Archive for May, 2009

Anthea Simcock: It’s not about smacking … or ear flicking

May 25, 2009

Last week a court in Christchurch found James Louis Mason guilty of assaulting his 4-year-old son. CPS, New Zealands Child Protection specialists, are solid supporters of the current legislation that makes it unlawful to assault a child, but concerned that this case has actually created more confusion for the public.

Anthea Simcock, CEO of CPS says “It was unfortunate that this case was the one that tested the law. The public were already confused – the misleading and misinformed “anti smacking” label took hold before the majority of the public had a chance to understand what this law change was actually about. And rather than clarifying section 59, I think many are now more confused than ever, unsure if he was charged over the flick of an ear or a punch to the face.”

Whilst CPS have been unwavering supporters of the current legislation from the outset, they also recognise that many people simply do not understand what the law is about. Confusion and fear is standing in the way of this law being effective in achieving what is was designed to achieve – giving children the same rights that we as adults have and protecting them from being assaulted by adults.

Mrs Simcock likes to use an analogy around school attendance to help people understand and not fear the law.

“It is illegal in New Zealand to not send your child to school. I am sure every parent has, for some reason, kept their child away from school before. No one ever expects that all parents will be charged and made criminals because of those one or two days that most parents have kept their children away from school.

However, we DO expect that those parents who intentionally and repeatedly keep their children out of school, or allow their children to be repeatedly truant, should be dealt with according to the law. These parents are jeopardising the social, academic and pshycological future of their children.”

The same applies to this law, it is not designed to bring fear into parents and stop effective discipline of children. It is there to ensure that those who truly assault their children are brought to justice and the most vulnerable of our society are protected.”

Sadly, even as the New Zealand public continue to grapple with this confusing debate, they are being asked to vote in a referendum to clarify their position on this issue. A referendum which only serves to further confuse. The question posed in the referendum is “should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

“Sure this is a valid question in and of itself” says Mrs Simcock. “But this question does not clarify the issue over section 59 at all. To answer yes – and effectively support the current legislation – automatically implies that any smack should be a criminal offence, which is not at all the intent of the legislation. Many who support the legislation will still be misled into voting against it simply due to the wording of the question.

It is critical that the public understand this law for it to be effective. Its about changing the attitudes of people and making sure that they act in the best interests of the child, and not just think its OK to deal with issues by going into “angry parent mode”.

Tapu Misa: How can we tolerate some forms of violence against children, and not others?

May 25, 2009

Tapu Misa wrote a great article in today’s Herald, in which she talks about the ramifications of the Jimmy Mason case.  She claims that the law is working well as intended.

No, the law isn’t a cure-all for child abuse, it was never meant to be. It’s nonsense to claim, as some do, that the law is a failure because it hasn’t stopped violence against children overnight.

[Jill] Proudfoot [who’s part of a child crisis team at Preventing Violence in the Home that’s routinely called on by police to attend to families after a domestic violence incident] knows as well as anyone the role of poverty and stress, drug and alcohol dependence, and family breakdown and dysfunction. But as she argued in a submission on the proposed law, if the Government was serious about preventing domestic violence and changing attitudes and behaviour, it had to include a strong mandate to not be violent to children; and it couldn’t do that while Section 59 was still on the books.

“The sense of entitlement with which adults physically assault children is no different from the sense of entitlement men have when they batter women, but it is more overtly socially and culturally sanctioned.”

The law corrected the bizarre situation where animals used to have more protection than children:

Proudfoot cites a boy whose father was arrested for beating his mother. He’d been beaten too, “all the time”, but his father was never charged for that. Later, when the father was fined for cruelty to their pet dog (he jammed its tail in the door and refused to release it), the boy was incensed that his dad had been punished for beating the dog but not for beating him.

Misa concludes that one of the key questions for those who want to reject the Child Discipline Law is “how we can tolerate some forms of violence against children, and not others.”

And that’s not helpful for those who are trying to forge a better way – like the Rev Dr Hone Kaa, who’s part of a child advocacy group determined to address Maori child abuse and maltreatment.

“We are actually asking our people to … make a major mind shift about the beliefs of parenting …”

“We believe that smacking is simply another expression of violence against Maori children. If we can break the habit that our whanau have of hitting children, then more serious forms of abuse and maltreatment will also reduce.”

Sunday documentary trivialises the need for legal protection for children

May 24, 2009

TVNZ’s Sunday portrayal of Jimmy Mason’s violent assault against his four-year-old son highlights the importance of the new law that shifts the norm so that force is no longer an acceptable or expected part of parenting, and gives children the same legal protection as other citizens. The child discipline law also ensures that parents are not able to claim a defence for assaulting a child.

The child discipline law is working if it means parents who punch, or otherwise seriously assault their child are found guilty. That is what happened in this case, according to the findings of the jury who heard all of the evidence in the Mason case.

Sunday chose to side with the Mason family. The jury chose to side with the evidence and the right of children not to be assaulted by a parent.

The purpose of the law is to allow children to live free from violence by abolishing the use of force for the purposes of correction. However, parents may use force such as restraint to prevent harm to a child. Preventing harm does not justify the use of violence. Even when parents are in “angry parent mode” there are always better ways than using violence and children will get the message better if they are communicated with in a clear, calm manner without being yelled and sworn at.

Children are let down by a society that doesn’t respond to concerns about their safety so the witnesses who saw Mason’s anger and violence did the right thing by reporting his behaviour and testifying about what they saw. It is essential that adults be prepared to speak out if they see a child being abused or have concerns about a child’s safety.

Violence teaches children that violence is okay, and it undermines a child’s physical and mental health. Jimmy Mason appears not to understand that his actions in anger put his child in danger physically and emotionally.

The child discipline law has not criminalised all parents. Police are closely monitoring the implementation of the law. Statistics show they are exercising discretion and only prosecuting serious assaults on children. Any suggestion that parents are being criminalised unnecessarily is nonsense.

If you saw the programme and were as disappointed as we were, please email them at

From the mailbag 1

May 24, 2009

There is steady flow of incoming messages here at The Yes Vote headquarters. We are stoked by the support, mainly by people working at the coal face – Early Childhood Educators and people who work dealing with the consequences of family violence.  We’re also bemused by messages from some members of the lobby of people wanting to regain their right to hit their kids in the guise of correcting their behaviour.  We respect these people’s right to an alternative view, but reject the anger and misguided disregard for New Zealand’s awful record of child abuse and murder. Thankfully the love-to-hate ratio is very high, which reinforces our basic faith in humanity, and that the power of love and nurturing is much greater than the power of hate and violence.

Here is a sample of some of the messages:

I believe no person should be able to physically abuse a child, a smack of any type is not okay.  Child abuse in NZ is appalling, our children have rights and should be treated with respect.  Violence breeds violence.

I strongly support the no smacking legislation and  as a third year early childhood teaching student I will strongly enforce the ideals in my teaching practice.

We value the rights of each child to live free from all forms of violence.

I have always supported the deletion of Section 59 from the Crimes Act so that it cannot be used as a defence of “reasonable force” after using violence against a child. Assaulting an adult is not allowed by law, so why should it be legal to assault a small defenceless child? There are better ways of bringing up a child to be a peaceful and responsible citizen than hitting it.

We fully support existing legislation and believe that the Police are using thier discretion regarding the law appropriately. We believe that the law is helping to change behaviour about hwat is acceptable child rearing pracitce in terms of the use of physical violence.

We support the new law, and totally support the principle that every child has the right to be safe from violence. To return to the pre-2007 law would be a step backwards for New Zealand.

Thank you for your support, it means a lot to us!

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Parenting Tip: Love and warmth works wonders with kids

May 23, 2009

Love and warmth works wonders with kids.

Like all of us, kids naturally want to please those who love them.  Managing behaviour of children becomes lots less of an issue when the general feel in the home is one of love and warmth.

Of course we don’t get it right all the time and sometimes it’s right to be negative, but sincere praise and encouragement far outweigh any negative remarks. Aim for a split of around 6-8 positives to offset a single negative.

Children who know they have their parents’ support and love are much more keen to please them with their behaviour – they want to get it right.

Thanks to S.K.I.P. for today’s tip!

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


Video: Dr Joan Durrant discusses Positive Discipline

May 22, 2009

Dr Joan Durrant offers us this very watchable 10-minute digest of Positive Discipline, her 356 page manual covering establishing goals, providing warmth and structure, understanding how children think and feel, problem solving, and responding with positive discipline.

Watch in particular the first few minutes of the second video, which describe a positive parenting approach to dealing with traffic — exactly the situation which Jimmy Mason was faced with in the recent “face-punching” trial.

Parents are children’s most important teachers.

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You can see more videos on our videos page.

South Island newspapers “get it”: Jimmy Mason and the Child Discipline Law

May 22, 2009

Two editorials appeared in South Island newspapers yesterday which indicate that the mainstream media understand the real issues behind the Jimmy Mason “face-punching” case, and its connection to the referendum.

The Timaru Herald said,

Mason became the poster boy for opponents to the amendment of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which outlawed the use of “reasonable force” by parents, after he was charged with assault by police. His case was taken up by Family First, who believed it was a test case for police trying to deal with the impact of the so-called “anti-smacking” legislation. Mason was a victim of a silly law, according to the lobby group that believes it is okay to discipline children by hitting them…

The police did the right thing by bringing the case. Members of a civilised society do not teach their children road traffic rules by flicking their ears and punching them in the face. They teach them by leading by example, by patiently explaining to them, by warning them and by coaching them. When all else fails there is a range of remedies open to them. Beating them is not one of them.

And the Southland Times concurs:

The Christchurch musician was shaping up for a while there as a martyrish figure for the smackers’ rights brigade who had been warning so darkly that the change to Section 59 of the Crimes Act would lead to a parade of parents being criminalised for lightly smacking their children.

Have you noticed? That hasn’t happened. Police report that the impact of the law change, which has applied since June 2007, has been minimal…

The law change supported, after compromises, by both Labour and National did reduce so-called parental rights, but only to the extent an act of violence that would be flat-out illegal had Mason done it to your child or mine is no less illegal because it was inflicted on his own.

On most levels, the law change has not made much of a difference. We had been getting just a few cases where parents who beat their children with whips and pieces of wood were invoking parental discipline rights and getting acquitted. Now they won’t.

We look forward to these publications’ colleagues further north joining in their judgement that the current law is working well.

FAQ: Is The Yes Vote Campaign funded by the government?

May 21, 2009

No, we are not government funded.

The Yes Vote Coalition comprises the major child and family-focused non-government organisations (NGOs) listed on the About Us page, and is supported by a large and growing number of highly respected community organisations and individuals, including leaders of major faiths and Christian denominations who favour the law that is in place now.

Most of the day-to-day work in running The Yes Vote Campaign is performed by independent volunteers, although some staff time is donated to the campaign by supportive NGOs. The NGO’s advocacy functions are funded from sources other than Government contracts.  The campaign itself is funded by donations and private philanthropic funders that support the law.  The Yes Vote Campaign will file a return of expenses with the Chief Electoral Office following the referendum.

Speaking for the volunteers, we’re just normal people, mostly parents, who are taking a huge chunk of time out of our lives to devote to this important campaign. Wanting the law to say that hitting a child is wrong is just a no-brainer for us.

For answers to more questions, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

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Free Poster: If it’s wrong to hit an adult, how can it be right to hit a child?

May 21, 2009

Today, we release our first free poster.  Feel free to download it, print copies, and post them in appropriate places.

If it’s wrong to hit an adult, how can it be right to hit a child?

You can dowload more posters on our free stuff page.

Please note: if you plan on distributing significant numbers of copies of any items from this site, please let us know so that we can include these items in our electoral return of expenses. See the notes under “Legislative requirements” in our Legal Disclaimer for more info.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to post these items out to people, but you are free to download them, print them, and use them in whatever responsible way you see fit.  Depending on stock levels, you may be able to get these items from your local Barnardos or Plunket office.



Russell Brown: Stop the enabling

May 21, 2009

In his latest Hard News blog entry, Russell Brown provides excellent thought-provoking analysis on the Jimmy Mason “face-punching” child assault case.  Brown is disturbed that the media are still referring to the case as the “ear flicking” case, rather than paying attention to the facts.  But the media aren’t the only ones trivialising the details.

Brown points out that

Witnesses also said that Mason was repeatedly shouting “f**ing listen!” at his two children. He seems to have been so insensible to his own behaviour that he told the first police officer on the scene “I hit the big one in the face and that is what I do and that lady [the witness] can mind her own business.”

Bob McCoskrie says in the Herald, “… there was a concern that Mason may have been found guilty for only the ear-pull, as the actions of punching, and pulling the ear, were wrapped up in the same police charge. If that’s the case, then it’s a decision that does concerns us. We would like that clarified to understand how the law is being interpreted by the police and the courts.”

Brown responds:

That’s not the case and if McCoskrie had any honesty at all he would admit it. Jimmy Mason hit his four year-old son in the face with a closed fist. That’s what happened.

We encourage you to read the article.  The discussion is still flaming hot; join in and have your say on the Public Address forums.

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

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