Tuesday, August 9, 2011

spare the rod

Tai Chi Master Uses His Skills To Discipline Children

uploaded by RawKibbe

There are plenty of different approaches people can take to the discipline of children.

There’s the fundamentalist approach:
“The Barble says, in Dooteronomee twenny-wurn that if yore chile is stubbern and rebelyuss you should stowne him.”

Then there’s the Frankghanistonian approach:
“What did you f*&^%$#well say to me you little @#$%? How many *&^%^$ times do I have to tell you not to swear?”

Another popular approach is the hands-off method:
“You useless clumsy no-good stupid idiot, you’ve made me very angry now go and sit in that corner and have a good think about what you just did wrong.”

Today’s Herald-Sun has the headline LET PARENTS SMACK KIDS screaming from the front page.
The Victorian government, conducting a review of our Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, has received submissions from a range of groups including churches, municipal councils and gay and lesbian rights groups.

Should we dump our common law right to smack children providing the force isn’t unreasonable or excessive? Community expectations of how children should be disciplined, of what is unreasonable or excessive, are fairly evident in everything from talk shows to vox pop surveys.

If we incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into our own Human Rights Charter, will it necessarily create more work for lawyers or judges than the common law already does?

Article 19
(Protection from all forms of violence): Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. In terms of discipline, the Convention does not specify what forms of punishment parents should use. However any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour – ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child's level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration. In most countries, laws already define what sorts of punishments are considered excessive or abusive. It is up to each government to review these laws in light of the Convention.

CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation says, of using force to discipline children, “If parents are really angry or frustrated at the time that they’re doing it they could inadvertently hurt kids and that’s our concern about it.”

I had some visitors one day who’d taken an extreme, hippyish philosophy when raising their kids. Their seven year old started whacking the side of the house with a stick. The mother completely lost her nut and started belting the kid in frustration, but she was out of control, so I told her to stop.
In turn, I was given the tired old “you don’t have any children so you don’t know what it’s like mind your own business” routine.

Now I don’t like the idea of someone destroying my property any more than I like being constantly dismissed just because The Other is the same gender as me, but belting a child up after seven years of rewarding feral behaviour is not overly fair.

I know it’s hard to reason with a two-year old: I was two myself, once, and that lasted 16 years, so I’ve got some insight. But this girl was seven and old enough to talk with.

Children are better off in the long run if they are taught to consider other people, and learn about responsibility and learn that behaviour has consequences. The younger a child is when this training starts, the easier it will be later.

What’ll it be customers, jail later or a little age appropriate discipline right from the start?

Dysfunctional parent figures tend to perpetuate dysfunction, and no law is going to protect kids from verbal or psychological abuse.

Touchy feely talk shows or government sponsored education programs can provide hints for people about reasonable and useful ways to discipline children. At the same time as they offer advice, they should take care they don’t just add to an already over the top expectation that parents must be perfect.

We can’t protect everyone in the world from everyone else with legislation alone. A Human Rights Charter will usually be a statement of principles, not a law designed to punish parents from trying to do the right thing.
A headline that reads ‘Church opposes ban on corporal punishment: LET PARENTS SMACK KIDS’ is a rather desperate interpretation of inquiry submissions.

Tabloids are prone to tackiness, and this is just another example of news as entertainment. Maybe even news as sport. Sadly, sanity doesn’t sell.
Of course there is a nicer way to arouse the curiosity of a newspaper audience - if you would like to see it, click 'here'. 


  1. I have two dogs and surprise surprise they don't talk also compared to children they are not that bright but the important point is I don't smack them to train the behaviour I want.

    Mostly I reward them with food because they are interested in food and pay attention to what I want in order to get it. They are not interested in being smacked but if you go down that route instead of thinking "what do I have to do to get the food" all they are thinking is "shit better get away from this guy before he hits me again"

    I suspect small children who also don't talk and aren't that bright compared to adults are probably much the same.

    Just to avoid the "you have no kids" line, I do and I don't hit her either and she is well behaved because we discuss the consequences of her behaviour in terms of "whats in it for her" the equivalent of the food for the dogs.

    So I don't think you need a right to smack your kids and it has already been outlawed here in NZ. I do think parents need to be taught alternative techniques for getting the behaviours they desire because as we know kids don't come with a how to manual.

  2. Hi Big Dog,

    Didn't know about the law in NZ, that's interesting. I like that comparison between dogs and two year old humans [in the nicest possible way] so I'm going to use that in future.

    In one letter to editor today a woman writes that if she had known alternatives when she was younger she would never have smacked her kids, so more "Kid Whisperer" reality TV shows might be good.

  3. I think the problem with discipline is each child is different. All these gurus write these self-help parenting books with the idea, if you follow their instructions, your child will never be the one who screams at the grocery store or hits kids at the playground.

    Some things work with some kids and other things work with other kids.

    Sometimes I see parents struggling with their kids. I see that what they're doing isn't working. Yet I'm not sure what WOULD work with those particular kids.

    The problem I see with reality TV shows (although I never watch them so I could be wrong) is that children tend to behave better when it's a stranger giving out the discipline. I think part of it's the shock value. And it doesn't have to be a stranger. It could be any one besides the parents...grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbor, etc.

    When I was a preschool teacher I learned that children are often angels at school and then they go home and act like little demons with their parents.

    This is the only parenting source I can easily tolerate these days.


    Instead of giving dogmatic advice, they look at what scientific studies have shown. I think it's more balanced than other things I've seen.

  4. Hi Dina,
    I absolutely agree with you that all children have unique personalities. Two children from one home can turn out quite differently.

    The website you mention looks interesting. I've bookmarked it for a closer look.