Posts Tagged jan pryor

NZ Research: Only one in ten parents believe smacking is effective

June 15, 2009

More evidence is emerging that Kiwi parents are favouring positive parenting strategies for disciplining their children over smacking or hitting.

New Zealand is nearing the second anniversary of the law change that gave children the same legal protection against assault as adults.

New information on family discipline practices is being presented tomorrow (Tuesday June 16 2009) in Wellington at the Families Commission annual research seminar.  The early findings are from the second report on a study of 100 families carried out by Otago University researchers Julie Lawrence and Anne Smith.  The report, funded by the Commission, will be published in a few months.

Professor Smith said, “In our research four out of ten of the parents said that they occasionally smacked their children. However, less than one in ten felt it was effective.”

In contrast, timeout, which was the most commonly used disciplinary strategy was thought to be effective by four out of ten parents.

“Parents who had been brought up being whacked as children were often determined to do it differently and had moved away from smacking their own children.”

Professor Smith said the parents in the study were much less accepting or supportive of physical punishment than those in studies done ten and 20 years ago.  These latest findings agreed with a 2008 survey done funded by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission, Dr Jan Pryor, says the repeal of Section 59 sent a clear signal that hitting children was not acceptable and this study shows attitudes appear to be changing.

“Consistent parenting strategies which use rewards, distraction and consequences such as timeout are proven to be more effective at teaching children self discipline than physical punishment.

“The law is working well, parents are not being criminalised for trivial offences and there is growing understanding and use of positive parenting strategies,” she said.

Jan Pryor: Community agencies value the Families Commission

June 2, 2009

The appointment of Christine Rankin to the Board of the Families Commission has put the spotlight on the work of The Families Commission, particularly our support for the new child discipline law.

The renewed debate on physical punishment shows how poorly the intent and purpose of the new law has been communicated to the public. I was surprised last week to hear a prominent lawyer (among others) say that the new child discipline law had not stopped child abuse. Simply making it illegal to break and enter a home doesn’t stop burglaries and no one expects it to. So it’s puzzling that there is an expectation that one law, on its own, will stop child abuse.

The repeal of Section 59 is part of a whole-of-society effort that is underway to reduce and prevent family violence. A lot of this is focused on building understanding about family violence and changing attitudes so people are less tolerant and more likely to seek help, or report incidents of violence. Some of this is being done through the It’s Not OK campaign, which was developed with the Families Commission leadership, funding and research in partnership with community organisations and other government agencies. The White Ribbon Day campaign is another of the Commission’s projects which is helping to change attitudes toward violence in families.

In an act of courage and leadership Parliament made sure our assault law was consistent with this work and gave children the same protection that was given to their parents. Now, when a parent is charged with assault, there is no longer a legal defence that the parent was using ‘reasonable force’ to discipline the child.

It’s a law that is working well in combination with the other work that is being done. Last week, a Christchurch father who punched his four year old son in the face and flicked his ear was found guilty of assault. The father’s lawyer told the court he was using reasonable force to discipline his son, but this is no longer a defence. The man’s yelling and abusive behaviour had caught the attention of passers by who were concerned enough to report the incident. Their willingness to step forward on behalf of the child is part of a new trend resulting from the It’s Not OK campaign. Research shows that one in five people who have seen the television advertisements have taken some sort of action because they were concerned about their behaviour or the behaviour of someone else. Our belief is that as intolerance grows, more and more people will speak up when they see or hear violent and abusive behaviour within families. It is this sort of action that will make it less likely that another Nia Glassie will die.

Last week, a Christchurch Press columnist criticised the research done by the Commission. He used our recent report on the difficulties shift-working parents have in managing childcare to illustrate his point of view. He felt that the information from these families was simply a statement of what the public already knew. Far from it. This was a small study done within the context of a much bigger project that looks at just what it is that families need in the way of child care services. By drilling down and doing intensive interviews with a range of families we are able to determine patterns of need, whether people’s arrangements work and what would they prefer in the way of support. The resulting information, along with our analysis, is now being made available to government and service providers and should, in time, result in services and support being much more targeted. This in turn should lead to more efficient use and delivery of resources. That’s the thing about research. It provides facts on which to base decisions and services, rather than opinion and anecdotes.

One of the other common statements made about the Commission is that its work could be done by some other government agency. That may be partly true of some of our research so we are careful to make sure we don’t duplicate the work of others. But the Comission is unique in that it was specifically set up to advocate for families and to provide independent and impartial advice to government and to other organisations. We are also tasked with taking the resilience and strengths of families into account in our work rather than focusing on their deficits.

We acknowledge that The Christchurch Press’s columnist is probably not alone in knowing little about the Commission. Our work is often done behind the scenes, in partnership with many other agencies, community organisations and government departments. However I believe a street poll would reveal that the public knows just as little about the work of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Social Development as it does about the Commission.

But ask any large community agency that works with families who we are and what we do and I am confident you will find they support and value the contribution we are making through our research, information, advice and support.

Jan Pryor is the Chief Commissioner at The Families Commission

Paula Bennett on Christine Rankin: That’s politics!

May 13, 2009

Radio New Zealand’s Parliamentary Chief Reporter Jane Patterson covered the controversy surrounding Christine Rankin’s appointment as a Family Commissioner on Morning Report today, available for your listening pleasure below:

The report includes comments from Phil Goff, Tariana Turia, Peter Dunne, and Jan Pryor.

We think that the responsible minister, Paula Bennett sums it up best in her own words: “Hey, that’s politics!”

Families Commission welcomes new commissioners Christine Rankin and Bruce Pilbrow

May 12, 2009

The Families Commission is looking forward to working with the two newly announced Commissioners, Christine Rankin and Bruce Pilbrow.

They join five other Commissioners on the Board.  Mr Pilbrow will bring with him his strong interest in parenting and we look forward to working with him.  The Commission is also aware of Ms Rankin’s commitment to the prevention of child abuse and shares her concern about this issue.

It was this shared concern that led the Board to its unanimous decision to support the new child discipline law.   We look forward to hearing Ms Rankin’s thoughts on ways to reduce New Zealand’s high rate of family violence and will welcome her input into our future work on this issue.

The law is working well and is achieving what was intended – parents who are charged with assaulting a child can no longer defend themselves in court by claiming they were using reasonable force to discipline the child.

The Commission’s reasons for supporting the law have not changed.

We based our position on research which shows very clearly that positive parenting strategies (such as rewarding good behaviour and distracting young children and ignoring minor unwanted behaviour) are far more effective and safer than physical punishment.  Research also shows that most child abuse cases begin as physical punishment.  There are risks that smacking can escalate to abuse – and the harder a child is hit, the more damaging it is for their future wellbeing. Hitting children also models violence as a way of resolving conflict.

One of the objectives of law reform was to make the law congruent with positive non-violent parenting messages and the law now clearly states that there is no legal justification for the use of force to correct a child’s behaviour.

This is a direct message to parents encouraging them to use strategies for managing their child’s behaviour that do not include smacking or hitting.

It appears that growing numbers of parents understand this.  A Ministry of Health Survey in mid 2007 showed that only 1 in 22 parents considered physical punishment to be effective.  Of the parents who had actually used physical punishment in the previous four weeks only one in three considered it to be effective.

Healthy, positive relationships within families do not involve people hitting each other and the Commission continues to believe that [the enactment of the Child Discipline Law in 2007] was one step that, combined with other nationwide efforts to address violence, will help us become a violence-free society.

Jan Pryor
Chief Commissioner

Families Commission report: Loving, nurturing environments lead to healthy brain development

May 5, 2009

The critical role of parents and caregivers in the physical development of children’s brains has been highlighted in a report released by the Families Commission today.

Healthy Families, Young Minds and Developing Brains vividly demonstrates how a child’s experience of love, pleasure and security – or the lack of these – has a major impact on issues as diverse as family violence, crime, social and educational success and mental health.

Prepared by Charles and Kasia Waldegrave for the Commission, the study identifies factors that enable children to reach their full potential, or prevent them from doing so. It demonstrates that the environment children experience in their early years impacts on their young minds which, in turn, affects how well they pick up everything from language and writing to important social and moral skills such as knowing how to control their emotions and desires. They might also fail to develop empathy for others, the skill needed to understand that some actions harm other people.

Author Charles Waldegrave says: “In loving, nurturing environments the child’s brain will develop normally. But recent developments in neuroscience and child development show that ongoing experiences of neglect, abuse or violence can seriously damage development in children, leading to long term impairment of their intellectual, emotional and social functioning.”

Chief Families Commissioner Dr Jan Pryor says the study shows how important it is for governments and society to value parenting and create environments that support strong, resilient, loving families and whanau within which to raise children.

“It also highlights the importance of early intervention if things do start to go wrong for families,” Dr Pryor says. “The longer a child experiences serious deprivation, the higher the chance that this will have serious long term impacts on their functioning as an adult and the harder it will be for intervention to remedy that harm.”

The paper also discusses how the experiences of the early years impact on society, Dr Pryor says.

“For instance, the Government has signalled that it is very interested in the drivers of crime. What this research tells us is that impaired mind and brain development during childhood can be a major contributor to criminal behaviour in later life, because of the developing child’s inability to self regulate and create sensitive relationships with others.”

The Families Commission will use the study to develop advice it is preparing for the Government on the importance of early intervention, what types of intervention are needed, what works best, and where government and community family services can best target their money and efforts for best effect. The study will also contribute to the Commission’s work for easy access by parents to parenting support information, early childhood education and childcare.

Download the report: Healthy Families, Young Minds and Developing Brains

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.

Hitting – not part of our future: Families Commissioner

March 29, 2009

By Jan Pryor
Chief Commissioner
Families Commission
29 March 2009

A year and a half after New Zealand’s child discipline law was changed, it’s clear more needs to be done to allay fears and encourage parents to raise their children without raising their hands.

In fact, the law is working well and is achieving what was intended. Parents who are charged with assaulting a child can no longer defend themselves in court by claiming they were using reasonable force to discipline the child.

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.

It was quite disturbing to recently hear parents on talk back radio say that now that they ‘couldn’t smack’ they were forcing their children to eat soap, mustard or even chilli. Or, they screamed and yelled at their children to get their attention. How can this help a child learn to behave?

It’s very difficult to understand why parents would want to use these sorts of strategies when positive parenting techniques are so much more rewarding and effective. A phone call to any family agency such as Barnardos, Plunket, or a search on Google will point them to information on positive parenting.

The Families Commission is one of many organisations who supported the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

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.

We based our position on research which shows very clearly that positive parenting strategies (such as rewarding good behaviour and distracting young children and ignoring minor unwanted behaviour) are far more effective and safer.

Research shows that most child abuse cases begin as physical punishment. There are risks that smacking can escalate to abuse – and the harder a child is hit, the more damaging it is for their future wellbeing. Hitting children also models violence as a way of resolving conflict.

The best and most effective parenting practices do not use physical punishment and positive strategies are better at helping children to learn self discipline and to behave well in the long term.

One of the objectives of law reform was to make the law congruent with positive non-violent parenting messages and the new law now clearly states that there is no legal justification for the use of force to correct a child’s behaviour.

This is a direct message to parents encouraging them to use strategies for managing their child’s behaviour that do not include smacking or hitting.

More and more parents are learning these skills through the government’s SKIP (Strategies for Kids Information for Parents) leaflets and parenting courses, or through other similar programmes offered by various non-government agencies.

A Ministry of Health Survey in mid 2007 showed that only 1 in 22 parents considered physical punishment to be effective. Of the parents who had actually used physical punishment in the previous four weeks only one in three considered it to be effective.

We are now at the point where another recent survey on behalf of the Office of the Children’s Commission has shown that 43 percent of people support the new law.

However, some of this progress could be undermined by the citizens initiated postal referendum being held in the middle of the year on the question, “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Should anyone be hit as a way to change their behaviour – let alone a small child? Should employers be able to smack employees? Should coaches hit team members when they do something to let down the team? Why should it be OK to hit children – who are so much smaller and vulnerable?

We suspect many people may chose not to vote in the referendum because they can’t agree or disagree with the question – or simply because it’s no longer an issue for them

We need more public education about the law and continued investment in positive parenting programmes.

As parents, we all want to raise our children to be happy well adjusted adults. We all want to be great parents. However, it’s not always easy and not something we can always do just by instinct.

The best parents are those who aren’t afraid to seek help and advice. Finding out about new and effective ways to raise our children is a sign of strength not an admission of failure.

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

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