Spanking has its uses, say pupils

By Simon Collins

The Herald is running a week-long series on the smacking debate. On Saturday we looked at changing smacking habits, today we cover parents' stories. To tell us your stories, go to the Your Views discussion. Or you can follow the debate on our facebook page.

Students from Rangeview Intermediate in Te Atatu spoke anonymously to the Herald. Photo / Greg Bowker
Students from Rangeview Intermediate in Te Atatu spoke anonymously to the Herald. Photo / Greg Bowker

Nineteen years after physical punishment was banned in schools, a sampling of children suggests that while most want the ban, there is still some support for smacking as a form of discipline.

Ten out of 17 Year 7 pupils at Rangeview Intermediate in Te Atatu said they would vote no in the referendum which says: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

Six would vote yes, a higher proportion than the mere 11 per cent of parents voting yes in a Herald/DigiPoll survey last weekend, but still a minority. One student was unsure.

The sample is tiny and makes no pretence to be representative beyond the fact that Rangeview is ranked decile 5, in the middle of the parental income scale.

An intermediate school was chosen on the basis that the students, all but one of them aged 11, are old enough to have opinions but young enough for discipline to be fresh in their memories.

The sample is likely to be biased against smacking because only 17 parents out of the class of about 30 returned permission slips for their children to take part. The chances are that parents who smack heavily were less likely to give permission.

Yet 14 of the 17 children still report having been smacked and, despite the official doctrine of non-violence at school, most believe their parents were right to smack them.

All interviews were conducted one-on-one, with a teacher aide present and an assurance that whatever they said would be reported anonymously. All names have been changed.

Alison said smacking should be allowed "only to tell them off like a light tap on the hand or arm", so that children are taught not to do it again. "It did for me."

Mike said smacking was effective depending on "whether they whacked me hard or not. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't work. If it was really powerful I did obey."

He said being deprived of television or the computer for a day or two "doesn't make you care, really, it's like not really going to stop you doing it again".

Sam agreed. "If they say, 'go to your room' you can just say no. But if they just give you a little smack you know not to do that and it's just a boundary."

Jason, who was smacked recently for fighting with his little sister, said: "Sometimes when they send me to my room I don't really learn not to do it, but me and my sister don't playfight any more - I know the consequences."

Richard says smacking should be allowed "because if they did something naughty they have to say, 'don't do that again'. They might do something again because if they just growl at them it doesn't do that much."

Others felt other disciplinary techniques were more effective. "You don't really teach them a lesson, you just teach them that a smack is okay," said Emma. "Sending me to my room is different because you can't do all the stuff you want to do."

Asked if he would smack his own children in the future, Jack said: "No, because it harms them. I'd make them face the wall and stay there. That works better than smacking."

Like adults, many children accept a light smack but nothing harder.

"I do think it is wrong to hit children," says Mary. "A light slap on the hand is okay."

Some accept smacking only for very serious offences. Asked if he would smack his own children, Richard said: "If it was something really, really naughty, like throwing a plate at me."

Gloria would smack her children "only if very necessary, such as going on the road when a car's coming".

Sarah said smacking should be a criminal offence, adding: "I would only smack them if they were really naughty, for example, if they don't listen when you tell them they can't do something all the time."

Mike said children should have to do something "really bad" to be smacked, and said his own parents sometimes smack excessively.

"What my parents do I mainly think is unfair. Pathetic things - if I do something not even very bad, it's big punishments."

Only three children said smacking should be a criminal offence and that they would never smack their own children.

- NZ Herald

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