Praise, encouragement, and keeping our kids safe this Children’s Day

It’s Children’s Day today, a great day to recommit to protecting and caring for not just our own babies but for children everywhere. This year is the 10th anniversary of Children’s Day in Aotearoa New Zealand, which aims to:

• heighten awareness of the importance and needs of children in society, and ways of promoting their development
• promote a national focus on children and motivate adults towards positive appreciation and support of children; and
• promote community responses for the ongoing celebration of Children’s Day through local ownership and widespread participation

There are a heap of activities around the country. Check out what Children’s Day events are happening in your area here.

‘Praise and Encouragement’ is this year’s theme, an important message that often gets lost in the daily work of parenting. I remind myself of this often with my girl, when she is getting up my nose. You know how kids always seem to behave better for other people? That just means that they really are great kids, smart, kind, funny and on to it.

Praising our kids for the great things they do is one of the best strategies for parents seeking alternatives to physical discipline for their kids. It reinforces good behaviour and makes kids feel loved, valued, and less likely to act up in future.

And it’s a timely reminder, especially in light of some awful child abuse cases that have come to light lately (prompting that barking noise we heard from ACT last week).

It was this kind of abuse that our amendment to section 59 of the Crimes Act was all about. Kids deserve legal protection from assault – the same legal standard that we have for adults – and that’s what the law change did.

Last week also saw the release of the Police’s 6th review of how the change to section 59 is working.

Since the law change in 2007 there have only been two prosecutions for acts involving “smacking”. There was one in the last six months, and it wasn’t “trivial” – the victim was left with a visible red welt for three days.

This just goes to show that all the scaremongering about prosecuting “ordinary parents” was just that. We’re not seeing massive number of “trivial” prosecutions. Police have discretion and they are not going after parents for a ‘light smack’.

Police agree that the law change is working well. They say the guidelines their officers have been given for dealing with these cases are appropriate.

The law change that the Greens fought so hard for in the last Parliament was about keeping our kids safe. No longer is there one standard of protection for adults and a lesser one for kids.

We’re absolutely stoked to have achieved this.

I’ll be celebrating this today, and I encourage you all to show your kids some extra special love, praise, and encouragement this Children’s Day.

32 Comments Posted

  1. I clicked through to read about praise and encouragement and have found a passionate debate. As it should be.

    I agree with john-ston and photonz1 that praise can be over used. We have had this discussion at home and finding the balance can be a challenge at times.

    What about the idea of teaching our kids to “praise and encourage” self-motivate themselves to do the right thing and achieve what it is they want to achieve without the reward from others?

  2. solkta – what should have been done all along is a line drawn in the sand as to what is acceptable and what is not – i.e. Burrows ammendment.

    Instead we have a rediculous law; we have police with direct instructions to ignore the changes and effectively do what they were doing before, and over 80% of the population disagreeing with it to the point where it is ignored and ridiculed as stupid and rediculous.

    As for sending messages to people – people who beat up and kill their children don’t listen to messages on murder and assault. They’re certainly not going to listen to a complicated s59 arguement that is ridiculed by the general populace.

  3. yes, photonz1, the “till things get out of control” bit could be the difference between a light smack and a beating, OR it could be the difference between a mild beating and a severe one. The point is that if you send out a message that hitting is OK, then different people will interpret that message differently, and when people implement their interpretations they will have varying degrees of self control.

  4. solka – you are misquoting yourself now.

    solka “what i actually said was the that most of these people BELIEVED that their hitting was reasonable.”

    No – what you actually said was –

    “and those people told her that most “child abusers” genuinely believed they were giving their kids a reasonable smack TILL THINGS GOT OUT OF CONTROL.” (my emphasis)

    The last bit can be the difference between a light smack and a beating – and that’s the crux or the matter – there are people who see no difference between the two, including the likes of Sue on one side, and child beaters at the other end of the spectrum.

    Luckily the vast majority of New Zealanders have a lot more common sense and see a vast difference between a light smack that does no harm and a beating.

  5. photonz1, please stop misquoting me. First you tell me that i said that “parents told Sue”, when in fact i was talking about social service providers. Then you tell me that i said that “social workers say “most” child abuse starts with a reasonable smack”, when what i actually said was the that most of these people BELIEVED that their hitting was reasonable.

    Personally, i don’t hold that any hitting other than self-defence is reasonable and this is why i use the term “child abuser” in speech marks.

  6. solka – I did read your post, and it’s not beleivable.

    It says social workers say “most” child abuse starts with a reasonable smack, yet these same social workers fail completely to report this issue when when their own departments do reasearch on the factors associated with child abuse.

    If this was true – if “most” child abuse started as this, then cyfs would have it on their list of major factors associated with child abuse. They don’t have it as a main factor – they doen’t even list it as a minor factor – it’s not on their list at all.

    And when the world famous Otago long term study looked for a link, could they not find any to support a “slippery slope” theory?

    “Dr Millichamp said the Dunedin study so far found no evidence of the “slippery slope” theory – that parents who started off smacking often progressed to abusive punishments.

    “We couldn’t find any,” she said.”

    All the “slippery slope” theory is, is a convenient arguement against smacking with no factual basis or reasearch to back it up

  7. solka – you say parents told Sue that they started with a smack then things got out of control.

    You were talking about “child abusers” so you WERE talking about people who ignore laws on violent assualt.

    It is interesting that while the “slippery slope” arguement was used a lot by Sue – research has contradicted this as being an issue.

    Cyps has a well known and well researched list of factors associated with child abuse, and smacking is NOT on the list.

    Interesting also that the emotional and psycological punishments advocated instead of a light smack often do MORE harm to children.

    The current mantra of “physical punnishment bad” concentrates wrongly on the TYPE of punishment, instead of on the HARSHNESS of the punishment.

    The type of punishments advocated by “non-smacking” lobby will all cause harm if adminsitered harshly, like harsh physical punishments. The same punishments (including physical) administereed lightly teach boundaries and self discipline.

  8. photonz1, did you read my post? The people I am talking about don’t “ignore laws on violent assault and murder”. They are mostly in fact parents who are doing their best to raise their children but don’t have knowledge of parenting skills that don’t involve hitting. They have heard the message that hitting is OK, but when it comes to the implementation things get out of hand.

    On occasion i have lost my rag and smacked my daughter, and on a couple of times i’ve been quite scared by just how hard i’ve hit her. I find it difficult to not use violence when this was how i was raised, but by the actions of my siblings and i in our family it ends with this generation!

  9. photonz1, I have no issue with much of what you say re praise, but if that’s what john-ston means, his post was decidely not well put.

  10. Valis – Metiria’s links to the police review which states – quote “….as ’smacking’ in itself is not an offence.”

    So contrary to what you and Metiria say – the law is still not the same for adults and children – at least not according to those who police it.

    All they mean is that the word doesn’t appear in the legislation. It never has. The law talks about assult and the change was always about preventing people arrested for assult on a child from getting off in court, as has occurred on several occasions. The police do now and always have had to use their judgement as to whether an assult has occurred in deciding whether to press charges. The law hasn’t changed their criteria as the stats show, so fears that it would were misplaced. For all that, some say there were better ways to achieve this and I accept that may well be true.

    The whole s59 ammendment was a fiasco anyway – a side show that only took attention away from the actual (and well known) factors associated with child abuse (which don’t include an occasional light smack).

    It was a small thing in that there were not heaps of cases of gross abuse being let off, though I’m sure if you were one of the kids abused, seeing the state say it was ok was no small thing at all. There is no good reason to let such things continue. And NO ONE disagrees that there is plenty more that needs to be done to protect children.

    “It is the fact that the law frowns on smacking that will encourage parents to rethink and change their behaviour towards their children such is the influence of formal sanctions in altering humans’ attitudes.”?

    Cross your heart and hope to die?

    Many, many people don’t hit their kids as you point out above. I’m one of them. If that adds up to an agenda, fine, though I’d point out then that its been the state’s agenda for decades, which is why they put out all that info to assist parents raising kids, and is likely part of the reason hitting has decreased.

    But you miss the point. Why should people who beat their kids get off in court? Do you think that’s ok, jh?

  11. john-ston – well put. I know kids who get praised for everything. As they are growing up they are now starting to lack self confidence in a serious way.

    They are perfectlly aware the continual praise they get is largely hollow, so they now think it is ALL hollow and meaningless.

    A recent study on the radio found that children were highly perceptive at recognising false or exagerated praise.

    That’s not to say it isn’t a powerful tool in modifying childrens behaviour. It just need to be used wisely, just like punishments for crossing the boundary.

  12. Valis Says:

    The point of the law was to provide one standard of protection for adults and children, so no one will get let off in court for beating their kids.

    so there was no agenda to (as the editor of The Press puts it):

    “It is the fact that the law frowns on smacking that will encourage parents to rethink and change their behaviour towards their children such is the influence of formal sanctions in altering humans’ attitudes.”?

    Cross your heart and hope to die?

  13. Valis – Metiria’s links to the police review which states – quote “….as ‘smacking’ in itself is not an offence.”

    So contrary to what you and Metiria say – the law is still not the same for adults and children – at least not according to those who police it.

    The whole s59 ammendment was a fiasco anyway – a side show that only took attention away from the actual (and well known) factors associated with child abuse (which don’t include an occasional light smack).

  14. Its a problem, john-ston? For who? How are kids supposed to know what’s expected of them without positive reinforcement? It is very odd that you see no difference between how the police should relate to the public vs how parents should relate to their kids.

  15. “Praising our kids for the great things they do is one of the best strategies for parents seeking alternatives to physical discipline for their kids. It reinforces good behaviour and makes kids feel loved, valued, and less likely to act up in future.”

    The problem there is that we end up praising children for behaviour that should be expected as a matter of course. I don’t have a problem with praise when children do something exceptional, but I have a problem with praise when children are doing something that is expected. I certainly don’t get praise from the police when I keep to the speed limit, or praise from my boss when I am doing my job – those are behaviours that are to be expected.

  16. photonz1, if you’re going to slag greenfly for misrepresenting you, perhaps you could avoid doing the same thing. Metiria makes no such claim. She rightly states that the main unintended consequence of the law change has not materialised. That’s what hasn’t changed. The point of the law was to provide one standard of protection for adults and children, so no one will get let off in court for beating their kids. That change is a good one.

  17. solka – yes (my wife). The people you are talking about already ignore laws on violent assault and murder – they’re certainly not going to take any notice of the s59 ammendment.

    Especially when it’s proponents are saying proof that it’s working is that nothing has changed.

  18. photonz1, have you ever talked with people who run the social service providers who deal with the coalface of child abuse? Sue did, and those people told her that most “child abusers” genuinely believed they were giving their kids a reasonable smack till things got out of control.

  19. Metiria says the s59 law changes have not made any difference to prosecutions, and that is proof that it is working.

    And that she’s proud to have achieved this (no difference).

    It sounds like the admision from the greens that there is no difference in prosecutions is an acknowledgement that the whole thing makes no real difference.

    Now can we now get back to the real issues with stopping child abuse? (the issues that were completely ignored with forcing through of s59 “reforms”)

  20. “It is the fact that the law frowns on smacking that will encourage parents to rethink and change their behaviour towards their children such is the influence of formal sanctions in altering humans’ attitudes.”
    Editorial The Press

    “The truth of the matter is that most of the young New Zealanders currently raising children long ago stopped using the “smack” as part of “good parental correction”. If they hit their kids at all, it’s only in the extenuating circumstances already contained in the current legislation – which basically sanctions the use of parental force to prevent a child from either inflicting or experiencing greater harm.

    These parents are part of the great virtuous circle of childrearing which traces its origins back to the dramatic cultural shifts of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. With each passing generation, this circle will widen until, in a relatively short space of historical time, the use of corrective violence will almost entirely disappear from New Zealand society.”

    Chris Trotter

    so it’s a matter where society is at and both points of view can’t be right. People can think for themselves however and as the referendum showed the yes campaign was a fizzer. Best you stop getting under peoples skin.
    :mrgreen:

  21. On a positive note, I saw many families dancing in the sunshine together today at the annual Newtown Community Fair, which was a rip-roarer of an event with free bands, five stages with bands and performers of all kinds, the main street closed to allow for safe passage and streets lined with stalls – and much of the profit from this event (particularly the stalls inside the Newtown School grounds) goes towards topping up the budget for the school, one of the more famous low-decile schools in Wellington.

    As it’s a very multicultural neighbourhood, the food stalls had something for everyone, and local small business owners joined in the street fair as well. It was a very friendly, warm, happy place to be, and a great example of how diversity enriches communities.

    Anyone else attend a community event?

    Greenfly, a report on the Relay for Life in your neck of the woods!

  22. Police.
    That would be a few thousand people, of divergent nature and background.
    Folly to guess what any one of them may or may not do.
    I’ve seen many ‘go after’ who and what they want – both on and off the clock.
    I’ve seen their IA Branch made into worse than mockery.
    I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg I suspect.

  23. Police have discretion and they are not going after parents for a ‘light smack’.

    why not isn’t a light smack against the law, as in: “Kids deserve legal protection from assault – the same legal standard that we have for adults – and that’s what the law change did” and “No longer is there one standard of protection for adults and a lesser one for kids”? Wasn’t repeal of S59 an anti smacking law?

    the issue was a misdiagnosis of societies ills by the left (ie a contagious “culture of violence”)
    http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/greens-draw-their-own-anti-smacking-bill

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