God save our families from bewildered busybodies

God save our families from bewildered busybodies

God save our families from bewildered busybodies

The child-rearing debate this week moved from the ridiculous
to the absurd. A group of grown-ups (I hesitate to call them adults) put on a
forum on "family violence" in the Auckland Town Hall, the feature of
which seems to have been listening to the views of children.

Which is like asking criminals to give their views on whether
the police should be allowed to catch them, or asking convicts to give their
views on whether they should be put in prison.

This publicity-seeking charade - which wasn't about family
violence at all, but about whether parents should retain the right to administer
physical discipline to their children - was organised by Unicef and something
called the Institute of Public Policy at the Auckland University of Technology.

That's not surprising since United Nations bureaucrats and
university academics have at least one thing in common: A large number of them
inhabit the lunatic extremities of political correctness.

It was a bit of a surprise, however, to find that one of the
principal protagonists of the sinister fallacy that family violence has some
connection with smacking disobedient children was the Auckland City Missioner,
Diane Robertson.

I would have thought she would have enough on her plate
trying to feed, clothe and shelter the poor and enough gumption to stay out of a
highly political debate which is likely to turn some of the mission's donors -
including me - towards some other charity that minds its own business.

She told the forum that too many people think children should
be seen and not heard. Wrong. Not nearly enough people think children should be
seen and not heard. If more people treated children as children, then children
wouldn't have nearly as many problems as they have.

"In the hierarchy of power children come last,"
said she, stating the obvious. "They have no power, no vote, no

Of course they don't - they never have had. They're children,
for heaven's sake. Their lives are in the care of their parents. And until such
time as they have grown and matured and learned and experienced, they are not
entitled to power or vote or presence.

What they are entitled to is a family and school environment
in which growth, maturity, learning and experience can be fostered and moulded
and explained and in which each new milestone in this adventure called life can
be confronted with growing confidence.

If that is to happen then there will be many times when
discipline - which is an expression of love and concern - will need to be given
and sometimes, if the child is to survive long enough to reap the rewards of
maturity, that discipline will have to be physical.

One of the most dreadful tragedies of the age is that scores
of young people today do not survive long enough - they commit suicide.

I am persuaded that one of the main reasons they kill
themselves is that they don't know where they've come from, they don't know
where (or what) they are and they don't know where they're going.

If children (which includes teenagers) are not taught what it
means and requires of them to be part of a family, a neighbourhood, a community,
a nation, and that they are part of a society that has a history, a present and
a future, it's no wonder they become confused and seek solace in booze, drugs
and sex and, too many of them, death.

But back to the forum, wherein pupils from Epsom Normal (as
opposed to abnormal, I suppose) Primary School were reported to have spoken
"against physical abuse" in front of 50 people. Wow!

They didn't, of course, have anything to say about physical
abuse which, if they come from the sort of families I think they do, is way
beyond their ken. What they talked about was the odd smack, which rational
parents give to recalcitrant children when all else has failed.

Said one 9-year-old: "Hitting [the word put in her
mouth, no doubt] is not the right answer." And then, in a delightful non
sequitur that only a child could devise, she added: "I know that throwing a
lunchbox at mum because I don't like my lunch is not the right thing to

It would be no show without Punch - and he was there,
Tertiary Education and Social Services Minister Steve Maharey, telling the
congregation what it wanted to hear, that he believed Section 59 of the Crimes
Act should be repealed. But not a word about the child abuse inherent in
burdening university students with a lifetime of debt.

The nastiest thing about all this is that the anti-smacking
fanatics number only a handful - a small minority of parents egged on by large
bunches of bewildered busybodies.

They seem blissfully unaware that while they rant and rave,
tens of thousands of families and their hundreds of thousands of children are
getting on with life, the children growing, maturing and achieving and staying
out of trouble, mostly because they have been loved and cherished and
disciplined, sometimes physically.

But we never hear about them. They're just not news.

New Zealand Herald 04.07.2002 used by permission