Never an excuse for smacking a child

13 July 2015

A recent article by Duncan Garner in the Dompost nicely reflects the views and understanding of a father who does not believe hitting children is ok. It also raises the issue of child abuse and the fact that this is a major problem in New Zealand. Readers’ comments on the article indicate that eight years after the law was reformed, many people do not understand why law change was a good thing. Reducing serious and deadly child abuse was never the primary reason for seeking law reform – those advocating law change understood that child abuse was a complex issue with many contributing causes including intergenerational family violence, drug and alcohol abuse and poverty and other family stress. It was hoped that over many years the law change and information about positive, non-violent parenting might contribute to changing attitudes but this was never going to be an instant fix or immediate solution to child abuse on its own. Here are some reasons why the law change was such an important move for our children.

  • It respected children’s rights to be protected from physical attacks on their person and put them on the same basis in law as others in society.
  • It reflected current research evidence that children subjected to physical punishment are more at risk of a wide range of poor developmental outcomes than those that are not hit.
  • It encouraged parents to find safe, effective and non-violent means of disciplining (guiding) their children. The best way to teach a child respect is to respect them. Hitting another person, whatever their age is not a respectful act. Likewise hitting someone, whatever their age, does not teach them how to behave well – it teaches them to hit.