Posts Tagged personal stories

Russell Brown: The son that got away

September 3, 2009

Russell Brown has been in contact with the son of the “riding crop lady”, and posted some of the conversation on Public Address:

There’s a good deal that can’t be said about the so-called “Timaru Lady”, whose Section 59 acquittal on charges of assaulting her son with a riding crop and a cane really began the recent smacking madness. The permanent suppression order the followed her acquittal has seen to that.

But I can say that she has an older son in Auckland, with whom I have occasionally been in contact. His first email to me, last year, included this passage:

Let me start by firstly saying I left home during high school because of the physical abuse and have nothing further to do with my mother other than through countless family court hearings with me trying to get my brothers and sisters removed from her care.

Anyway the point of my email is that I talked to Family First several times years ago and they were aware of [redacted]’s past and I even gave them more informed details but they were more than happy just to brush it over and use her as a political catalyst. It makes me really angry and I did fire back at them at the time they were supporting violence against our children. But however. You will find a couple more organisations such as Anti-Cyfs organisations …. that fully support her. I really think someone should bring this to light.

For more, see the full post at Public Address.

Disciplining dad

July 3, 2009

Scott Kara’s (rough) guide to being a first-time dad on his New Zealand Herald blog

Most of the time, I’m a big softie. But this week, with Incredible Hulk-like tendencies, I turned into Super Domineering Dad by taking a stand and putting the little one into time out for the first time.

I thought I was looking out for her personal safety with my tough and loving stance. Crikey, she’d pulled herself up onto the cabinet in front of the TV, which is a fair-old fall to the wooden floor boards below, and was slapping the plasma screen with glee. It was the third time – in quick succession – she’d done it so what’s a dad to do?

While that might not sound like dastardly behaviour I couldn’t help but imagine that slab of electronic wizardry falling off the wall and squishing little honey lamb into a shrink-wrapped luncheon sausage.

It turns out, I think time out is a miserable failure and my wife and I don’t believe in it anymore. Not that it didn’t work, I just didn’t give it a chance. In fact, I was the miserable failure because my heart caved in to an uncontrollable longing to pick her up, hug her, and wipe those tears dry after shutting that door in her face.

So what do you do to stamp out wilful toddler tantrums and disobedience? Because, as Mr Ear Clip of Christchurch found out earlier this week, times have changed when it comes to discipline.

Gone are the days when mum cracked the wooden spoon on the bench as a threat – and boy, did my sister and I laugh when it broke on one occasion. Then there was the ultimate I-mean-business threat of dad – a far bigger softie than I am – pretending to take off his belt.

So instead of time out I’m resorting to either asking the little critter nicely to do something; praising her by way of coercion; ignoring her and hoping like hell she stops doing it eventually; or – and this is best of all – distracting her (which requires a ball, a puzzle, or, if I’m desperado, a TV show).

But hang on a minute, I thought I was meant to be a parent? I thought I was the one calling the shots?

Maybe I should harden up, stop being such a sook, and stick to my guns.

Then again, no matter what your approach, disciplining a toddler – and a teenager for that matter – is always going to be torture.

Smacking never worked for me – why I’m voting Yes

July 2, 2009

Geoffrey, who would prefer to remain anonymous, recently wrote to all MPs about his experience growing up in a violent and insecure home. His story supports the Yes Vote campaigners’ contention that smacking can ever be said to be “good parental correction”.

He received replies from Jim Anderton, Catherine Delahunty and Peter Dunn.

Dear MP

I am appalled that there are adults who have no idea of an alternative to smacking a child.

I was born in 1960 and my parents were convinced that corporal punishment was the way to discipline us.

It didn’t work.

The violence escalated until I was insecure at home and at school (corporal punishment at school). In both cases, home and school, I felt I had no recourse and my behaviour got no better as a result of being assaulted by my parents and teachers.

My relationship with my parents was distrust and disrespect right up until I left home. I admit, that once I left home my relationship with my father was better, but there has always been an emotional distance that will never be bridged even though I am 49 and he is 82.

I was married 28 years ago and I have three adult children. These three children have never been hit by their parents and are kind considerate and caring adults, the youngest is 21. In contrast to my own relationship with my parents, they are close to us and seek us out for support and advice.

My oldest son entrusts us with the care of his four month old daughter every weekend, something I couldn’t trust my parents with for my children for fear of their corporal punishment ethic.

Home is a place where a child should feel safe and have no fear where they must feel protected and not threatened – even if they have no language yet.

Smacking is a reaction by a frustrated, brutish mentality in a stressed individual who has no idea of any other approach. To sanction this behaviour, as many religions do, is to allow the brute mentality to take what they feel is the most expedient course of action. Unfortunately, corporal punishment has the opposite effect.

In the 1960s it was considered right to discipline one’s wife with violence, a crime which the police could not take action against because an old law stated a man’s home was out of bounds in domestic incidents.

There were the same cries of outrage by what seems the same people when this exemption to the law was overturned.

My guess is that we don’t want a referendum on the law which criminalises the wife beater, nor should we in the case of the same conservatives who want to be able to hit children with immunity to prosecution.

Keep our children safe!

I won’t smack my son

June 24, 2009

KERRY WILLIAMSON on his Dominion Post blog, says he would like to think that he will never smack his new-born baby boy – ever.

“No matter how mad I get when he acts up, I just don’t want to be that kind of parent. No matter how loud he screams, no matter how big a tantrum he throws, and no matter how much he ignores me, I don’t want to smack him,” he writes.

He’s also annoyed that the government has legislated to this effect saying: “I’d like to think that parents should be able to parent however they want. I’d like to think that parents are responsible, caring and considerate towards their children. I can’t imagine that not being the case. “

However, he says, the reality is not so nice nor easy and goes on to cite numerous and terrible cases of child cruelty in New Zealand meted out by parents who believe in physical punishment.

Referendum offers king hit to humanity

June 21, 2009

Deborah Coddington (New Zealand Herald, June 21, 09) decries the “dastardly” referendum in her regular column saying it was organised  “by grown men who should know better”.

She says there is no such thing as a “loving smack, just as there is no such thing as a hateful hug” adding that it was no wonder children were “not valued as individuals in this country, but instead as some sort of chattel belonging to adults”

“We do not own our children,” she says, “a fact that has yet to be driven home to those selfish individuals who fight their way through the Family Court over who has the offspring, ensuring any remaining family happiness is destroyed forever.”

She goes on to argue that she doesn’t see a future in NZ for treasured children nor respect for their presence.

She admits she gave little thought to the issue until 10 years ago when she wrote about the death of James Whakaruru and realised how “normal it was for discipline to include beating children”

She concludes asking how we would react if the question was: “Should forced sex, as part of a good marriage, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Brian Clough: What message would a NO vote send?

June 15, 2009

I am passionate about this issue.

My grandfather was an alcoholic wife and child beater and my father beat me as a kid.  I know first hand how it feels and I find the wording of this referendum absolutely absurd.

Even if an adult was wrongly accused under the current law, at least they have the protection of the NZ Justice system via the courts – as a young boy being thrashed my only protection was the hope that my Dad would run out of anger before he managed to seriously injure me.  Sadly it’s not reasonable, good parents who kill their babies.

I shudder to think how these latent child killers in our society would interpret a NO result in the referendum.

Swedish student Maria Bjornfot talks about the NZ Child Discipline Law

May 28, 2009

maria-bjornfotMaria Bjornfot, a Social Work student from Sweden, came to spend three weeks with the Barnardos office in Waitakere as part of her study. While she was there, Annie Gordon took the opportunity to ask her about her experiences growing up in Sweden, with particular reference to Sweden’s child discipline law.

Annie: Maybe you could start by telling us briefly why you have chosen to be here in Waitakere at Barnardos at this time?

Maria: I have a great interest in children and social work so I was very happy when you accepted me at your agency. When I had the opportunity in my social work studies to go where ever I wanted in the world it was an easy choice. I have always been interested in how it looks and feels to be on the other side of the world. And the Lord of the Ring movies with all the beautiful sceneries contributed to my great interest in New Zealand.

Your situation is very interesting to me in that you come from Sweden and were born in 1979, the year of the law change regarding physical punishment of children. Can you tell us something about the ways you were disciplined when you were growing up?

When I grew up in Sweden the child discipline law had already changed and what I can remember of my childhood was more threats of physical punishment rather than being hit. But sometimes I remember my father took me by my ear or grabbed my hair. That was in the early days when the law was still new. In my later years I can’t remember any physical punishment for me or my brother. Of course we argued but it was more reasoning by my parents and if we had tantrums they ignored us or left the room.

Was this a typical situation for children at that time?

I think so, for most people it was a gradual change.

How would you say your experience differs from how children are disciplined in Sweden today?

Today in Sweden we have developed different strategies in child discipline. There is very little physical punishment that you hear about. We still are talking a lot about parenting issues though. Parents in Sweden today are struggling between full time work, their own hobbies and giving their children attention. Parents try very hard but don’t find time enough for everything. This often leads to parents feeling very bad about themselves, and to compensate they let their children do anything they want and this can also be a problem and has become a big topic of conversation.

Is there much or any opposition to the child discipline law in Sweden anymore?

No, not at all, although we still sometimes have the older people talking about the early days [before the law change] that children had more respect back then. But I think older persons are like that all over the world, afraid of the new things that happen.

Robert’s story: Childhood smacking led to attempted suicide

May 26, 2009

When I was about three years of age, I was molested. As a result, when I was smacked by my parents, the pain stimulated me sexually. As time progressed, the continued childhood discipline smacking with the pain and humiliation associated with it caused me to become sexually attractive to the pain. I began to self-harm. The resulting intense shame, secrecy and anxiety surrounding this addictive behaviour became very long-term. Later in life it led to two suicide attempts.

I now put the shame where it appropriately belongs – at the feet of those who sexually molested and smacked me in my childhood and at the feet of individuals who still believe it is OK to smack children.

I am able to inflict high levels of pain on myself as ‘sexual stimulation’ resulting from childhood conditioning caused by being smacked. This conditioning is now managed by ongoing medical support to prevent actual self-harm.

I suffer from life-long debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from the treatment I received as a child.

I disclose my real life story because smacking children as was legal under [the old] Section 59 is still considered ‘harmless’. This mindset has the real potential to put many children at risk – as it did to me. My life has been irreparably damaged by the smacking culture in my childhood.

I have witnessed many other sufferers deal with the psychological impact resulting from childhood smacking during many group psychotherapy sessions over the years.

Robert [not his real name]

Lu Lu’s story: Do you remember how it felt?

May 4, 2009

It’s been decades since I was last ‘smacked’. In a family of 6 children, that entailed lining up to wait your turn to be turned over Dad’s knee. These line ups, ironically, took place in the ‘family room’. My father on the couch, us kids – tightly clustered in age (first 5 born within 6 years) but silent and separate in the line up as we watched the one ahead of us getting whacked till they cried.

This was the standard. We would have been warned ahead of time via my mother’s promise that ruined the rest of your day. ‘Wait till your father gets home’. When he did, we’d listen and wait as he was brought up to date behind closed doors. All we could hear, hovering on the other side, was the hiss of the ‘sss’ in the conversation. That was enough.

More than once the punishment was withheld to prolong the sick dread. And a few times he instructed us to prepare: to go into the laundry room / tool room and choose what we’d have him hit us with.

On the rare occasions my mother tried to mete out the smacks ahead of his arrival home I clearly recall – not what I’d done wrong – but the desperation of avoiding the punishment.

Hiding behind the china cabinet, hiding under the bed in their room (‘she’d never think to find me there…but then…when is it safe to come out?’ Hours passed.) and most memorable, once allowing her to catch me because I’d put a book down my pants.

I was less brave to rebel against my father. In fact discovered it was best to cry immediately so it was over quicker. (Interesting ‘the lessons’ I was learning…) Only once was I angry enough to ‘fight back’. What did that look like when you’re a skinny little girl and he’s six foot four? Purposely not warning him you need to go to the toilet ‘first’ and instead peeing on his knee. It did end the session after a single hearty wallop.

Only two of the many times I was hit ‘for the purpose of correction’ do I remember their ‘reason why’. One, I copped it alone on a summer’s night without the sibling line up, for forgetting about the grass seed in front of the swing set and running across it. I wasn’t reminded about the grass seed before – or after – getting turned on my father’s knee. Alone in my dark bedroom, I cried myself sick. I think that one hurt my mother as much as me; she came to comfort me and heard me utterly baffled as to what I’d done wrong, that
I only knew Dad hated me enough to hit me when I’d hadn’t even done anything.

The other occasion had happened years earlier and shamed me long past being a child. I recognized well into adulthood, as I started learning about emotional developmental stages as children grow, that while it could have been a near tragedy, what I did was due to being mischievous and experimental. Not that I was a horrible, wicked girl.

On the Sunday I’m remembering I was little more than a toddler, playing hide and seek with my brothers and my sister. Kieran, 11 months younger than me, had found what he’d have thought was a brilliant hiding place. In the clothes drier. Knowing that’s where he’d hidden, I climbed up and turned the machine on. A sound like tumbling sand shoes going around brought my mother at a run. The image of Kieran’s stark white – though conscious – face, my mother’s speechless terror, and my father’s tight lipped hatred – or was it fury? – when he picked me up, are as clear today as 40 some years ago. On that day, I accepted that I ‘deserved’ the pain dished out to me seconds later. While I wouldn’t have been able to explain it then, I felt that pain had ‘paid my debt’. I wasn’t encouraged to make amends to my frightened brother or told in terms I could understand how dangerous it could have been. In addition to ‘letting me off the hook’, the severe session of smacking my father delivered, shifted me from being perpetrator to being another victim. While understanding what had prompted it, what had been ‘an offense between equals’, became ‘big them’ against very small – and also very scared – me. The shared fear on every face had convinced me instantly what I’d done was distinctly very wrong. In retrospect, being repeatedly smacked that day, instead of told off, twisted that whole episode into something that, as I matured, continued to hurt for 3 very different reasons. The remorse over what I’d done to my brother, another reason to believe my father actively disliked – or at least certainly didn’t love – me, and the inability to make it right.

The clothes drier incident was a once off. But like all the other episodes of smacking, a missed opportunity to as the song says, ‘teach your children well’…with love. What my brothers and my sister and I remember of the ‘family room’, wasn’t abuse – they weren’t thrashings or punch ups.

It was ‘just smacking’. Probably not severe or frequent enough to warrant police attention under today’s law (if we ever ‘told’)? But enough that telling the story here has reminded me of too much pain to sign my real name to this. It seems appropriate to use my childhood nickname.

During recent years I’ve listened while the nation has hotly debated – in front of all our kids – how important it is that adults be allowed to hit them (physically vent their anger in so many cases). I’ve heard a number of people reporting “I was hit and it didn’t do me any harm”. Each time I wonder, didn’t it? I wonder where might we all be if, instead of being hit, as children we’d been supported to make amends to those we’d wronged, shown what empathy is from our earliest years, and grown up never doubting we were loved?

You can be sure I’m voting YES in the referendum, to help ensure that over time, using guidance and love take the place of smacking. If you haven’t decided to yet or you still favour smacking, can I ask, do you remember how it felt?

Lu Lu (not her real name)

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.

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

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