Tim Beveridge: Anti-smacking legislation was a great move

Tim Beveridge,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 17 October 2018, 12:53p.m.
It's been over a decade since NZ adopting the anti-smacking legislation. Photo / Getty Images

It’s been over a decade since the anti-smacking legislation came into force, removing the reasonable force defence to parents prosecuted for assaulting their children. Now new research out of Canada suggests that young people are less likely to resort to violence in countries where there is a full smacking ban.

Yes, I know as soon as many of you hear “new research” you may be inclined to stick your fingers in your ears and go, “blah blah blah”.

But I would be interested to know how much our attitudes have changed over time and whether the passage of time or evidence, such as that presented by this research, has any impact on people's views on the smacking legislation

I confess that when the smacking law was being debated I was against it. Perhaps because of my own conservative instincts and a fear of injustice.

Possibly I also rebelled against the language used by the chief proponent of the Bill Sue Bradford, who insisted on framing it as a battle between supporters of the legislation, and those parents who wanted to continue to “hit and beat” their children if I recall it correctly. That was no way to win hearts and minds for sure.

The fear of injustice was more an insecurity about how the law would be enforced and that loving reasonable parents might find themselves dragged before the courts.

Fast forward 10 years and I have changed my mind.

Speaking of injustice, the law as it once stood had seen some horrendous miscarriages of justice with some violent abusers somehow managing to escape justice due to the way the old legislation was being interpreted. So, the law had been failing our most vulnerable. It needed fixing.

I wonder how many others have changed their minds. In saying that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are almost as divided as we were back in 2007.

Perhaps the difficulty many people have with social issues such as this is that we prefer to trust our own instincts and are deeply suspicious of those who would tell us how to run our own lives. So, when it comes to studies and research on this issue, we remain deeply suspicious of those observations and conclusions when they conflict with our own.

Maybe this distrust of strangers or instinctive xenophobia, also explains this lack of willingness to trust what scientists and modern studies reveal.

For me, thankfully the evidence of my own life backs up my willingness to listen to revelations of these studies

For example, I would be mortified if I found myself caught in the trap of using violence to get my point across to my own children.

Also, I am not sure I have heard from too many of today’s parents who would wish to change the law to recover their ability to smack their kids.

Most of the people I hear from who remain opposed to the legislation, with due respect, represent previous generations of parents who wish to defend the way they disciplined their children under the previous law.

Earlier this week while discussing the teaching shortage crisis, I had a caller who raised this issue and said that he had had no problem disciplining his children, as he knew just how hard to smack them to make them cry. Hmmm...

Now his kids may have turned out absolutely fine, with happy childhoods and successful lives. But I guess when it comes to these issues, we also have to protect the most vulnerable and I am in no doubt that removing physical force and violence from the equation when disciplining our kids has been a great move.

And now, brace yourselves, we are beginning to see evidence that supports this point of view.

*Tim Beveridge is filling in for Andrew Dickens while he is on Larry Williams Drive this week.