Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Deborah Coddington: This mum's motto: Spare the rod, don't spoil the child

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A friend has fallen in love again and taken to posting poetical quotations on Facebook. She has two little children and is delightfully nutty, so obviously relished this latest: "It is better for a parent to be a horrible warning than a good example."

I, too, can relate to that.

Because the smacking debate is refusing to retreat, it seems pertinent to discuss the issue of parenting.

Colin Craig obviously has more money than sense: he's wasting $500,000 on a campaign to hit children.

Why do his followers want to hit children? Do they want to hit feeble old people who won't behave?

They're saying this is a "March for Democracy", but they seem to want mob rule, and look where that got Nazi Germany. It's one thing to make referenda binding when you're a rich guy who thinks democracy can be bought, but Craig would be better spending his money on teaching himself the history of our Parliamentary system.

Because, once more with feeling, let's be quite clear about what happened when section 59 of the Crimes Act was repealed. When assault cases involving children now come before the court, children are legally on the same footing as everyone else, in that the accused can no longer use "correction or discipline" as justification or defence.

And thanks to John Key's amendment, which included the word "inconsequential", it is not an anti-smacking law.

Two years later there's no increase in parents investigated or prosecuted for lightly smacking their children.

How ironic, too, that these marchers want excuses if they're caught belting children, but not so long ago they clamoured to get rid of the defence of provocation after the Clayton Weatherston trial. Talk about concrete-bound mentalities.

Scratch their skins and would we find, lurking below, a secret desire to bring back the legal right to rape their spouses, as once was the case, because marriage in itself was deemed consent to sex?

But I do despair that changing this law has given licence to all those ghastly "yummy mummies" and their whipped partners, who think discipline is a Hone-word.

Their children run wild, which is fine in their own homes, but not okay in public. Who can tolerate a manic 3-year-old who is used to "no" meaning "maybe", or "if you nag enough I'll give in"? When said child chases ball into path of 4WD and hysterical mother yells "NO!", we get tragedy.

The universe won't revolve around these children when they go to school - get the little Trelise-clad darlings used to it now, before they leave your Perrin & Rowe kitchen.

Last time I penned similar words in this column, streams of bile followed but actually, I love kids. They're funny, smart and fascinating, but I refuse to treat them as cute. Bad things happen? Suck it up.

Today my grown-up kids tease me about my past efforts at disciplining them - the death-stares when grandma was staying, being forced to emerge from bedrooms and greet visitors correctly. We never had "naughty seats" and I couldn't be bothered with tell-tales. Sometimes, if a deadline loomed, I forgot to feed them, and they had to sort out their own fights - I knew they'd never kill each other and I was right. Today my kids would lay down their lives if any one of their siblings was in danger, such is their love for each other.

When I die, that's a greater legacy than the combined wealth of the entire Rich List. So thanks, George Bernard Shaw, for confirming what I already knew: do as I say, not as I do.

- Herald on Sunday

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