Ironic really

August 23, 2009

On the weekend when more people voted to say they should be allowed to “smack” their children than voted for the government in the last election (hat tip: Kiwiblog) we find that not only does violence towards children cost lives, it also costs $2bn a year.

Perhaps if we didn’t have some of the worst levels of violence against children in the OECD I could find some sympathy for the argument that parents should be allowed to raise their children as they see fit. I’m a firm believer in the federation approach (International law stops at the national border. National law stops at state level. State law stops at local level. Local law stops at the front gate and so on) but there are some things that simply transcend your rights as a parent.

I’ve seen lots of parents smack their children including my own and including me. Never have I seen an adult say in a calm, sensible manner “I’m sorry, you’ve transgressed one of my rules and I must now administer a firm whack to the backside in order to convince you of the error of your ways” or similar. Not once. Instead every single instance has been of a parent or adult lashing out in anger, losing control.

I remember my last day at primary school in the small village where I grew up in Bristol. There was a kid in my class (can’t remember his name) who was really annoying. He annoyed everyone, including and especially the head mistress.

On the last day in the last assembly he did something to set her off and she hauled him out in front of everyone, pulled down his pants and proceeded to tan his hide.

We were horrified, not at his behaviour but at hers. She completely lost it. She was red in the face, incoherent and flecks of spit were flying everywhere. I seem to recall one of the other teachers having to step forward to put a stop to it.

That was 30-odd years ago but I can see it today as clearly as I could then.

Perhaps if we stop the casual smack of children, perhaps if we stop the pretence that this is all done in the child’s best interests, perhaps if more people step in and say “that’s unacceptable” then we’ll get through to those people on the outside edge who seem to think it’s OK to beat their children to death. Honestly, can we say that the way we handle child abuse today is as good as it gets?

Dita De Boni’s column has one of the most awful pieces I’ve ever read and not because of the writing (far from it). She details an absolute litany of failure on the part of New Zealand parents. It’s well worth a read if only because it counters Michael Laws’ hideous column of self-righteous outrage fit only (really) for the talk back circuit.

At least Mike Moreu gets it.

And why not drop the government a supportive email while you’re at it. It looks like they’re responding a little too sharply to the pollsters these days. Let them hear from the actual voters instead.