTERVIEWER: Right, it's a simple question, isn't it?
BILL ENGLISH: It's like asking whether the speed limit should be - whether you should drive at 120 kilometres an hour. The law - the law...
INTERVIEWER: Well, clearly you shouldn't.
BILL ENGLISH: That's right. Well, the law - the law, as it stands, is the law that should be enforced.
INTERVIEWER: Do you - do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental
correction? It's simple yes or no, isn't it?
Bill ENGLISH: Well, look, the law takes a stance about smacking and it gives the police some discretion about how they use their capacity to prosecute. If there is evidence that they are prosecuting people inappropriately, then that current government would look at changing the law.

So this is the position of Bill English. Laws should be enforced. The smacking law should be complied with. A smack as part of good parental correction is against the law. There is no evidence that, quote, "law abiding parents are being wrong(ly) prosecuted", unquote, for breaking the law when lightly smacking their kids.

What Radio Live should have asked is this: If "law abiding parents" can smack their kids for corrective purposes, how can law abiding parents be wrongly prosecuted, given correction is explicitly a crime?