Archive for April, 2009

For our children’s sake, let’s be fair and sensible

April 30, 2009

A coalition of organisations committed to positive outcomes for children and families wishes to set the record straight regarding the child discipline law.

After much debate and consideration of opinion and international evidence, this law was passed by both Labour and National and came into effect in May 2007.

It’s time the nation got the straight story on what the law does and doesn’t say, and how it is being used. The law is both fair and sensible.

It clearly states that parents can restrain or physically remove children from a situation to keep them or another safe from harm and to prevent them from engaging in any criminal, offensive or disruptive behaviour.

Parents can, of course, also perform the normal daily tasks that are part of good care and parenting, such as carrying a child to their room at bedtime, even if they protest; or holding them back from running onto the road; and enforcing boundaries, such as stopping them from hurting another person or an animal, shouting in a restaurant; and other disruptive behaviour.  Fair and sensible.

It does not allow the use of force for the purpose of correction. Children and adults now have equal protection under the law from all forms of assault. Fair at last.

It also clearly states that the police are not expected to prosecute in cases where assaults are very minor. Police monitoring of their activity in this area shows no significant increase in complaints, investigations or prosecutions. This information is on the police website for anyone to read and parents can be reassured. Again, fair and sensible.

So, physical punishment is out, positive parenting is in. Love, warmth, guidance, encouragement, clear boundaries – these are the parenting strategies that work and that support children so they know what is expected of them, what the rules are, and at the same time they feel valued and loved.

So let’s clear up the confusion. Let’s be fair and sensible and simply get on with supporting each other to love and nurture our children.

YES in 09 on Facebook

April 30, 2009

YES in 09 is a new Facebook Group that has been started up to encourage people to vote YES in the referendum.

Created and run by Christopher Nimmo, a triple-major at Victoria University in Social Policy, Development Studies and Music, the group has all of the features that make Facebook such a great place to make, rekindle, and develop friendships – a comments wall, discussions, news, links, photos, and the opportunity to meet lots of like-minded people.  It currently has over 80 members, and we’re keen to see them grow much larger.

Bookmark it now:

Please note that this Facebook group is not run by The Yes Vote Coalition or any of its members; we have no control over the content and we do not necessarily endorse any content on external sites.

Barbara Lambourn: Why I have no choice but to vote Yes

April 30, 2009

I’m voting YES in the referendum.

I thought about not voting at all and I thought about voting YES and NO and so having my vote discounted.

I won’t vote NO because that opens up risk of returning to the situation we had before Section 59 of the Crimes Act was amended in 2007. This allowed people to defend assaulting children as an act of correction using “reasonable force in the circumstances?” Many of those terrible acts of cruelty to children that are now embedded in our grim legend of child abuse began as physical punishment, intending to teach the child a lesson.

I have thought about the question and discussed it with others and have come to the view that YES is my answer because I support the law. It is working as intended. Parents are not being criminalised for trivial offences.

I acclaim the Parliament of 2007 that stood up for children’s right to be protected from any form of assault, just as every other group of people in the country are.

No one is allowed to hit women, prisoners, soldiers, sailors, apprentices, old people, bad drivers or politicians as part of correcting their behaviour. And now the same protection extends to our children – no one can claim “reasonable force” as a defence for assaulting a child in the name of discipline.

Many of our European colleagues in the child rights movements are amazed that we are even having this debate. Children there are treated with the same regard and have the same protections as any other citizen. The UK is grappling with defining reasonable force and finding out what an extremely problematic exercise it is.

As our law becomes more and more integrated into our culture of child rearing we will wonder what on earth the fuss was about. It is clear from many studies and common parental wisdom that assault (and any form of hitting is an assault) is not necessary for, nor appropriate to, good parental correction.

The referendum question is tricky ….”should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Say No and risk opening the door again for people to smack, slap, hit, biff, bash, cuff, clobber and clout a child and claim that it’s reasonable correction.

Say Yes and you will maybe be open to the accusation that good parents should be criminalised for trivial offences.

In the two years of the law the Police have used their discretion to prosecute with wisdom and integrity. It is interesting that cases reported to Police have not risen significantly and that more parents are asking for and receiving information about appropriate and constructive discipline.

It is a shameful indictment on those who oppose the legislation that protects children have forced the situation that we will now spend something like $8m on a referendum to consider whether we should be allowed to assault children.

Even those who vigorously supported the call for the referendum have now questioned the need for it… a Press Release from Family First on 25 February said “If the government is serious about cost cutting, tightening our financial belts and prioritised spending to the frontline, it makes far more sense to divert that amount of money to more teachers, nurses, doctors and cops.”

I agree, and would love to see $8m spent supporting parents to learn constructive ways to guide and discipline their children – that would make a real difference to children, families, communities and society as whole. The Roper Report of 1989 told us that the home is the crucible of violence … eliminate it there and we have a blueprint for a safer, child friendly and less violent future.

So it’s definitely YES from me and, I hope, YES from you.
A YES vote supports a good law.

Barbara Lambourn is the National Advocacy Manager for Unicef NZ.

Parenting Tip: Reward good behaviour

April 30, 2009

Take notice when your child behaves well, and reward them in a small way.

Much of the time kids misbehave, a large part of it is to attract attention.  Try though we will, most of us focus most intensely on our children when they’re behaving badly.  If we take the time to focus our attention on them when they’re not misbehaving then the won’t feel the need to be outrageous to get the attention they crave.  And when they go out of their way to be nice, be sure to give as much positive reinforcment to them as possible; reward them with praise, a hug, or a small treat in exceptional cases.  Result: better behaviour without the need for physical discipline.

Thanks to Dave Moskovitz for today’s tip!

Do you have a tip you’d like to share?  Please let us know below.


Spirited Conversations: Discussion on 4 May

April 29, 2009

Spirited Conversations
Community, City, Spirit

Presented by St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Where are we headed with the so-called anti-smacking legislation?

Conversationalist: Archie Kerr, Wellington Paediatrician
Date: Monday May 4 2009
Conversation: 7 pm to 9 pm
Dinner and Drinks (optional): from 6 pm (Mondays 2 for 1 light meals)
Venue: The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon (by the bus exchange)

Download the poster

Parenting Tip: Better sleep = better behaviour

April 29, 2009

Would you like your kids to behave better? Make sure they are getting enough sleep.

A recent Finnish study of 280 healthy children showed that children who slept the least were the most likely to display the kind of symptoms associated with ADHD.  The findings suggest that maintaining adequate sleep schedules among children is likely to be important in preventing behavioural symptoms… even an additional 30 minutes per night has been shown to give a major improvement in behaviour.

The Finnish study resonates with another recent study by the University of London which linked sleep problem in children to later emotional and behaviour difficulties.

Thanks to the team at for today’s parenting tip!

Families Commission: Promote positive discipline

April 29, 2009

As parents become better informed about the positive and effective ways of disciplining children the less confusion there will be over New Zealand’s law regarding physical punishment, the Families Commission says.

Chief Commissioner Dr Jan Pryor responded today to a statement from Family First NZ which suggested that immigrants to New Zealand were confused about this country’s child discipline law. “Family First has selectively used a few small quotes from our Settling In report on how immigrant families adjust to New Zealand culture,” Dr Pryor said, “but Mr McCoskrie should have read further. The report also says very clearly that families realised their new environment in New Zealand had created a need for other ways of solving problems and that this had already changed their family relationships for the better.”

Dr Pryor said the report showed that parents are willing to learn new and better ways of approaching the issue of discipline in their families. Improving education and support for parents is a better answer.

“Healthy, positive relationships within families do not involve people hitting each other and the Commission continues to believe that repeal was one step that, combined with other nationwide efforts to address violence, will help us become a violence-free society. “Confusion is a poor excuse for throwing out a good law, rather is shows more effort is needed to improve public understanding.”

The law change did not introduce any new criminal offence. The offence was, and always has been one of assault; and police continue to investigate allegations of assault on children and prosecute only those where they believe the assault is serious enough to take to court.

Police say that since the law was introduced there has been no significant increase in the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions or other activity related to smacking or minor physical assaults against children.

Adults need limits and boundaries too

April 28, 2009

The following email arrived at The Yes Vote headquarters today.

Here is a true story. All I ask is that you do not use my name as the child concerned is currently 19 and does not need identifying in this way.

I am a “successful university educated person”.  In 1992, I was made redundant from my management position in the health sector and started attending self esteem classes at my local Women’s Centre.  One evening soon after my then Husband came home and told me to put his dirty socks in the wash house. I said no (see self esteem).

He then asked my daughter to do this she said no so he hit her so hard across the head that she fell to the ground.  I picked her up and stood there with her stunned in my arms trying to decide if it was ok that he had done this.

It was like a crossroad — I knew I either walked or told her to do what her dad said.  I am proud to say I walked. I want any parent in this situation to know that hitting a child is wrong and to not need to decide.

Because of my own extensive abuse as a child I had no idea of the limits and boundaries as to what is ok to do to a child. The no smacking law makes this clear and should be upheld.

Thank you for what you do.

Speech to Māori MPs: Our tamariki should not be hit

April 28, 2009

Presentation to Māori MPs on Section 59
8 April 09

Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati

Ko Tainui te waka
Ko Taupiri te maunga
Ko Waikato te iwi
Ko Ngati Mahunga te hapu
Ko Whati Tamati tupuna tane
Ko Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati ahau

I am employed by Save the Children as the New Zealand Programme Manager.


My personal convictions for working in child advocacy and in advocating against physical punishment of children and promoting related law change is heavily influenced by my early life experience. When I was 18 months old and my brother was 3years old we were separated from our birth whanau and fostered into a Pakeha whanau. I remember the first encounters with my new parents at the transition home. I remember at that age of longing for adults who would care for, and nurture me and I bonded straight away to my `new mother’. My brother on the other-hand did not trust adults and especially women. I later learnt why. Both my brother and I lived with our new parents until my brother, who was six years old, was put into a residential home. This was supposed to a temporary stay however the residential caregivers fought to keep my brother and succeeded and eventually adopted him. When my brother was 16 they immigrated to Australia. My brother didn’t want to go. He hasn’t heard from them since.

My brother was put into temporary care because my mother at the time had just given birth to my brother through adoption and couldn’t cope with my birth brothers behaviour who used to kick her and scream and hide under the house and cower when my mother tried approaching him.

I later learnt that my brother, before we were fostered out, had been beaten severely including having broken bones, cigarette burns and scaring. I too had experienced this abuse however not too the same extent.

Research confirms that the first 3 years of a child’s life are the most important as at birth only 15% of the brain is developed. Most of the brain’s development occurs before a child is 3 years old and when a child’s emotional patterns and response pathways are established. The foundations for physical and mental health, language and learning, and socialisation are all established in those early years.

I was fortunate in that in half of those formative years I was raised in a nurturing environment. It is clear that my birth parents that both died before we had an opportunity to get to know them needed help. It was also clear my brother needed help and my foster mother did too in understanding how to relate to and support him. My brothers’ early life experiences have had a profound detrimental effect on him. My brother has tried to commit suicide and his children, whom he loves dearly, are in the care of his sister-in-law while he and his partner work through drug and alcohol issues and abuse within their relationship.

My brother and I met our birth whanau when I was 21. My older sister, whom I had just met, took me to see a woman who was extremely beaten. I tried to get her to get help and begged her and her sister to take action. 3 months later my other brother was convicted of murder for killing her. Years later a cousin of mine disclosed that he too was beaten badly by members of our whanau when I was trying to come to terms with why my brother would do such an act. She said “I just think of him as a little boy. I remember at the marae he was always getting a hit. He would run away and try and hide. They were horrible to him.” It is true that being abused as a child doesn’t mean that you will later abuse as an adult however being abused as a child is a risk factor for repeating that behaviour in later life.

One of my aunties shared with me recently the regret she feels when she recalls the times when she felt she fell short of her parenting role. Today my aunty who I am very fond of, has her moko, son and daughter-in-law living with her and she is proud that they raise her moko without violence and that she is teaching her moko Te Reo.

In my whanau I am proud to say that beating tamariki is no longer acceptable and I do have cousins that have been raised through nurturing and not violence.

Unfortunately for both my brothers and their partners and their children, they all bear the scars of being hurt by those who were meant to love, care and nurture them.

I know the abuse that my brothers experienced is at the high end of child abuse however research shows that physical punishment is a risk factor for child abuse. More importantly though is that both behaviours are predicated on a core belief that `It is ok to hit children.

Child abuse and severe physical punishment is more likely to occur less in a society and whanau where by `hitting children’ is not the norm and is not tolerated.

Having child advocates in the whanau who encourage alternatives to smacking is important in changing the norm of hitting children.

Naida Glavish, Chairperson, Te Rununga o Ngati Whatua, stated at the launch of the book ‘Unreasonable Force’:

“Our mokopuna carry the wairua of our ancestors and should for that reason alone not be hit. I for one will ensure that not one of my mokopuna will be hit”.

In 2007, thanks to a Bill introduced by Sue Bradford, and with the vast support of a overwhelmingly majority of MPs (113 out of 121), hitting children was outlawed. Now technically speaking it is illegal to use force for the purpose of correction. The law is clear in its intent to allow children to live free from violence.

The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 repealed the statutory defence of reasonable force for correction that had for so long been regarded as permission for parents to hit their children.

There is provision in the Act for parents to hold, restrain or pick up children e.g. keep them safe from running onto the road and that such restraint needs to be reasonable. There is another provision in the law that allows Police to use their discretion not to prosecute adults who assault children if they think the assault is of a minor nature.

Police statistics show they are exercising that discretion. They are only prosecuting cases of serious violence, or where there are prior whanau violence convictions because everything points to children being at greater risk when there is a history of whanau violence.

The previous Government chose to accept the clear rationale for the need for the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act. That being:

  • hitting children is harmful – research shows there are many negative effects of children experiencing physical discipline
  • hitting children is not effective discipline
  • physical discipline is known as a risk factor for abuse
  • some parents were acquitted under the old Section 59 for serious acts of abuse against their children e.g. a women who whipped her child with a riding crop 3 or 4 times and beat him with a bamboo cane 4 or 5 times;
  • the existence of a statutory defence for corporal punishment is inconsistent with international law (UNCROC), and with public education aimed at positive non-violent parenting such as SKIP.

Before and even after the Repeal of Section 59 there has been a well funded campaign for parents right to hit their children for the purpose of correction.

Opponents of the law argue that:

  • parents have a right to discipline their children as they see fit.
  • use of physical force e.g. `hitting’ in a reasonable way is a valid and useful form of discipline
  • the new law will criminalise parents and that `good’ parents are being unfairly investigated.

Each one of their arguments can be strongly refuted. There is insurmountable evidence demonstrating that physical discipline is both harmful and ineffective.

Furthermore, the law is being monitored and is working well as intended. A review is planned for late in 2009 or early 2010.

Police half-yearly reports have consistently shown that complaints for minor assaults on children have not increased substantially since the law changed and there have been very few prosecutions for assaults of a minor nature.

Throughout the child discipline debate in 2007, we saw evidence of the themes that actively support abusive behaviours towards children and create barriers to the prevention of child abuse. These themes are:

  • a view of children as the property of parents;
  • parents having rights over children; and
  • a prevalence of attitudes that actively support the rights of parents and nominated others to hit or assault children as part of a regime of physical punishment.

Elizabeth Gershoff in a review and meta-analysis of the research literature on corporal punishment summarises the findings:

Ten of the 11 meta-analyses indicate parental corporal punishment is associated with the following undesirable behaviours and experiences:

  • decreased moral internalisation (not learning lessons well),
  • increased child aggression,
  • increased child delinquent and antisocial behaviour,
  • decreased quality of relationship between parents and child,
  • increased child mental health,
  • increased risk of being a victim of physical abuse,
  • increased adult aggression,
  • increased adult criminal and antisocial behaviour,
  • decreased adult mental health,
  • and increased risk of abusing own child or spouse.

Corporal punishment was associated with only one desirable behaviour:

  • increased immediate compliance.

Most parents and caregivers want their children to grow into well-adjusted, responsible adults. Hitting children does not support this long-term outcome. When we hit a child we lose an opportunity to teach them well.

Opponents of the new law did manage to convince 10 percent of the voting public to force the referendum associated with the law reform. The referendum will be held by postal ballot in July – August this year, will cost approximately $10 million and is non-binding.

The question that the voting public will be asked to vote on is:

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

This question is intentionally ambiguous, confusing and designed to generate opposition to the law. The question implies that smacking is a good form of child discipline and that good parents who smack will be criminalised.

We know that this is untrue and that smacking is not a good form of parental correction and no parents have been convicted for inconsequential smacks.

There are more fundamental and vital questions that need to be asked, for example:

  • How do we promote connectedness, collective responsibility; the right for every child to thrive, be well, be loved, to be safe and to reach their potential?
  • What is needed for parents to be able to be great parents?
  • How do we value our elders, our aunts and our uncles, in their responsibilities to nurture the tamariki and rangatahi within their whanau?
  • How do we protect those who are most vulnerable?

As part of the Campaign for Action on Whanau Violence, a literature review has shown there are six things needed to reduce the chances of child maltreatment (physical and psychological):

  • Establishing a positive ideology of children
  • Addressing beliefs about the physical punishment of children
  • Reducing adult partner violence
  • Addressing alcohol and drug abuse
  • Creating support systems that parents are willing and able to engage with, and
  • Providing parent education and skills.

As Tariana Turia said in her speech for the Symposium on Violence Prevention on 3 April that

‘The answer is already with us – in our families; in our whanau.’ `Hope lies in the healing and educating of our families. It comes from a policy approach which values the whanau; and supports violence free homes. It is nurtured in the kaupapa of whanaungatanga – the enormous potential that the extended whanau provides to support one another.’

The law change is a critical component of the strategy to change attitudes about the use of physical punishment. Another component of change is information and education.

Information and support for Maori parents on positive discipline and interventions aimed and supporting whanau and hapu to be violence-free, strong and nurturing is especially important.

In recent months there has been an increase in notifications to CYFS. Many of these notifications are children who have witnessed whanau violence and are therefore traumatised and at risk.

We need to continue to support programmes that promote non-violent parenting that are proven to be effective such as Project Mauri Ora that and empowers and skills families to recognise violence; to find solutions drawing on their own iwi traditions and experiences and work collectively on transforming their whanau, SKIP, Family Start, and community led intervention programmes.

Perhaps a social marketing television campaign that’s educates parents about the harmful effects of smacking and alternative positive forms of parenting may also be what’s needed. Positive parenting is easy and effective when parents are used to parenting that way. We need to show parents how!

Children have an innate desire to be loved by and to please their parents and the vast majority of parents have an innate desire to provide what the very best for their children. Many parents in this country simply lack the wherewithal, whether than is financial or support by way of services.

We know that environments of deprivation increase the risk of child abuse and therefore we need to address the macro issues that are risk factors for child abuse and maltreatment for example, poverty and deprivation. Drug and alcohol abuse are important factors too.

While one-fifth of New Zealanders overall live in the most deprived areas of the country, where victimisation rates are higher, almost half of Māori do.

To change the social norms about the use of violence, including hitting within our whanau require a sustained, multifaceted all of community and Government approach. We need those in leadership positions to prioritise children and their whanau and the care-giving roles they play.

Thank you for giving us time to present to you and particularly that you are all very busy. I also humbly acknowledge and thank you for the enormous commitment and dedication each one of you has and continues to contribute to advancing the interests and wellbeing of our tamariki and our people. I conclude the presentation with a message from Naida Glavish, the Chairperson of Te Rununga o Ngati Whatua:

Our tamariki mokupuna carry the divine imprint of our tupuna (ancestors), drawing from the sacred wellspring of life. As iwi we share responsibility for the well being of our whanau and tamariki mokopuna. Hitting and physical force within whanau is a violation of the mana (prestige, power) and tapu (sacredness) of those that hit and those that are hit.

Naida Glavish JP, Chairperson Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua.

We ask that you will continue to strongly proclaim that our tamariki should not be hit and raised without violence and we ask that you counter any misinformation about the law.

Tena tatou katoa

New online book about family violence: Real People, Real Stories

April 28, 2009

The Campaign for Action on Family Violence has just published an online book, Real People Real Stories, telling eight true stories in the first person by people who have experienced family violence.

As described by the site,

These stories are intended to help others who have suffered from family violence and to help New Zealanders understand the impact of family violence on individuals, their families and their communities.

We know that children are damaged by violence in the home – whether they see it, hear it or just know about it. It has been proven that the brain development of preschoolers is profoundly inhibited by exposure to violence in the home.

In New Zealand each year 14 women, 10 children and six men die as a result of family violence. Many thousands more are scarred physically and emotionally.

Family violence thrives in secrecy – so the more we talk about it and understand it, the more likely we are to prevent it.

And these stories give hope that lives can be healed and that the cycle of violence can be broken.

They are heartbreaking stories describing in sometimes graphic detail how it feels to be trapped in families where violence is the norm, and the lasting effects on the young people involved.

If you need any help in understanding why it should continue to be illegal to hit your kids, read this book.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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