Media release: Barnardos New Zealand 23 June 2009
…The debate around the Referendum ’09 on physical punishment has been widely debated by adults but who is listening to the voice of those who are at the centre of this debate – the children?
As New Zealand’s largest telephone helpline for children and young people, 0800WHATSUP provided an opportunity for children and young people to express their views about physical punishment and whether or not adults should be able to claim a legal defence if charged with assaulting a child.
“The initial results from the survey show that the majority of callers (more than 55 percent) do not think parents taken to court for hitting a child should be let off if they say they were disciplining the child”, says Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand.
“Despite this, comments from the children and young people who participated in the survey suggest many children are conditioned to expect and accept physical discipline from parents”
- If a child thinks parents should be prosecuted for smacking, their opinion is very important and should be listened to. BUT
- If a child thinks otherwise, they have been “conditioned” to think so and their opinion is not valid.
The full report states that the children were asked “Do you think that adults who are taken to court for hitting a child should be let off if they say they were disciplining the child?”. Note the use of the emotive word “hit” here and throughout the messages read to the children. But even with such a leading question, only 55% of children said “hitting” for discipline was not ok. Probably even less than 50% would have said “smacking” was not ok.
In fact, most children recognise that there is a big difference between hitting and smacking, and that physical punishment may be appropriate in some circumstances. Note what the children actually said to the counsellors as reported by Barnardos themselves:
- (Counsellor) “He said it’s not really that good [for parents to hit their child] but it depends on what happened, or what the child did”. He said it depends on whether the child does something ‘really, really, really, really, really bad’, for example, ‘if they break a window on purpose’”.
- (Counsellor) “The interpretation I got from this caller was that she thinks its OK to smack (‘a little tap on the bum’) but that if there are bruises, it is not OK.”
- (Counsellor) “He said that parents should be allowed to hit their children because there were more students getting suspended from school than 10 years ago.”
- [Getting a smack] should be ok…if they are disciplining them for playing up, they deserve it…but it shouldn’t be too hard.” “I behave a bit more when I get a smack.”
Of the 19 children quoted by Barnados, 11 think smacking is ok in some circumstances (but “hitting” may not be) and 8 disagree. That’s not what their media release would make you think.
The title of their media release (Smacking – “It’s wrong, full stop” say children) is a blatant lie.