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A wake-up call for parents who smack their children

Most parents want what’s best for their children. But when it comes to discipline, some misguidedly use physical force to punish or intimidate. Let’s be clear: hitting and unnecessarily hurting children…

We need to support and educate parents to change their outdated attitudes about smacking. Image from shutterstock.com

Most parents want what’s best for their children. But when it comes to discipline, some misguidedly use physical force to punish or intimidate. Let’s be clear: hitting and unnecessarily hurting children is never justified and is never okay.

The Australian government has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). In other words, Australia recognises children as people with rights. So it’s time for governments in Australia to join the 33 enlightened countries in the world, including New Zealand, and ban the physical punishment of children in all settings, including the child’s home.

A successful ban on physical punishment of children must also be accompanied by a campaign to support and educate parents to change their outdated attitudes about “smacking”.

Harms of physical punishment

Physical punishment, even when it’s called “discipline” or “smacking”, can inflict both short- and long-term harm on children. We now know, through rigorous research, that there are associations between physical punishment and the adoption of aggressive and violent behaviours, impaired mental health, and other health issues and disadvantages.

Even without the research evidence, we intuitively know that hitting and unnecessarily hurting people affects warm and trusting relationships. Our children are the adults of the future. How we treat our children today will affect their health, self-esteem, and sense of well-being.

Changing behaviour

Australia has been at the forefront of many public health reforms such as seat belts in cars, tobacco control and condom use, but we’re yet to see a similar wake-up call on physical punishment.

But how do you get parents to change their behaviour – to stop “smacking” their children?

Metro Trains' recent, highly successful animated public education campaign, titled Dumb Ways To Die, is a good example of how an advertising campaign can help change outdated attitudes and risk-taking behaviours. In this case, it promotes rail safety to young people via ads in newspapers, on radio, billboards, throughout the Metro Trains network and on Tumblr.

A clever way to talk to young people about rail safety

The campaign aims “to engage an audience that really doesn’t want to hear any kind of safety message”. As Metro Trains' marketing manager explains, the campaign:

…is designed to draw people to the safety message…We want to create a lasting understanding that you shouldn’t take risks around trains, that the prospect of death or serious injury is ever-present.

An education campaign such as this, with supports and incentives to encourage parents to adopt positive disciplinary methods, may be what is needed to change the outdated attitudes and risk-taking behaviours of parents.

Such a campaign could be both hard-hitting and inspiring; portraying the immediate and possible impacts of physical punishment through words and pictures. It could also provide important information about normal childhood development, and positive ways to interact with, and to set reasonable boundaries for, children.

In Sweden, corporal punishment and other humiliating treatment of children were banned in 1979, and pamphlets were provided to every household with children, and information on milk cartons also told people about the reform and encouraged discussions between parents and children.

The result? Most modern Swedish families practice positive, non-violent discipline. Children are respected, and parents are valued and supported in their important role as models for their children.

Changing the law

Some responsible adults will willingly modify their attitudes and behaviours in light of evidence that motivates desirable change. But sometimes behavioural change only occurs in response to legislation or law reform.

Amending the relevant legislation in each of Australia’s states and territories to explicitly remove the “lawful correction” defence to assault will send a clear message to parents that physical punishment is no longer an excusable form of discipline or control of children. Children will then have the same protection from assault afforded to adults.

Both police discretion and the “de minimis” principle (which discards trivial matters) will guard against the criminalisation of parents who occasionally “smack” their children but physical punishment will be strongly discouraged. Positive changes in attitudes and behaviour will take time, education and parental support.

Giving children a voice

Hitting and unnecessarily hurting children degrades all children who live in societies that allow children to be treated in this way. When given an opportunity to comment on physical punishment, children have said it hurts them physically and emotionally.

At the same time, children empathise with parents who are tired and stressed and who lash out at them in anger, and they understand but question parents' belief that hitting children teaches them positive lessons in how to behave.

Parents have expressed regret for having resorted to hitting their children - they would prefer to use alternative means of discipline that don’t result in anger, tears and resentment. In extreme cases, parents' regrets are futile as their children have been seriously injured - and even killed - when their “physical punishment” has gone tragically wrong.

A public health campaign could provide important information about non-violent ways to interact with and discipline children. Image from shutterstock.com

As children are the recipients of physical punishment, their comments on this issue are often refreshingly candid. As one eight-year-old child said,

Since adults are older, they think they know most stuff but sometimes they don’t…sometimes they’re mistaken.

Another suggested that adults do not “have to smack because you can choose”.

Encouraging children to speak about issues such as “smacking”, and listening to what they say, ought to prompt us to question our out-dated perspectives. We may even finally accept that, as a 12 year-old commented:

…you shouldn’t hit people because there’s a better way…than hurting someone.

The physical punishment of children will continue to be tolerated and defended until responsible, enlightened adults recognise that children are not lesser beings than adults.

Children have human rights to the dignity and respect afforded to other people and they deserve at least equal, if not greater, legal protection from assault. It should no longer be defended.i

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77 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Jack Lindsay

    Consultant

    Corporal punishment for children is a lazy way to parent. "I was spanked as a kid and I turned out okay" is a ridiculous defense, though you hear it repeatedly in discussions about disciplining children. Another reason so many people fall back on it is because it seems, in the short term, to be effective. It almost always stops the offending behavior (albeit replacing it with tears and trauma).

    A parent has to be more creative, patient and consistent if they're going to eschew corporal punishment…

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    1. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Jack Lindsay

      Disagree, Jack. I was NEVER a lazy parent. And I NEVER subscribed to what you've described as "archaic remnants of a bygone era when parents weren't supposed to be friend with their children". My/our kids have been our life. And our grandkids are obviously now just as special and just as much loved. Your way is your way, and in no way better than mine. I smacked (not bashed - smacked) my two when they needed it and, sounds like we've both achieved similar results. The trick is to be able to communicate well with your kids so that they understand they're being disciplined because you love them - in whatever form that discipline takes.

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Jack Lindsay

      Jack, I am glad you feel that way and would encourage you to reflect that in your parenting. What makes you believe that those strategies will work for another family in a different context?

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  2. Janeen Harris

    chef

    It is illegal to hit an adult, yet socially acceptable to hit a little child. We still have a way to go when it comes to recognizing bullying, let alone knowing what to do about it.

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  3. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    A nice article, but it is NOT the role of government to dictate how a family should operate. Laws already exist to prevent the battery of children. Smacking is not the battery or beating of a child. Educate by all means, but do not dictate.

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  4. Billy Field

    logged in via Facebook

    Smacking infant children & animals is futile because they don't understand.

    When you see people doing it perhaps we ought stare at them beseechingly.
    It probably also harms infants mentally.
    As with everything ignorance is the problem...and better education & communication can help. I am for laws against it.

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  5. Pamela Snow

    Associate Professor of Psychology at Monash University

    Couldn't agree more with the arguments presented here. What we euphemistically call "smacking" (assault in any other context) is more about discharging parental frustration than it is about teaching effective self-regulation and appropriate behaviour. We need to better support parents to understand children's developmental needs (and limitations, especially in the pre-school years) and promote effective ways of disciplining children that don't involve physical punishment. If it's possible to raise well adjusted children without smacking (and it clearly is!) - why would anyone promote hitting as a child rearing practice?

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    1. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Pamela Snow

      Do you have personal experience raising children?

      I would associate narcissistic behaviors & beliefs common with 'millennials' to the blind belief in pure mental manipulation & the utterly inept belief in being a 'friend' to our children rather than parents who's role is to protect (from dangerous harm), but mostly in increasing order of importance to teach facts, wisdom, self reliance & troubleshooting skills, love & empathy.

      At a very young age when 'talk' is useless or if they are stubborn…

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  6. Frances Collins

    Former Rural Dweller

    Children as lesser beings? Of course they are not. Why is that statement tied to smacking? Again we have the issue of context, belting a child or whacking into a child is abuse. To em smacking is different. It is a parents job to ensure a child grows up with many skills, including knowing boundaries, limits and to accept the consequences of "no". For the children who cannot or will not be reasoned with, a part of that journey may require a short sharp smack.

    Having a first child who could be…

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    1. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Frances Collins

      Dear Frances

      Your identity as a rural dweller offers no mitigation but uncomfortable evidence in terms of the known link between rural attitudinal social conservatism, human rights abuse and health and educational deprivation.

      What's more, contrary to your assertion, hitting an adult is strictly illegal. One can be had up on an assault charge if a complaint is registered with the police. The only exception to this rule is when mutual consent is obtained.

      A child cannot be a party to this…

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    2. Frances Collins

      Former Rural Dweller

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Thanks for the glimpse into your persona Michael. Your astute hypothesis of my handle is clever. Rural dweller is perhaps as you contend, then again perhaps not. I shant make any assumptions of your handle, I don't have the education, and would dislike to offend. My affinity with rural is also a delight in nature, the stillness, the flora, the fauna, the beauty, the otherworldliness of the bush. Also, a learning of duality, of parallel worlds. In the bush, vision in one direction will bring forth…

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    3. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Frances Collins

      Thanks, Frances, but my persona has nothing to do with it. Nor even the fact that I have a doctorate (which doesn't make me an academic).

      I work outside the university and within the private sector and deal with all persons on this blog and beyond, without fear or favour even at the risk of chip-on-the-shoulder types who manufacture snide remarks about academics when their anti-intellectualism is exposed.

      And if you live in the same city as I do it makes you an urban dweller, so I can't see…

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    4. Frances Collins

      Former Rural Dweller

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Thanks Michael, i beg to differ, your comments do give insight, as do mine and anyone else here.

      The posting to this city is a temporary one, my first experience of urban living- just 3 months here so far Michael.

      The context of the smacking was in relation to the "illegality" of hitting an adult. Nothing to do with children. Was to do with context of an adult "hitting" an adult. Not all hitting is illegal, not all hitting is an assault - some people greet by hitting each other (on the back…

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  7. Andrew Brown

    M. Professional Accounting, B. Arts (Public Policy & Sociology)

    Two immediate responses
    - the first is that I would argue both positions, whether to use or not use 'corporal punishment', have a significant problem; they both ASSUME that one size does and will fit all. Having spent around four years in youth work, I'd suggest that such a position is ridiculously simplistic as would I guess any parent who has sought to be creative with disciplining their children; children are all different and even that which works at one point in a life stage may not work at…

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    1. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Andrew Brown

      Exactly Andrew, but unfortunately legitimising the rights of unborn people would encroach upon the untouchable rights of women/feminists to 'change their mind' after procreation. Once cannot be PC & question womens rights.

      Ergo, the uncomfortable silence by these so called academics on the matter...

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Robert Attila

      Another chip on the shoulder carrier, I'm afraid you are, Robert. I know several female and male academics, who are pro-refugee and who don't believe in termination purely as a matter of choice. I am proud to be counted as one of them.

      I also acknowledge that the pro-refugee lobby is broad-based and should not automatically be conflated with the pro-life and anti-smacking lobby.

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    3. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I dont have a chip on my shoulder about academics per se. My sister was a Dr (dietician), Academic & researcher (b4 going into business for herself to make real $), & i have a B.Com degree, & continue to study informally in many fields. Of course large groups of people wont be homogeneous in many respects, so my comments only relate to those individuals who directly believe as i stated.

      I do question intellectuals with little or no life experience in a subject relying on 'theory rather than…

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    4. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I fear passing yet more laws is an admission of failure on the part of society. Education during pregnancy is a must about discipline which should avoid well meaning but excessive application of smacks.

      A light smack on the bum will never cause damage & should not attract the ire of the law under any circumstance.

      As for those parents who r heavy handed then let the full force of the law come down on them. So yes, get rid of the current 'defense' in excessive circumstances, but light smacks…

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    5. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      If the excuses of brutal attacks by some parents have been successful due to satisfying 'exemptions' then i would suggest the exemptions should be modified to prevent that.

      However light smacks should be clearly permitted by law.

      i would also suggest that for children & teenagers light smacking is useless since there is little or no pain involved. So if they refuse to listen to their parents & corporal punishment is not permitted what recourse does the state provide to put sense into these kids? otherwise parents will be left high n dry.
      cheers

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    6. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Robert Attila

      Thanks, Rob. Its important to find some common ground on this question and I am grateful for your concessions. As far as I'm concerned the question here isn't about those who administer light smacks being incorrigible. Its about the advantage taken by others who don't do the right thing....in consequence of which our important liberties become licenses for some terrible outcomes. If vigilance is the price we have to pay to protect our kids it seems worth the sacrifice.

      BTW, I was brought up in a Catholic household and school, which notoriously like many others of its time (the 1960s) believed in sparing the rod and spoiling the child. So I understand how hard it is to parent teenagers responsibly, especially without recourse to deterrence. The answer surely lies not in the hands of the state but in parents and educators being on the same page to ensure that children don't get mixed messages about the value of self-control and the responsibilities of freedom.

      Cheers!

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    7. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Robert Attila

      I found that talking at a disobedient small child was counter productive. The bad behaviour was being rewarded with undivided attention. To respond to unacceptable behaviour with talk, is like saying "if you are bad, I will give you lollies".
      The consequences of unacceptable behaviour have to be immediate and unpleasant, without being physically or psychologically damaging. I found that isolation worked best, but that was impossible away from home.

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  8. Kenneth Mazzarol
    Kenneth Mazzarol is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired

    We know nothing about the child born to us. They are complete strangers. We are familiar with their mannerisms because we live with them but we know nothing about their developing hopes and desires. Children from birth are members of the public and as such are entitled to the respect and courtesy that we would expect for ourselves. Remember the Golden Rule, 'do unto others that we would.......................'. While they are little, quietly talk to them, advise them, remind them, in plain English, not the goo goo stuff. But as they grow older, expect good behaviour, Don't become a nag; nag, nag, nag. If the message hasn't got through by early teens, forget it, you are just annoying the kid and the rest of the family.

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  9. Fred Pribac

    logged in via email @internode.on.net

    Interesting article.

    Could you make a stronger case around "harms of physical punishment" please. You have glossed over the research and the reader is left with the impression that any and all physical admonishment necessarily results in negative psychological consequences.

    There is no discusson about comparative harm of physical and psychological methods of behaviour modification for children. My intuition is that rare and minor physical admonishment for a negative behaviour and honest positive reinforcement for good behaviours has much better pyschological outcomes for all parties than the persistent verbal and emotional bullying that is sometimes passed off as non-abusive parenting.

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  10. Fred Pribac

    logged in via email @internode.on.net

    The authors wrote: "Even without the research evidence, we intuitively know that hitting and unnecessarily hurting people affects warm and trusting relationships."

    This statement annoyed me for two reasons. On the one hand the article resorts to appeals to evidence and then in the next paragraph turns to intuition. In effect reducing the arguments to a clash of opposing intuitions.

    Your intuition is clearly not shared by everybody - else - why would we have the long discussons around ... "my dad used to belt me and I'm OK". You are on much firmer ground when you stick to the reported findings from peer reviewed studies.

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  11. Rick Sullivan

    Vast and Various

    There are lots of opinions here and all, including myself, believe our way is right. I smacked and I'll never regret it. For me, the proof is in the pudding - great kids who are now great adults. To now be told by other people (who didn't raise my two kids) that I'm lazy and that "What we euphemistically call "smacking" (assault in any other context) is more about discharging parental frustration" is bemusing. Again, the proof is in the pudding. I've got grandkids now and, if necessary, I'll smack them. And to those who say I'm "lazy" or "uneducated" or that I'm "discharging my frustration" or that I'm "physically abusing" children, I say - you do it your way, I'll do it mine. My experience watching some of the mental and emotional maniuplation techniques utilised by the non-smackers makes me more convinced than ever that my own experience of combinging love and mutual respect and good communication skills with the odd smack is the way to go.

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  12. Chris Richardson
    Chris Richardson is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Doctor

    Do the education campaign by all means. Leave the law out of it. There is already assault laws. Let parents have the discretion decide when physical punishment is appropriate. Lawyers and do-gooders - educate until the cows come home. I support it. But stop making laws about everything. It's insulting and it prevents people making good moral choices for themselves and taking responsibility for their actions upon other people. BTW I don't hit my kids to punish them, but I leave it up to others to decide. There are certainly issues there for people to explore. But lawyers and "social workers", GO HOME.

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Chris Richardson

      Unfortunately, not all parents are created equal. There are some I would not leave with my pet rock.

      How to teach children not to be bullies? By not bullying.

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    2. bronwyn.naylor@monash.edu

      Monash University

      In reply to Chris Richardson

      That's an interesting argument, Chris. What we have recommended is that the special legal defence which allows parents to hit their children be abolished. There is no other group in society for whom the law make a special case allowing them to be hit. So we would like to remove a law, and just leave the law of assault to operate as it does for everyone else.

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    3. Andrew Brown

      M. Professional Accounting, B. Arts (Public Policy & Sociology)

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      The same could be said for social workers, lawyers and anyone else... so what makes your you and those who agree with you the grand arbiters of truth; what is or is not the right approach?

      Going back to the point I made in my previous post, I would argue that good parenting needs to be creative and reflexive tailored to the child and their particular life stage, not a one size fits all, arguably a line that "authorities" on the matter hold to be true

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    4. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to bronwyn.naylor@monash.edu

      Hey, Bronwyn, so here's a plan. If an experienced parent is ever taken to court by, say, one of his children for smacking them (not brutalising, smacking), perhaps he could just defend himself by saying "He hit me first".

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    5. Chris Richardson
      Chris Richardson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Doctor

      In reply to bronwyn.naylor@monash.edu

      Fair enough Bronwyn...but this article is entitled "A wake-up call for parents who smack their children", not "...who abuse their children."

      "A wake up call..." That's a threat. It's clearly about questioning a parent's ability to discern what is an appropriate punishment for their family.

      As I said, I don't hit my kids but I can't agree that rare, measured physical punishment, that causes no serious injury, and is applied by a calm, loving parent, may not occasionally be appropriate for some families. In this case, the rest of society should butt out.

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    6. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna, does this mean you support the one-size-fits-all legislation(based on the lowest common denominator) that the authors propose?

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    7. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Phillip

      It depends on your definition of the state, John. Political philosophers agree that these are many and varied, ranging from the collectivist to the voluntary - the latter brought into being by joint agreement of individuals to create a framework for realising the common good. Not all that is desirable is achievable under a dispensation that is either absolutely social or alternatively abjectly and resolutely individual. The rights of children cannot therefore depend upor rest on the whims of parents but on a framework that is built around an acknowledgment of equal and inalienable rights for all.

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    8. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael. you would classify yourself as a liberal or progressive? Yet you believe in the state parenting for us, deciding what is 'right' and then enforcing that. So, what do you do when the state removes the parent (to jail) or the child from the parent because the parent has smacked the child. How do you reconcile that harm to the alleged harm caused by the initial smack?

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    9. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Phillip

      Dear John

      I have dealt with your hands-off, conservative assumptions about the state as interfering in individual rights elsewhere in this blog. I think it exaggerated just as I would not hand over every individual right to the state.

      The issue here has surely to be the context in which that decision is made and, where rights are concerned, the state has been brought into being to be the final arbiter.

      I may also be progressive but I'm not a scholar in jurisprudence. However, I do know…

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    10. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael, I agree with just about everything you've said. In light of what you've written, why on earth would give the power to state? You know that parents have been charged and children removed from their family because of legislation like that proposed. How can you support such a thing? It's all nice an 'clean' sounding until you allow the government agent the power to decide. You claim it is a minimal change, but that is absolutely wrong. To allow the state into the home to dictate 'appropriate' child rearing strategies is ludicrous. A one-size-fits-all 'solution' that solves nothing - remember, the laws against beating children are already in place. You go too far, Dr.

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    11. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Phillip

      Thanks, John; in which case I'd suggest that its your politics and terminology that provides the answer you are looking for, not your attitudes!

      We live in a post-statist society in which both sides of politics vie with each other to enact or support philosophies of freedom and the market, with only marginal differences between them in the race to dismember regulatory policy and advance privatisation and deregulation.

      Any case built upon removing parental rights relating to the upbringing of…

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    12. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael, as I've said before and with reference to your comments regarding the beating of children, the law already proscribes such behaviour. What you propose is the slippery tail of the slippery slope. It can only end in statism.
      "In my view, most parents have nothing to fear from this; and for the very few that do, ask any hospital administrator or paediatrician or forensic pathologist"
      How can you justify your first sentence? Are you going to hold yourself accountable to those who become the state's victims when you are proved wrong? AGAIN, in the second sentence, the laws already exist to proscribe battery. What evidence do you have that increasing the scope of these laws will have ANY effect whatsoever on the people who are already in breach? All you will achieve is an increase in the number of people falling under the view of the state. It wont stop the beatings by those who already beat their children.

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    13. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Phillip

      Dear John

      Please improve your policy literacy (on post-statism) and knowledge of the law (on exemption) and I'll be happy to hear your solutions to the problem that we have of parents who brutalise their kids and whose excess cannot be contained or redressed because its revealed after the event when the damage has already been done. Until then, I accept that there's little point in pursuing this since, to my every new point and response, you simply adhere to your stuck record.

      Regards
      Michael

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    14. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      As do you Michael. You could at least acknowledge the fact that laws to prevent the brutalisation of children already exist. You could acknowledge that the proposed change to legislation will only increase the 'reach' of the state into the family home and have NO effect on the number of children currently being battered. Finally, you need to acknowledge that your claim that most parents have nothing to fear from this is just that, an unsubstantiated opinion. It mirrors the argument by some that overt government monitoring is not a breach of individual rights because 'only the criminals have something to fear'.

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    15. Chris Watson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I agree with you there. I first abandoned my no-smacking rule when my elder daughter was about three-and-a-half. She immediately started smacking her baby sister.
      Nevertheless, I still think that smacking should not be made illegal, unless parents are supplied with another method of making the immediate consequences of unacceptable behaviour unpleasant.

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  13. Wade Macdonald

    Technician

    I grew up next door to a kid with ADD. Violence towards his parents was a daily occurance no matter the discipline he recieved. Lucky I was 3 years older and knew never to turn my back on the little blighter or my head would have succumbed to a cricket bat! I guess going with the 'don't touch' position some draw on here...this child should have been charged with assault by his parents and/or removed from his parents? By the way...these parents were both great people who got help at every opportunity.

    I will discipline my kids how I see fit...many family situations are far different from my own parents disciplinary tools they used on me and I use on my kids today. So to those on here who have commented about pressing assault charges or staring out other parents who smack should put each situation into context, seek out some background info etc prior to pushing their agenda onto the rest of us.

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    1. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      I'm with you, Wade. Each situation is different. In my experience, treating equal doesn't mean treating the same. Like you, I'm very confident in my own mixture of methods, and this includes the occasional smack. It's scary to contemplate the little Larry Lawyers that will breed as a result of legislation against a smack. Good and decent parents will be unfairly penalised.

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Thanks, Wade. You illustrate my earlier post well. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, similar to hyperkinetic disorder in the ICD-10) is a psychiatric disorder of the neurodevelopmental disorder class in which there are significant problems of attention and/or hyperactivity and acting impulsively that are not appropriate for a persons age. It is diagnosable and classified as a disability and there are several medical and other treatments for it.

      While parents need support to protect…

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    3. Mark Reid

      Principal Consultant at Mahout Strategies P/L at SME Manufacturing

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      How do you define "cruel"?
      In what world would one not smack a wayward animal, like a dog menacing me, my family, or anyone unable to protect themselves. Perhaps allowing the animal to remove a nose, or digit of a child observes its equal right to that child's possession of a nose or fingers.
      Which particular principles must we not suspend in order to equate animals and humans?

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    4. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Mark Reid

      An interesting point, Mark.

      I wouldn't recommend smacking a menacing animal in any circumstances, for fear of being bitten or stung. The RSPCA recommends leaving well alone and absolutely always prosecutes offenders in instances of so-called disciplinary cruelty.

      In the recent case of a child mauled to death in Deniliquin, the offending animal belonged to an unpredictable species and the child clearly was not effectively supervised.

      So the answer, if you insist on posing an absurd question, is in a world in which some proponents of smacking introduce equal rights questions to draw attention away from the issue at hand.

      My original point was simply to show that positive reinforcement works for all sentient beings, whether human or animal. Simply ask Dr Harry!

      Kind regards.
      Michael

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    5. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Mark Reid

      So, Mark. Take heed of Michael Leonard Furtado's advice. When you see a dog attacking your neighbour or chewing up your cat, take the dog aside and counsel it appropriately. Show it the naughty ccrner, or threaten it with time out.

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    6. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Rick Sullivan

      I'm sure you wouldn't be stupid enough to show it the naughty corner or threaten it with time out, Mark, because, not being a vet, I have never tendered such advice, and besides, unlike Rick, you have common sense and would not risk being bitten.

      Instead of stooping to a 'reductio ad absurdum', Rick might have been better advised to ask if I was an absolute pacifist, which I am not.

      Thus if he'd have been clever enough to suggest that I might have yelled "Peace at all costs", as my partner and children were being gored to death by a bull, while I sought refuge up a tree at a safe distance, I might have had a case to answer.

      However, we're discussing children, both disabled and otherwise, and neither homicidal maniacs nor mad dogs, in which instances the law already allows for proportionality in dealing with those exigencies!

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    7. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Dear Michael, you wrote: "However, we're discussing children, both disabled and otherwise, and neither homicidal maniacs nor mad dogs, in which instances the law already allows for proportionality in dealing with those exigencies!"

      Exactly, Michael. And we're defending the common sense and rational disciplinary methods of very good, loving parents. And, as you said, the law already allows for proportionality in dealing with this extingencies :)

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  14. Mark Reid

    Principal Consultant at Mahout Strategies P/L at SME Manufacturing

    The idea that we should invite legal sanction into the privacy of a family raising children is bizarre. It assumes that any and all spanking is cruel. I argue that it isn’t. Like thousands who were spanked when they misbehaved, who occasionally spanked my own wonderful children, it is not the law’s business to assume all parents are cruel, or stupid enough to not recognise the difference between a well-deserved and judiciously administered smack and a cruel senseless beating.
    It’s pretty silly…

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Mark Reid

      "By then it is too late to expect that they will willingly respond to any form of authority until physically forced to do so by lawful arrest."

      Brings up the issue that, presumably, parents will still be able to apply physical force to their children, e.g. pick them up and carry them somewhere, even if "smacking" is banned. The argument is used that "smacking" an adult is illegal assault but then so, technically, is physically forcing them to move. I think there may be some need for a distinction if "smacking" is banned.

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      100% in agreement with you, Chris. It seems that this discussion equates a smack with battery. Anyone with half a brain can see that the two actions are worlds apart.

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  15. Thomas Fields

    "progressive" watcher

    It's funny the way research works: "Progressives" garnering support for their position by linking their thesis to other "progressives" that just happen to agree with their position.

    Excuse me while I engage in my own critical thinking skills, rather than being lectured to by some academic.

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    1. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I am not anti-intellectualism at all, Michael. I am, though, anti-"progressivism." I am about to submit my Ph.D if that helps at all. You can be an intellectual and not tow the "progressive" line, can't you?

      My issue here is twofold: 1. How "progressives" attempt to validate their morality by referring to other "progressive" studies. 2. How "progressives" set up an impossible ideal to follow; that a child should not be "offended" or "hurt" in any way.

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Yes, Tom, there's substance in what you say, but the terms of the debate as you set it up don't encompass all views. I'd be happier with 'idealistic' and have never damned your side with a term that of its very nature coalesces a variety of points of view and sometimes wrongly.

      Thus I've never questioned the fact there are good people on your side who are pragmatists, except that pragmatism, when it comes to raising a hand against a child, is a highly assailable argument to defend.

      Incidentally I'm hardly progressive on several other issues raised by others overhere, as for instance in defence of the rights of the unborn child (cited by Tom Brown) and in regard to which I do not support termination as a matter of choice. Its consistency in our dignified treatment of others, especially the powerless, that I seek, not progressivism.

      Cheers
      Mike

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  16. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Bernadette and Bronwyn, I respect your education and your research it makes me so incredibly sad to see you (and many others in the academia) attempting to dictate the 'correct' path to the community. Not educate, not demonstrate or assist but DICTATE. Don't you see that all you will end up doing is supplanting the role of the parent with the state? If you don't believe or support the nuclear family (I realise that it seems to be on the wane.) by all means, live your life as you choose, but please put the brakes on this never-ending intervention in our lives by the well meaning agents of the government. Remember, that was what the stolen generation and forced adoptions were largely about - well meaning people legislating to 'help'.

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    1. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Phillip

      Grumpy and old you are certainly entitled to be, dear John, but without the liberty to rewrite history;))

      Tragically, the stolen generation and forced adoptions were precisely about the administration of institutionalised ritualised punishments, either in the home to recalcitrant and broken children or within Catholic and Protestant institutions catering to large numbers of such kids and under pressure to ensure that they were manageable and malleable (which is not the same as educable).

      There is no alternative (TINA) to nurturing children than to do so with patience and love. As we expect to be treated by others, by virtue of our shared humanity, so also do children expect the same from us. That is what rights are all about: recognising and actualising our shared humanity.

      Thanks for assisting me with this example, John.

      Mike

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Undoubtedly there are elements of truth in your understanding of the stolen generation and those religious institutions of which you speak . We may disagree over some of the motivations yet you somewhat surprisingly advocated the self same state assault on the family unit which fails to conform to your view on smacking (see my other response to you).

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  17. Jim KABLE

    teacher

    In the context of caning students in schools years ago (when I was a teacher shocked by the amount of it going on in a boys school in Sydney to which I had been appointed) I remember the wise words of Sydney Boys' High Principal Bob OUTTERSIDE - which certainly apply as much to parents as to teachers applying corporal punishment to students - that one beats the Devil in, not out - and that what it all demonstrates is that big people/powerful people have the right to hit little people/powerless people…

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    1. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      Jim, what you refer to was excessive force & is unjustified, but you cant equate extreme examples with light ones to support your premise that all smacks r bad. Try not to let your experiences muddy your opinions on discipline. There is no such thing as one size fits all, its just impossible. there r 7ish billion individuals on this planet, not 7b Jim's or Rob's.

      What you refer to, the logic, etc are perfectly apt regarding beatings but not for a light smack on a young child's bum. You simply…

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    2. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Robert Attila

      Also, nature life can be hard. Most people know how a tiger or alligator or hippo would react if you approach them or throw sticks at them. Nature knows well how to deal with idiots arrogant enough to ignore common sense.

      teaching kids they cant be touched is a recipe for disaster, yet again.

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  18. Rick Sullivan

    Vast and Various

    It would be really interesting to know whether those proposing legislation against moderate parental smacking have a more narrow field of life experiences compared to those who don't see a problem with a smack. I have the greatest respect for academics, but I wonder if SOMETIMES SOME of their views are narrow and unrealistic due to a shortage of life experiences outside the lecture theatre or classroom.

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    1. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Ha ha :) Sorry Michael, but, watching your posts, I'm wondering who's carrying the chip here. But, continue. Nothing anyone has said here will ever convince you you're on a path to nowhere with this. I sincerely doubt Australians will have to endure silly legislation that meddles with good parenting. The laws against assault currently in place are as good as we can hope for, and no amount of unrealistic interference from well-meaning but misguided people will change much at all :)

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Rick Sullivan

      Hi Rick

      Your mockery will get you nowhere, nor indeed your attempts to reduce the authors' and my arguments to your own limited experience and understanding of what is practical and tolerable to Australians.

      No new legislation is planned. However, in the fullness of time exemptions will be lifted and in the event of your expressing your outrage, our fellow Australians might succeed in helping you understand why, while clearly my detailed and respectful explanations of the case for exemptions to be lifted were either not comprehended or were met with evasion and ridicule.

      Sincerely
      Michael

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    3. Ron Bowden

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Rick Sullivan

      I happen to agree with you, Rick. But that doesn't make either of us right or wrong.

      Our children benefited from their upbringing, which entailed vastly more input from us than smacking.

      The variety of opinion on this thread illustrates the point that no one size fits all.

      I find it interesting that the people who advocate making smacking illegal also seem to have the right to arbitrate on others' ethics and how they should behave generally. Wowsers?

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  19. Robert Attila

    Business Analyst

    "Let’s be clear: hitting and unnecessarily hurting children is never justified and is never okay."

    That arrogant statement is enough to sound alarm bells about the lack of impartiality & thus credibility of the author/s.

    It mixes abuse with what many consider to be suitable & legitimate forms of discipline. Seems like academic standards have been dropping since i was at uni if this level of bias is accepted for post-grad work these days. Ah yes, socialism at work...

    "Give children a voice…

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