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Boniface hits the mark

Written By: - Date published: 9:21 am, June 10th, 2009 - 9 comments
Categories: child discipline - Tags:

From Linley Boniface in the Dom 0n Monday:

…My kids love hearing about the teacher who used to soak his strap in warm water every morning; about the uncle who was regularly caned on the back of the legs for refusing to get a haircut; about the family friend whose secondary school had a tradition of caning the last boy home from the annual cross country.

Presumably, my children are enthralled by these anecdotes for much the same reason that I used to be transfixed by stories of the thumbscrew, the rack and the dunking-stool: because there’s a perverse pleasure in rubber- necking on barbarism from a safe distance.

The notion of corporal punishment in schools is thrilling rather than scary for my kids because it is unimaginable to them that their teacher might beat them until they bleed for spelling a word wrong. School has inevitable trials, but my children have never associated it with pain, terror and humiliation.

New Zealand was among the last countries in the industrialised world to ban corporal punishment in schools, but attitudes have now changed to the point where most parents would be outraged at any suggestion that teachers be allowed to take a belt, strap or cane to kids.

Bafflingly, though, it appears to be the location of the beating rather than the act itself that some of us object to. We don’t want kids being hit in the classroom, but we’re happy for them to be hit in the home.

Despite clear evidence that the world around us is chock-full of people who couldn’t successfully raise a family of tadpoles to adulthood, we believe anyone above the age of 18 can be trusted to use restraint, caution and common sense in deciding exactly how hard to hit the children in their care.

This is presumably why, in July and August, we will go through the utter tedium of yet another public consultation exercise on the child discipline law.

Two years ago, by a majority of 113 votes to 8, Parliament gave children protection from physical assault by their parents. Advocates of smacking claimed the changes would lead to the criminalisation of good parents, but this has not happened.

Police reviews of the law have found that there are very few complaints about smacking, and that parents are not being prosecuted for minor assaults.

Opponents of the law change started getting signatures for a petition calling for a referendum even before the act was passed. So now – even though this was one of the most widely debated policy changes in New Zealand’s recent history; even though it was passed by a huge majority; even though the law is clearly working well – we’re about to spend $10 million on a postal vote referendum….

She makes a good point and she makes it damn well. Who knew that she could write so well? A serious message conveyed with wit and good prose. You’ve been selling yourself short with the normal junk, Linley.

9 comments on “Boniface hits the mark ”

  1. Bill 1

    Yes, I agree that children should be afforded legal protection from beatings. What follows is not intended to question that, rather than some of the assumptions that surround non-clipping around the ear punishments/ control measures.

    Seen it ‘a million’ times. Humiliation and other forms of psychological abuse being dished out by (mostly) middle class parents on their kids. The power differential is more marked and I’d argue that the effects are more pernicious than measured physical discipline.

    Getting clipped allows a sense of control to be retained by the child on the receiving end…even if only in the shape of defiance. Psychological alternatives don’t. They keep racking up and changing until signs of defiance are gone. (Akin to a smack escalating to a beating?)

    See, when I was at school, the belt was still in use. Usually there would be alternative punishments available. (eg detention, lines etc) It was up to the pupil to choose between the options available. 9 times out of 10, the belt was opted for over the other forms of punishment. Why? Well, it wasn’t some macho peer pressure. It was simply because it was done. It was over.

    Other punishments were chosen only when the teacher was known to be particularly good at giving the belt.

    I don’t want to see kids getting physically beaten…we know this can have psychological consequences. Hypocritically, it appears that many find the inflicting of psychological consequences just fine as long as they are not as the result of some physical act.

    • Ianmac 1.1

      Your argument is a bit like saying “Which will you choose? Hanging or guillotine?”
      “What’s that! Are you suggesting that there are better more positive ways of dealing with you?”
      I was caned in my first week in the 3rd Form at Christchurch Boys High School. I didn’t mind much but the lack of imagination in dealing with miscreants is monumental still today. Lines? Detention? Smacking? Give me a break! (I was later caned for refusing to go to detention on the same day given???)

      • The Voice of Reason 1.1.1

        Back in the day, my third form class had a competition to see who got caned the most. We particularly liked antagonising the music teacher, who had the weakest arm and inflicted little damage. The sports master, on the other hand, had a technique that seemed to be modelled on Dennis Lillee’s delivery action. Every one on the same spot. Every one a ripper. So we didn’t piss him off if we could avoid it.

        My point is that the caning did not modify our behaviour, except to make it worse.

        • Ianmac 1.1.1.1

          Then there was the PE teacher who was pissed off and lined up the entire class. “Bend over boys.” He walked along the line giving each backside a crack with his cane. Respect? Like? Fear? Bast**d!

          • bilbo 1.1.1.1.1

            Meh …… the times I remember getting the cane at school I deserved it.

            That said there were certain teachers who were too ready to use the cane just as there were some whose reputation meant they never had to use the cane and some who just put up with anarchy and mayhem in their class.

            Different kids respond to different punishments/sanctions ……… Gawd knows how the poor teachers control some of the sods at highschools these days.

    • pharmajoe 1.2

      The new conrol method.
      What do you think of the medicalising of misbehaviour?

      What sense of responsibility for actions can children ever learn under this form of ineffective social control.
      If you are “ill’ you are not responsible for your actions?

  2. Bill 2

    Ianmac.

    I guess what I’m trying to highlight might be better illustrated by the following example.

    Back in the day some kid might have been going to be switched by his father.

    Two scenarios.

    In the first, the father reaches for the switch, whacks the kid on the arse and that’s it. It’s all over.

    Or the father instructs the kid to go down by the river and cut the birch or whatever that the father will whack his arse with.

    In the second scenario there is a whole extra psychological component to the punishment that is absent from the first.

    Another example could be the old “Wait til your father gets home!” chestnut. ie deliberately prolonging the punishment and intensifying it.

    These days it’s all meant to be psychological. And that was always the worst part of punishment. The physical shit only persisted as long as the sting.

    Also, the power differential exists in both the physical and psychological sphere between adult and child. The former is easily gauged as to its impact and can be altered accordingly. The same cannot be said for the latter.

    As voiceofreason implies, physical punishment leaves your integrity in tact. I don’t believe the same can ever be said for the power trips behind the oh so PC corrective measures popularised by the likes of ‘Super Nanny’ et al.

    Lastly. If a teacher is a sadistic bstard, the regime of physical punishment leaves you mentally armed to the point where you can simply tell them to fcuk off. Doesn’t matter how much stronger than you they are.

    But in a battle of minds? The kid loses every time and their behaviour inexorably altered over time. Yet that is seen as more civilised? It’s not. Not in my book anyway.

    edit. And then there is Pharmajoes comment and I wonder how much the medication of behaviour flows from the penchant to exert control through psychological means.

  3. pharmajoe 3

    Bill I would recommend a great book on the topic;
    Questionable behaviour by Robert Spillane

    ADD did not exist until it was manufactured for profit and now in Australia they are giving the under 5yr olds diagnosed with depression ECT as treatment.
    Its all about control.

    • Bill 3.1

      Cheers. pj. Sounds interesting.

      It’s bothered me for quite some years now that so many in the adult population seem to be hobbling on anti-depressant crutches.

      Big pharmaceutical putting kids under a behavioural spotlight ( convincing society of the veracity of their conclusions) and selling ‘cures’ to unorthodox behaviours is no surprise..get ’em young and you got ’em for life!

      Put chimps in a cage and watch their behaviour. Don’t be stupid enough to rip out the bars and set them free. That doesn’t make money. Medicate the shit out of them. The fact they’re trying to rip the bars out themselves gives enough reason for them to be seen as destructive, maladjusted and deserving of a pharma fix.

      jeez. rant over

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