Posts Tagged physical punishment

New website for children

February 13, 2010

The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children has launched a new website for children.

This comprehensive site contains information about children campaigning to end corporal punishment in many countries.

It also contains useful resources to help children and adults campaign together against corporal punishment.

The debate in New Zealand about the use of physical punishment of children and law change involved limited but valuable and important opportunities for children to participate.

The new website reports on the New Zealand debate.

What sort of sense do children make of being smacked and hit? Are children aware that they have rights to safety and physical integrity? What do children think of laws that “excuse” assault of children (excused by some people as an adult’s right to chose how to discipline their child).

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child advises that State Parties shall assure to the child which is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting that child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

Physical punishment is absolutely a matter that affects children.

Ending legalised violence against children worldwide – Global Report 2009

January 22, 2010

A recent report published by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children provides information about world wide progress towards universal prohibition of all corporal (physical) punishment of children.

There are now 26 countries which have enacted laws prohibiting corporal punishment of children in all settings. New Zealand is, of course, one of these. In many other countries there are positive commitments and campaigns underway. The report provides extensive information on the status of countries world-wide.

In New Zealand it is many years since physical punishment was legal in settings other than the home (banned in 2007) but in some parts of the world children are still beaten in schools, penal institutions and alternative care settings and are the victims of outdated, inhumane and violent practices.

Introductory messages to the Report from Marta Santos Pias (Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children), Professor Yanghee Lee (Chairperson, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child) and Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (previously the Independent Expert who led the UN Secretary General’s Study On Violence against Children) all make it clear that respect for children’s human rights to dignity and physical integrity through the banning of corporal punishment is a critical part of protecting children from all violence.

Children’s human right to dignity, physical integrity and full protection from violence are the fundamental underpinnings of a legal ban on use of force in the correction of children. All too often this fact gets lost as New Zealanders debate parent’s perceived right to discipline their children as they see fit and the irrelevant question of whether a small smack does any harm.

Physical punishment of children and the Child Discipline Law

November 16, 2009

Support for the 2007 law remains strong among those that understand how well children in New Zealand will be served in the long term by the repeal of the old section 59 Crimes Act 1961.  As the recent report from the Ministry of Social Development has shown there has been no increase in prosecutions for minor assaults on children since the law change but there seems an increased willingness to report more serious assaults on children.

It is also likely that the law is already contributing (along with information about positive parenting) to a social change away from use of smacking and hitting,    International evidence against the use of physical punishment continues to grow.   Calls from activities opposed to the 2007 law change do not reflect such evidence and the “March for Democracy” is their latest expensive move to apply pressure on politicians to turn back clock and send a message intentionally or unintentionally that physical punishment is a acceptable form of child discipline.

EPOCH NZ have produced a paper reviewing the law in light of recent research and the referendum.

The paper asks:

  • what is the evidence against use of physical punishment?
  • how is the 2007 law working?
  • who supports the 2007 law and who opposes it?
  • how will the safety and wellbeing of New Zealand children be best served now?

The answers to these questions form the basis for the following recommendations:

1.    Keep the law as it is: Children in New Zealand will be very well served over time if the Government stays strong in its resolve not to re-introduce a statutory defence into section 59 Crimes Act 1961.

2.    Provide information about the law and positive, non-violent discipline of children: There is an ongoing need for the dissemination of well-researched and supportive information about:

  • the law and its value
  • how the law is working in practice
  • positive non-physical discipline of children.

3.    Monitor the law and research its effects: The application of the child discipline law should continue to be monitored both to ensure that parents are not investigated and/or prosecuted when these actions are unhelpful and to track attitudinal and behavioural changes and the safety and wellbeing of children over time.

4.    Deal with any changes needed through policy and procedures: If inadequacies are found in the way the law is being applied then further protections should be developed without changing the law.  Such protections should support family functioning but at the same time not encourage the use of physical discipline by implying that it is okay.

Download the paper, Physical Punishment of Children and the Child Discipline Law.

Children’s Commisioner: Boscawen bill not in childrens’ interests

September 24, 2009

Children’s Commissioner Dr John Angus said today he hoped ACT MP John Boscawen’s private member’s bill did not pass its first reading.

Boscawen’s Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill will essentially put children in a worse position than before the 2007 law change, Dr Angus said. The Bill, if passed, will enshrine a parent or guardian’s right to correct their child’s behaviour in a manner that the parent or guardian considers to be reasonable under the circumstances. This may include inflicting pain on the child.

 “While the wording of this bill talks about the correction not being ‘cruel or degrading’ and says the effect of the hitting must be ‘no more than transitory or trifling’, it reinforces the old law that allowed parents to assault their children and claim a defense of reasonable force,” Dr Angus said.

“I don’t believe that finding ways to define when and how children might be hit, at what age and what with, for purposes of correction is in any way connected to the best interests of children.”

Dr Angus said that the young people he had sought advice from want the law to remain as it is.

“Children will be further confused, as they are by smacking itself. And the growing number of parents who are working hard to bring up their children in ways that do not involve hitting will feel sold out. Many New Zealanders will find the discussion distasteful.

“One thing is for sure: it will not end a debate that has already distracted us from some important issues about children’s wellbeing.

“I would rather see our time taken up with debating the nature of the relationships we have with children as parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers and community members. Those relationships shape our children’s futures. We should put our energy into how well we are bringing up our children, rather than into the rules around a very narrow and problematic behaviour – physical punishment.

“The changes to Section 59 in 2007 were a line in the sand, a signal that violence against children is not OK. When New Zealand changed the law we joined 25 countries across the world that have a legal ban on the use of physical punishment with children. Some of those countries banned hitting children more than 30 years ago and have very low rates of child abuse. We were the first English speaking country to pass such a law and reversing that would bring international incredulity.

“It is time to move on and engage in public debate about our attitudes towards children and young people, rather than how we can best punish them”

Research: Smacking makes children naughtier

September 17, 2009

The Telegraph reports on new research showing that children who are smacked are more aggressive and have poorer mental development than those who are verbally castigated.

Research on toddlers and other studies following children into adolescence found physical punishment was bad for children and made them more likely to show anti-social behaviour.

The children who were smacked at age one were more aggressive and had not developed cognitive skills as well as those punished verbally.

In a separate study children aged between five and 16 found that children who were spanked often were two to three times more likely to show anti-social behaviour than those not punished physically.

Read the article at The Telegraph

Psychology Today: Physical punishment is a serious public health problem

August 31, 2009

Psychology Today‘s blog Great Kids Great Parents recently ran an article on Why Do We Still Spank (Hit) Children?

Why do we still spank children? The usual answer is to get them to do what we think is best for them – i.e., to obtain behavioral compliance. And, yet, the answer is much more complicated. Dealing with children can stir up very charged and old feelings. The arguments and screaming of a child can push the same buttons that one’s own parents or siblings pushed long ago. Or perhaps one does to one’s child what was done to oneself: “I was spanked as a child, and I turned out all right.” – Yes, but perhaps you turned out all right in spite of the spanking, not because of it… and perhaps things would have been even better if the effective alternatives to spanking which do exist had been utilized.

It turns out that physical punishment is a serious public health problem in the United States, and it profoundly affects the mental health of children and the society in which we live. Studies show that over 60% of families still use physical punishment to discipline children. Yet, the research shows that: physical punishment is associated with an increase in delinquency, antisocial behavior, and aggression in children; and physical punishment is associated with a decrease in the quality of the parent-child relationship, mental health, and the child’s capacity to internalize socially acceptable behavior. Adults who have been subject to physical punishment as children are more likely to abuse their own child or spouse and to manifest criminal behavior.

They conclude:

If we truly want a less violent society, not hitting our children is a good place to start.

Read the full article.

Christopher Horan: Time to move past the smacking debate

August 17, 2009

Former probation officer Christopher Horan writes in today’s Otago Daily Times that people are sick of the debate and it’s time to move on, comparing the present situation to the debate around corporal punishment in schools.  We moved on, and few regret the move to more effective ways of disciplining children in schools.

I’m confident that most parents who oppose Sue Bradford’s child-discipline Act are caring and responsible parents. That’s why I’m also sure they will be uneasy in the knowledge that their view is shared by most wife beaters, sex offenders, child abusers and child killers.

These are the people who cling to a distorted sense of entitlement to control the lives of others.

Moving on would leave them behind.

Read the full article at the ODT.

Deborah Morris-Travers comments on the Sunday show’s portrayal of her childhood and the smacking issue

August 12, 2009

Some months ago Sunday reporter Simon Mercep interviewed Jimmy Mason, the Christchurch father convicted for punching his son in the face. Following the show Sunday received a lot of correspondence and decided to interview more people about their experiences of physical punishment.

The Sunday programme for 9 August carried interviews with my family, and also with Simon Barnett.

In the telling of my story, as a child growing up in the 1970s, I related the strict and, at times, harsh physical punishment we received as a child. My parents talked about an era in which there was little information or support available for parents and they did what they thought was right at the time.

In my interview with Sunday, I noted that my older sister, in particular, had experienced a lot of physical punishment and that this had undermined her self-esteem, her confidence and sense of place in the family.

On one particular occasion I rang 111 and spoke to the operator about needing the Police to help my sister. The beating that was taking place ended so I told the operator I no longer needed help. I tried hanging up but discovered the operator was still there asking if everything was okay!

As a 9 year old this wasn’t something I could tell my parents about. It wasn’t until recently that we discussed it. My mother remembers the incident of physical punishment that prompted my call to the Police even though she hadn’t know that I had taken that action.

It is my belief that the anger my sister experienced contributed to her alienation from the family in her early teens, leading her to put herself in risky situations and then leave home at age 15. She later became a parent at 17 and had another child at 20. She went on to use physical punishment with her children.

Throughout her life it was clear that she carried with her anxiety and depression. Central to the story my family sought to tell was the important message that while the circumstances leading to her death were complex, being hit did not help build the resilience, confidence or resourcefulness she would need in adulthood. It undermined her sense of well-being.

As I have reflected on her childhood and teen years I have been struck by the similarity of her experience with the international evidence about the harms of physical punishment, including the potential for:

  • Aggression and delinquency
  • Poor mental health and poor self esteem
  • Learning difficulties
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Criminal and antisocial behaviour
  • Risk of victimisation of more serious abuse

When I have spoken with my parents about all of this they have been clear that as time went on they did start learning new ways to discipline us. This is why, as the middle child, I received less physical punishment than my sister – who was 5 years older than me.

For me, physical punishment put a great deal of pressure on my relationship with my parents. It made me angry and resentful. I didn’t trust them or respect them. Nevertheless, I was lucky to be a lot more resilient than my sister.

In recent years, partly due to the work I’m doing, we’ve had the opportunity to talk these things through as a family. My parents have related the role of the evangelical Church in promoting the physical punishment of children, they have apologised and we’ve moved on.

My parents have spoken with me about having learned that they could actually reason with us as children. The great thing is that now, as Grandparents, they understand the power of positive parenting and the numerous, non-violent, strategies they can use with children in their care.

And, as a parent now myself I am adamant that hitting children is unnecessary and unacceptable. I am convinced that families can change and we can break the cycle!

On this, it was interesting watching the show on Sunday night, hearing Simon Barnett’s assertion that he didn’t smack in anger, but one of his daughters saying her Dad was angry. It is common for parents to downplay their level of anger when they resort to physical punishment.

It was also worth noting that Simon admitted that hitting his youngest daughter didn’t work. This is what many New Zealand parents are discovering and it is hopefully what Simon’s older daughters will realise when they become parents themselves.

Of course, during the course of filming the Sunday show we had lengthy interviews with Simon Mercep about all of the issues involved, about the positive parenting strategies we employ with my 4 year old daughter, about the law and children’s right to have the same legal protection as all other citizens, and about the need for a YES vote in the referendum. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion on the show about the techniques we use instead of hitting.

The nature of TV shows such as this is that time constraints mean the editing is heavy and viewers get just a snippet of information – and of course it’s the most sensational bits!

We have received dozens of supportive emails in recent days, many of which have referred to the lasting anxiety and depression caused by childhood punishment experiences.

Thanks to everyone for their support. Reflecting on what was supposedly an ‘average 1970s childhood’ wasn’t all that easy. I’m pleased to be parenting in a new era of awareness about how to do things differently!

American Psychological Association: Eliminate physical punishment

August 10, 2009

Scientific American reports today that a task force appointed by the American Psychological Association concludes that “parents and caregivers should reduce and potentially eliminate their use of any physical punishment as a disciplinary measure.”

[Task force chair psychologist Sandra A. Graham-Bermann of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor]  explained that the group of 15 experts in child development and psychology found correlations between physical punishment and an increase in childhood anxiety and depression, an increase in behavioral problems including aggression, and impaired cognitive development—even when the child’s pre-punishment behavior and development was taken into consideration.

Read the full article.

Carol Becker: Our children’s future is now up to us as a nation

August 6, 2009

A Yes Vote in the upcoming referendum supports a law that is working effectively to help bring about a cultural change in New Zealand to move away from physical punishment of our children.

Plunket New Zealand President, Carol Becker, says the referendum on Section 59 represents the next step of a journey New Zealanders must take to ensure the safety of all children growing up in this country.

“What we achieve for the sake of our children’s future is now up to us as a nation. We must all take responsibility to bring about universally healthy parenting behaviours and attitudes. By supporting each other, we can all help to create the healthy caring environments children need to thrive.”

Carol says, “Those practical, effective ways of building a good parent-child relationship and of shaping and guiding a child’s behaviour empower and strengthen us all as parents. This in turns leads to well adjusted, happy children and a stronger, healthier future as a nation.

In addition to supporting one another, there are a number of options available to parents keen to enhance their parenting skills. For example, Plunket delivers a range of services on top of our core Well Child health visits – all at no cost to the participant. There are parenting education courses, informal playgroups, and even courses on how to deal with young children as part of the school education. For urgent advice or support, PlunketLine offers a 24 hour seven days a week service.

“Children of all ages respond to praise and encouragement and need a structured, secure world that includes consistency and predictable consequences. They need to know they are loved and what the rules are.

“Not everyone was raised like this. It is important for the sake of all our children – and for parents themselves – to seek the kind of support that works for them to create that safe, loving, and secure world for their own children.

Groups such as Plunket are here to work alongside and support New Zealand parents in what truly must be a nationwide commitment to creating strong, healthy families and strong, healthy communities.”

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

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