Thursday, March 29, 2007

git the whuppin on y'all

The other day I was pursuing my four year old down the hall in an attempt to kick his bum when I suddenly thought "hmm maybe if Sue Bradfords effort to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act is passed into law this will be illegal".
And then I thought, "not bloody likely".
The simple reason it won't be illegal is that my bum kicking and bum spanking activity is not actually designed to hurt my four year old. I kick him, he kicks me. I punch him (softly, of course) and he punches me (rather too well). Its called roughhousing. Its fun and if he ever gets hurt I cuddle him and reassure him.
If I want to discipline my four year old inflicting pain is not something I do very much. There's a simple reason for this. It doesn't work.
I have some relatives who smack their children a lot. Usually it happens when the kids are tired and ratty and the parents are tired and ratty. Those kids are, to be blunt, not very well behaved. They can take being smacked. They don't like it but they can take it. And all it does is make them bitter, angry and resentful.
When I actually think about times my parents whacked me as a kid (which was not often) it actually only makes me bitter angry and resentful. I still don't know why they did it (although as an adult I can guess). It didn't make me a disciplined individual at all.
By contrast there are ways of disciplining kids that don't involve whacking them. They basically have a logic which is intrinsic to behaviour you want to change. Kid deliberately poohs in his pants? A nice cold shower to clean him up will help solve that. Kid won't tidy up toys? Put them in a bag to give back for Christmas. Is unpleasant to others? Isolate them in their room.
The task of the parent is to normalise the potential behaviour of a child into adult society. Given that there is almost no weirdness that hasn't been normal in some society or other, children are infinitely flexible. However in our society we don't boff people on the nose when they piss us off. That is considered criminal.
Thus our task in normalising children to our society's norms should, logically, remain within society's norms. This is not only logical it is also more effective.
For the danger of being able to whack people because they piss you off is that there really isn't any clear line. Do you whack them because they are smaller than you? How is that not bullying? Do you whack them because it makes you feel better? What is that if not abuse?
Personally I am all for children learning to deal with violence and being capable of taking it or handing it out. Violence is a very real part of the world and we would only be fooling ourselves if we ignored it. But bullying and abuse are not good things. These are the things we need to educate our children to be able to resist. They are not the things we want our children to model.
New Zealanders have, for a very long time, modelled bullying and abuse. That is why there is so much of it about. If we want to reduce it we need to give parents who rely on it pause. They need to learn other ways to achieve their results. Only in this way can we break the cycle of bullying and abuse that has been passed down through the generations. And I can go back to roughhousing with my four-year-old.

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