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.”
The cost of child maltreatment is staggering, yet our willingness to live with the consequences suggests that we remain in a state of denial. The consequences of child maltreatment include:
Human costs to victims: child fatalities, child abuse related suicide, medical costs, lower educational achievement, pain and suffering.
Long term human and social costs: medical costs, chronic health problems, lost productivity, juvenile delinquency, adult criminality, homelessness, substance abuse, and intergenerational transmission of abuse.
Costs of public intervention: child protection services, out-of-home care, child abuse prevention programmes, assessment and treatment of abused children, law enforcement, judicial system, incarceration of abuse offenders, treatment of perpetrators, and victim support.
Costs of community contributions by volunteers and non-government organisations.
Translating overseas estimates of the costs of child abuse and neglect to the New Zealand context suggests that it imposes long term costs in the vicinity of $2 bn per year, ie in excess of 1% of GDP every year. Roughly one third of this cost relates to dealing with immediate consequences (eg health care, child welfare service, and justice system costs). Another third relates to ongoing health, education, and criminal consequences for child abuse victims in later life. The final third results from a decline in productivity as victims fail to meet their potential.
Reducing the incidence of child maltreatment would not only have a profound impact on the quality of life for potential victims but, by reducing our need to support victims, it will also materially improve the wellbeing of the rest of society.
Prevention is more effective than correction. The main reason for this is that maltreatment has lifelong impacts on the victims. The trauma of maltreatment can inhibit brain development in ways that mars intellectual, communication, social, and emotional abilities. Victims of child abuse face a greater risk of failing at school and of being emotionally alienated from society. That so many victims of maltreatment go on to lead essentially normal productive lives is a testament to the general resilience of human nature. But these victims have done it tough. Life could have been so much better and productive if their formative years had been less stressful. And then there are the walking disaster areas who go on to impose huge costs on themselves and the rest of society.
Abusive behaviour is not constrained by socio-economic status, but research has identified a number of risk factors that increase the potential for child abuse. Key markers of child maltreatment include:
Parental age and education, eg young or uneducated parents might not be naturally as well equipped to deal with the stresses of parenthood.
Parental mental health problems such as depression.
Social deprivation, in particular a lack of wider family support.
Alcohol or other drug dependency issues.
Past exposure of parents to interpersonal violence or abuse.
Poverty might exacerbate these pressures, but it is not clear that it is a root cause.
In New Zealand, agencies such as Barnardos, Plunket, Preventing Violence in the Home and many others play a critical role in supporting families to do their best for children.
Also the government’s commitment to preventing child maltreatment has increased considerably in recent years. Child, Youth and Family’s appropriation for education and preventative services for children increased from $16m in the 2004 Budget to $166m in the 2008 Budget. This increased spending has the potential to reduce the incidence and therefore the future cost of child maltreatment. But is it sufficient? Will services provided be effective? And what guarantee have we that the current commitment will be maintained?
A common problem with government sponsored programmes is their top-down, planned design. Large-scale programmes may miss the factors that made small-scale programmes a success or have difficulty obtaining success in different environments. Large programmes also have a propensity for diverting resources away from children and their families into running the bureaucracy and creating an overarching infrastructure.
Large-scale programmes can succeed if they have the following three features:
The programmes focus on at-risk children and encourage direct parent involvement.
There is a long term commitment to reducing the incidence of child maltreatment, including changing attitudes about physical punishment.
The programmes reward successful outcomes in order to encourage high quality and innovative practices.
A way of maintaining commitment would be to create a public endowment that would fund the provision of child and parent support services. A fund would clearly signal an ongoing commitment to reducing the incidence of child maltreatment, a focus on service rather than bureaucracy, a reassurance to service providers that there will be consistent demand for their services, and a willingness to fund effective, specialised and innovative services.
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.
Druis Barrett resigned from The Families Commission today in protest at Christine Rankin’s appointment.
In an excellent interview on today’s Morning Report (listen below), she says “I wouldn’t go as far as to say that [Christine Rankin] was racist, but she’s damn well close to it”. In the same interview, Hone Kaa agrees with her, saying that Rankin’s comments were unhelpful.
The Herald reports that Rankin’s comment that so upset Barrett was “Maori whanau don’t look after their own, and that [they] should be responsible for the many children that are at risk and have been killed”, implying that Māori were doing nothing about the problem.
In fact, groups like Te Kahui Mana Ririki, Save The Children, Barnardos and Plunket have been running Māori led programs to attack these problems for years.
Set clear expectations for your child’s behaviour, and explain why you want them to behave that way.
By the age of one or two most children can understand more words than they can say. That means they can start to learn from the explanations you give them.
All of us can think of times when we have gained someone’s co-operation by providing them with an explanation.
Managing children’s behaviour is no different. Explanations tell children what, why, or how. Be clear about what you want your children to do—and what you don’t want them to do.
Explain to your child how their behaviour affects others, or why you want a request to be followed.
Reflect on a recent incident with your child, and what you said to them. Did you give a clear explanation? Did your child understand? Did you behave in a way that maintained a warm relationship between the two of you?
Managing behaviour of kids doesn’t have to be a mystery. Stepping into their shoes and seeing the world from their eyes is often quite revealing. That could mean asking yourself why they might be doing what they’re doing and what your own behaviour is saying to them.
Children explore and experiment to find out about the world and their place in it. They climb, taste, poke, jump, touch and ask a million questions to make sense of what’s around them and learn where their boundaries are.
Guiding all this exploration by making sure they stay safe and have plenty of new things to learn about means you’re helping them develop the skills and understanding they need for the years ahead.
Consistency is the key – always behave in the way you want your children to.
Yesvote.org.nz has been live less than two weeks now, but we’ve already managed to attract a fantastic list of supporters.
The list includes NGO’s, health care providers, blogs, professional organisations, private companies, religious organisations, concerned individuals, and others.
We update our list regularly, and we’d love you to register yourself and/or your organisation on our supporters page.
The striking thing about this list is that it is mainly composed of people who have to deal with the consequences of physical punishment, and thus have an interest in doing whatever they can to prevent it. These are the ambulances at the bottom of the cliff who have built a fence at the top, and don’t want to see it torn down.
We’re interested in your own views and/or stories from your organisations that we can publish on yesvote.org.nz. If you’d like to submit an item for publication, please contact us.
We’d also appreciate it if you linked to yesvote.org.nz from your own web sites and blogs – let’s get the word out as widely as possible among the best support group ever.
So far, the following organisations have recently registered their support for The Yes Vote Campaign 2009:
Two Hamilton-based child advocacy groups are adding their weight to a coalition of child welfare agencies preparing for a war of words with supporters of a referendum to change the controversial “anti-smacking” law.
The debate over the 2007 law, which removed the defence of “reasonable force” in the physical punishment of children, has reignited ahead of the August referendum.
Child Protection Studies chief executive Anthea Simcock and Parentline chairwoman Margaret Evans say both Hamilton organisations support Barnardos, Save the Children, Plunket, Childspace and other groups in countering what they say is misinformation about the repeal of Section 59.
“There is always going to be debate but at the end of the day if we can keep some children safe by changing adults’ attitudes towards violence then that’s worth doing,” Mrs Simcock said.
The coalition is shaping up against lobby group Family First and others championing the referendum on whether smacking should be a criminal offence.
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said polls consistently showed the public was against the smacking ban, and the Government could drop the referendum estimated to cost up to $8 million.
“National and Act could change the law right here and now and that’s what they should do, because that’s what the country’s demanding.”
Family First did not want a return to the law as it was previously, but rather one that allowed light smacking. But Mrs Simcock said this would be a return to the previous law which in one high-profile case allowed a father to get away with hitting his child with a piece of wood.
“What is ‘light smacking’? It’s a bit like a little bit of speeding.”
She said the new law would take a while to “bed in” but she believed it had already begun to change attitudes. “It’s making parents think twice before they just lash out.”
If you are going to use or distribute material from our campaign in any way, eg remixed or mashed up, please ensure that your actions are compliant with the relevant legislation, as the Yes Vote Coalition cannot take responsibility for actions beyond our control or knowledge.
The bottom line is that we want to play by the rules. We appreciate your support, but please act ethically, thoughtfully, and within the law.