November 2005

Children's views

Insights: Children and young people speak out about family discipline.  Wellington.  Save the Children, 2005.

In this excellent publication Terry Dobbs reports on her group interviews with over 80 children from around New Zealand about their views on family discipline.  Much of the discussion centres on the children's experience of physical punishment and what they understand about it.

The findings are contrary to the views we are commonly given by those who defend the use of physical punishment.

Most adults who defend physical punishment say that it is not abuse - they see physical punishment as the use of light and occasional smacks.  The children in this survey had never been known to the child protection services and their parents gave consent to their involvement in the research.  92% of the children reported experiencing physical punishment and many children described being smacked and hit around the face and head and with implements.

Adults who advocate the use of physical punishment promote its use by parents when they are calm and rational and deny that parents mostly hit in anger.  Children in the survey described very angry and out of control adults.

Many adults still claim that physical punishment is effective in shaping good behaviour.  Children reported feeling resentful and angry when they are smacked - such emotions do not contribute positively to good behaviour.

Many adults claim they were hit as children and that it did not do them any harm.  Children could see the connection between being hit and being aggressive themselves.  All younger children were clearly against smacking but older children had begun to rationalise and justify its use - an indication that they were normalising and internalising violence.

Some quotes from the children

- You get a slap across the face or a clip around the ears (7 year old boy).
You feel upset because they are hurting you and you love them so much and then all of a sudden they hit and hurt you and you feel they don't care about you because they are hurting you (13 year old girl)
Adults hit in anger; they may not mean to hurt the child but they do (13 year old girl).
- Smacking doesn't really work cause they (parents) have to keep doing it (9 year old boy)
- There is got to be some other ways to discipline rather than hitting kids.  You never forget what happened to you when you were younger (14 year old girl).

Copies of the book can be bought from Save the Children This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it for $25.