Friday, 9 March 2007

4 March - Daily Mail/watchingcyfswatchnewzealand - Stop beating the parents - A history lesson From the UK on smacking

4 March - Daily Mail/watchingcyfswatchnewzealand - Stop beating the parents - A history lesson From the UK on smacking

A history lesson From the UK on smacking: Daily Mail
Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on March 4th, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Sunday, March 4, 2007 pm31 3:22 PM in CYFSWATCH Media

July 7, 2004
Stop beating the parents
Daily Mail, 7 July 2004

The compromise over smacking that was reached in the House of Lords is the thin end of a very large wedge. An outright ban was rejected and an amendment crafted by the LibDem peer Lord Lester was passed instead.

This allows parents to smack a child provided this doesn¡¦t leave anything other than the most temporary of red marks. Otherwise, they may find themselves prosecuted for assault, jailed and banned from working with other young people.

This obviously raises the prospect of police investigations that are as fraught as they are intrusive. The law already provides the means to prosecute parents for assaulting a child if their actions don¡¦t fall within the definition of ˜reasonable chastisement¡§. But removing this defence opens up the disturbing vista of wholesale police intrusion into family life.

Many perfectly law-abiding parents would find themselves suspects in a criminal investigation. The police would be put in the invidious position of having to decide whether a slap amounted to moderate chastisement or a criminal assault. Worse still, they might find themselves acting on a complaint made by a child against perfectly caring parents who are only trying to control bad behaviour.

The government rejected an outright ban to prevent criminalising those parents who may slap a child in the heat of the moment. But the Lester compromise is scarcely any better.

For it still raises the disturbing prospect of parents losing their reputations or livelihoods for exercising discipline in a way which, until now, has been regarded as perfectly normal and even desirable in the context of a loving family.

Of course, no-one would justify beating a child. But the idea that an ordinary smack falls into the category of beating, assault or child abuse is just plain wrong.

Clearly, there is a point at which a ˜reasonable chastisement¡¨ turns into an assault. But the current law allows common sense to decide. Removing that defence plunges both police and parents into a potential quagmire of ambiguity and oppressive intrusion into private lives.

The arguments employed by the anti-smackers are flawed. They claim, for example, that smacking a child makes for a violent adult. But there is no evidence for this whatsoever. Indeed, one might say that Britain was actually a less violent place when corporal punishment was accepted in schools and no-one thought twice about taking a slipper to a child.

It is claimed that smacking is cruel. But in fact, it is surely kinder that the psychological warfare commonly used as an alternative. This kind of emotional manipulation, playing on guilt or fear, or using coldness or indifference as weapons, can be deeply distressing and leave a lingering resentment. And in many instances, this is not as effective as a moderate slap, which shocks a child into awareness that certain behaviour simply will not be tolerated.

It is said that children are being beaten and abused by their parents, for whom the law allows an escape route. But there is little evidence for this either. The problem is rather that the law is not enforced when it needs to be.

The killing of Victoria Climbie, for example, did not occur because she was being smacked. She died because she was subjected to systematic sadism and torture, and because the authorities charged with preventing this were negligent. The linkage made in this bill between her dreadful death and normal family discipline is simply grotesque.

Indeed, after smacking was banned in Sweden, there was a five-fold increase in assaults on children, and many more children had to be taken into care.

All the signs are that when this bill arrives in the Commons, the anti-smacking lobby will push again for an outright ban. Such fervour has little to do with concern for the welfare of children, but is rather about controlling childrenâ£Ã¡™s lives.

The proposed ban fits into a systematic process of undermining the family. Most real abuse, after all, is perpetrated by non-biological parents. Anyone who was seriously concerned to stop such ill-treatment would therefore institute measures to shore up and protect marriage as well as traditional family life.

Instead, these are undermined at every turn, Fragmented families are condoned and encouraged; contraceptives and even abortions are administered to under-age children without their parents knowledge or consent.

Adult authority has been undermined, with laws turning any physical contact between an adult and child into a potential assault. This has caused havoc in schools and childrens care homes. The result has been a wholesale breakdown of discipline, with untold social costs.

Having tied the hands of parents, teachers and social workers, the government now seeks to dictate the terms of family life itself. Through the vast expansion of day care, parenting orders, Sure Start programmes or ˜parental outreach¡§, it tells parents that the state knows better then they do how to bring up their children. A year ago, a government report declared: ˜The government is developing an overarching strategy for all children and young people from conception to age 19¡¨. By what right do they arrogate to themselves the upbringing of children?

For years, parents have been told by ¡§experts¡¨ that parents do their children harm and that they are the last people to know how to look after them. The child expert Dr Miriam Stoppard exemplified this perfectly when she said that parents who smack their offspring should ˜never have had children in the first place¡§. That would include many, if not the majority, of parents.

The real agenda here is power. The smacking ban is yet another step towards the nationalisation of childhood. The lobby group declares ˜Children are Unbeatable¡¨, but it is parents who are being chastised. It seems the state is doing everything it can to beat them down.

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