Viewport width =
July 13, 2009 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Talking Smack With Bob

Salient Editor Jackson James Wood talks to Family First National Director Bob McCoskrie about smacking, smacking children, and smacking the anti-smacking law.

JW: What is a smack?

BM: Basically a smack on the bottom with an open hand or on the top of the hand. Basically some application of force that doesn’t involve bruising or welts or injury. A short sharp shock I guess is the way some people would describe it.

JW: How hard is that, in force—newtons perhaps?

BM: Once again, you’re giving it back to parents making the judgment that there is no long-term or short-term damage. But it is enough to stop the kind of behavior that is unacceptable. It can vary because of the age of the child.

JW: The older they are the harder you can smack them?

A little tap, a two fingered tap on the top of a hand of a three year old can be sufficient. Whereas it wouldn’t be for a 7 year old. Once again, parents understand what works and that’s what the research has shown. Generally it is used as a follow up when other forms of correction haven’t worked. It is when there is some defiance and it is follow up action.

JW: The amendment you support says open hand smacking—so you can’t use implements?

It takes away any use of implements. We think that is a win–win middle ground. There was concern around a couple of cases that used implements, so let’s end any doubt and make it clear, it is simply just an open hand smack on the bottom or hand.

JW: The case where a father was prosecuted for pushing his child over, you said this guy was a “great dad”. Is pushing a child over analogous to a smack?

That case was misreported. The reason we can say that is because we were actually in the courtroom at the time of the processing of that. In fact, what he was doing was he had his hand on the back of the child and was trying to get him out on the sports field. The kid was wearing sprigs. There was resistance from the child and he was tripping over.

JW: Three times?

Yeah. The father simply wasn’t throwing him to the ground, or pushing him to the ground as made out. He was trying to get him out on the field.

JW: Three times? He didn’t stop to help him up?

The child was trying to resist getting out on the field. Once again, one of the problems with this case is that the whole charge has been laid on the evidence of one person driving past. When there was no concern shown by other parents who were present at the time. It is their interpretation of what happened. So there has been one witness. There is no veracity to that claim.

JW: Assault: What is the difference between me correcting one of my staff members, my partner or even you? Why is there a difference? Why can I, as a human being, hurt another human being? What makes that okay?

There is a huge difference, and that is in the nature of the relationship. The difference with a child is that there is a parent/child relationship. In the same way I can’t tell you to eat your peas or when to go to bed. Or the same way I can’t put you into time out when I’m sick of your bad attitude. That is because it is an adult/adult relationship. A parent child relationship is very different. A parent is responsible for the actions, behaviour and development of that child and sometimes there is an element of force that is necessary—whether that is removing them to time out, or yanking away that plate of food because of withdrawal of privileges. That is what the original Section 59 took into account and what we’re failing to recognise at the moment.

JW: What if it is one of my employees? I have responsibility for them under law and they’re doing something that puts Salient in jeopardy. What is the difference there, why can’t I smack them?

Because they’re an adult. It is a totally different relationship. At the end of the day you can actually use force. It is called policing. Tasering. Batons. It is called putting them in a prison cell. So force can be used. Once again it is in the context of what is happening. Every Saturday there are hundreds of people assaulted on a rugby field. The reason it isn’t taken to the police is because it is in the context of a game—a very physical game, and it is not an issue. We’re saying that it is in the context of a parent child relationship and it is not abusive then. It is just part of parents raising good kids. It has been done for generations and it hasn’t been a problem.

JW: What exactly is your problem with the legislation as it stands?

The benchmark is so low that it criminalising parents who use a light smack. We’ve put examples of these cases to the Prime Minister. It has simply gone too far and that is why we support an amendment, which doesn’t go back to the original Section 59. We believe that it is a middle ground and a win-win situation in that it more clearly defines what is reasonable. It takes away the use of implements to avoid any doubt. It says there can be no evidence of bruising or welts—that’s an immediate indicator of whether it has gone too far and also says that it can’t be degrading or humiliating. If that father had repeatedly thrown his boy to the ground because he didn’t like the fact he wasn’t going on the rugby field, that would be degrading an humiliating. The problem is that is not what happened.

JW: Can you identify a single case in the last two years where the amended section 59 has been applied injudiciously?

Yes. We have six cases in front of the Prime Minister at the moment that involve a simple open-handed slap on the leg, a couple on the bottom, a smack on the arm, pulling the blankets off a kid who won’t get up in the morning. Throwing a pair of jeans at a child to get them to hurry up in the morning.

We believe the law is being applied wrongly. One of the interesting issues about all this is that people have questioned the referendum question and said, “What is good parental correction?”

If you look at the new Section 59 you’ll actually see that one of the categories for when you can use reasonable force is “good care and parenting”. Okay. Now, they say, how do you define “good parental correction”, and yet within the law that they’ve passed they say you can use reasonable force when it is part of good care and parenting. Well, they need to define that. There is a red herring about the referendum question because they don’t like the answer it is coming to. But at the same time they’re willing to use the same type of wording within the law and say it is working.

JW: What was the thought pattern behind the question?

I can’t answer that question. We came into the process after the referendum had been launched by Larry Baldock and simply supported it because we knew that the majority of parents didn’t like it.

JW: Have you talked to Larry about it?

I haven’t really. I know he went through a process. I’ve looked at the act—I know you have to get it formulated by the Clerk of the House. It was publicly notified for a month. Groups like Plunket and Banardos could’ve objected to the question when it was publicly notified. But they didn’t because they never believed the petition would be successful.

JW: Would you could you smack John Key? / Could you would you then smack me?

Up a tree?

JW: Key’s comments about the question being written by Dr Seuss…

It smacks of desperation to me.

JW: Both John Key and Phil Goff have said they’re not going to vote. Why do you think that is and how do you feel about his comments?

John Key says that he is not going to vote because it is a chance for the people to speak. There may be some validity in that, but I am pretty sure I saw him voting in the recent general election.

The second point is that when Phil Goff and John Key say they’re not going to vote, they simply don’t like the answer they’re coming to. Phil Goff has been asked the referendum question and he said “No”.

JW: There has been a certain amount of misunderstanding about the question, I’m sure you would agree…

What is the misunderstanding?

JW: John Boscawen said he would be voting yes in an interview.

He wasn’t asked the referendum question. He just said “Yes, I don’t support the anti-smacking law”. That was a big beat up by Sue Bradford. He said yes, but he didn’t say yes to the referendum question.

JW: Most of the other candidates who answered the question managed to align their views with the question. Many of them also said yes. When the question was the referendum question.

Good. Melissa Lee made a few faux pas as well. I would encourage you to give John Boscawen a call and put the referendum question to him and see what he says.

JW: Hindsight is great.

If the upcoming review showed that it wasn’t working, then you could have seized upon that and used it to your advantage. Whereas now the review, which comes out at the end of this month will likely show it seems to working. People might have run out of steam by then…

There are two aspects to that question. Firstly, people simply oppose the law. End of story. They just don’t agree with the law even being in existence. That’s the first part. The second part is the review. We’ve already had a couple of reviews. It’s already been established that despite the myth going around, nine people have been prosecuted in the first 15 months. There will be more in the review coming up. Kids are ringing CYFS [Child Youth and Family Services] and saying they’ve had a smack. We’ve got a documented case of an 11-year-old who didn’t like being grounded from going to a friend’s party so rung up CYFS and said “I’ve been smacked”.

CYFS come around to investigate. Remove the child while they do the investigation. It’s not only prosecutions we’re concerned about. It is the persecutions. And it is highly traumatic for these families to go through that type of investigation and suspicion. It is simply because we’ve put the benchmark so low.

JW: What do you think of the idea that parents who smack their children cannot control their own anger?

That is the biggest load of bollocks I’ve ever heard. It makes out as though anyone who uses a smack is completely out of control. There are some rotten parents, I’m the first to admit that, what we want to do is target those rotten parents and but not implicate good parents in the process.

JW: How do you define a rotten parent?

A parent who doesn’t look after their children, don’t send them to school. Don’t send them with food. Don’t feed their kids. The Families Commissioner’s report two weeks ago said neglect is five times more common as a form of abuse than violent or sexual abuse. So we’ve got to get realistic about this. All those reports that’ve come out of CYFS and UNICEF, out of Families Commission, have said kids are at risk when there is drug and alcohol abuse. When there is non-biological adults living in the house—when mum’s got the live-in boyfriend—when there is family breakdown and dysfunction and the poverty and stress associated with that—that’s when families are at risk.

There are plenty of parents who just tell off their kids, who completely lose control, and say things they should never say to their kids. There are also people who put them in time out for periods far longer than what is appropriate.

The argument is a smack is on the continuum to child abuse—physical abuse. Time out is on a continuum to neglect. Withdrawal of privileges is on a continuum to bribery and bullying. A telling off by a parent is on the continuum to verbal and emotional abuse. All of those things are an extreme. All we’ve done is look at the technique rather than the person or the parent that is administering it. It’s a bit like saying that everyone who has a glass of wine is going to become an alcoholic, or everyone who buys a raffle ticket becomes addicted to gambling.

JW: Supporters of the repeal of Section 59 weren’t quite eloquent enough to say that the repeal was about making the law fair to everyone. Anyone can be assaulted.

It was already fair because it said force had to be reasonable and you use the word assault, you immediately bring in a terminology that just doesn’t apply to a parent that is correcting a child with a smack on the bottom.

The reason the law never won any success, people simply don’t see it as assault. The question that groups like Barnardos, Plunket and the government need to be asking themselves is if the country is so desperate to deal with the problem of child abuse—which we have—why have they been unable to sell the anti-smacking law. Simply because it’s been misdirected and it’s tried to equate a good parent, who might use a smack on the bottom to raise a good kid, with a rotten parent like the caregivers of Nia Glassie or the Kahui twins who are abusers. Some people simply don’t accept that equation.

JW: It removed the defence of being able to use discipline to get off…

It basically said that a smack was illegal.

JW: Before the law was passed, parents were using S59 to get away with abusing their children.

No. That is your interpretation. All those cases were going before juries. If the law was allowing that, then you simply get the police to administer the law better, you don’t do away.

Let’s disperse the myth here. This wasn’t about an anti-smacking bill, that’s just the medias fault. When Sue Bradford launched this bill she called it the anti-smacking bill. Groups like Barnados and Plunket and other government groups—they’ve all wanted smacking banned. They just need to be honest about what their intention was. They don’t like smacking. They think it’s assault. They think it is violence and the majority of New Zealanders simply disagree with them.

JW: Do you think children, at some level, if you believe they’ll understand what you’re saying to them as we’re all humans, that if you can explain to them that what they’re doing is wrong and there is a consequence to it, and you don’t have to reinforce that with pain?

That’s why, as the kids get older you’re probably not going to be smacking. As the research shows, the meta analysis is that the most effective time you will probably have to use it, and it’s at its most effective, is between two and six. After that kids can reason. You can explain to a child. But I tell you what, when you see that kid doing an upside down ant impersonation on the floor of the super market that is not a time to sit down and have a reasoned debate. Kids just don’t want to reason. If you’ve dealt with a tired child at about 5:30 at night, and most parents will know what I’m talking about when I talk about the ‘witching hour’—around tea time, late in the day, kids are scratchy. Sometimes reasoning just doesn’t work. This is the reality of parenting.

JW: What if you’re wrong? Family First points out there are a whole lot of social problems in New Zealand—what if you’re wrong and those social problems are a direct result of using physical force against children and it’s a cyclical problem?

If I see evidence of that, then I’ll be the first to accept it. But there is not a single bit of reputable research that smacking done by a non-abusive parent is harmful. Not a single shred of evidence.

JW: Were you smacked as a child?


JW: Regularly?

When I deserved it is all I remember.

JW: You don’t have bad feeling about that towards your parents?

No. In fact I even got the strap at primary school.

JW: You didn’t think that when the teacher applied the strap or when your parents applied the wooden spoon they were doing wrong by you?

No. No. That’s just it. I think some people would say I got it and it was highly traumatic. My argument would be it wasn’t the technique that was the problem; it was the way it was applied. I’ve been a social worker in South Auckland for 12 years and I spent far more time dealing with kids who had been told by their parents they were absolute nothings and they were going to amount to nothing and just were useless. The harm the spoken word can do is just as damaging. It goes back to not necessarily the technique, but the way it is used. I think parents are rotten when they leave their kids in the car on time out when they’re up in the casino gambling away all the money.

JW: What is your vision for an ideal New Zealand?

Where families grow up in safe communities. Where kids are in safe environments and strong families. There are a whole lot of areas. It’s like the name, it’s where we start putting our families first in terms of social policy and some of the standards we have in the community.

Just because this is so awesome, here is Bob’s email disclaimer. I didn’t notice it till my fourth or fifth email.



About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (51)

Trackback URL / Comments RSS Feed

  1. T says:

    “A little tap, a two fingered tap on the top of a hand of a three year old can be sufficient.”


    No. A smack only “works” if it hurts. You can’t hurt a child with “two fingers” and a “tap” won’t hurt.

    Pretty hypocritical for him to say that anti-smackers are being dishonest when he’s being dishonest about what a smack is. A smack is meant to inflict pain. Otherwise what is the point. A “two fingered tap” is bullshit.

    And: “Once again, parents understand what works and that’s what the research has shown” – No, parents are idiots. One “parent” has a different idea of what a smack is to another “parent”. They’re all different. Some think a smack over the head is the best way to discipline their kid. Some think holding the kid up by their arm for leverage works well. They don’t all have the same view of smacking.

    And you can’t monitor whether a child was ONLY hit on the “hand” (pffft) or ass.

    There’s not one type of smack every parent uses. Hence the reason why you should stop being such a selfish cunt and just give up your right to smack and actually try being a proper parent so that kids are protected.

  2. Ernst Heinder says:

    I love the way McCoskrie’s absurd statements just hang there. This is one of the best interviews I have read in a long time. It really penetrates into the issue.

  3. Julie Fairey says:

    On the issue of John Boscawen saying he would vote yes, it was actually in the context of a blog-run candidate survey for the Mt Albert by-election, not an interview, and the question he was asked was actually:
    In the forthcoming Child Discipline referendum New Zealanders should:
    Vote Yes OR Vote No or Abstain.

    Boscawen chose Vote Yes and then added the following comment:
    Candidate comment: Because I beleive parents should be able to correct their children’s behaviour. I have a private members bill promoting a change.

    You can see his full response to the survey here:
    It was conducted by SurveyMonkey, meaning it was an online survey where candidates could choose from a variety of responses and add their own comments also, no issue of interpretation or different questions for different people.

    So what McCoskrie says in this article is not correct. I leave it to the reader to determine whether Bob has made a mistake or is lying.

  4. A says:

    I was smacked while growing up, and although I do not yet have children of my own, I regulary look after my nephews. I am a normal fully functional member of society, I don’t do drugs, I don’t binge drink, I have a good work ethic and a healthy view towards debt and money matters.

    I put this all down to my parent’s and their even handed and fair approach to discipline. I was never allowed to borrow money from them even if I had the money at home. Now this seemed so unfair to an 11 yr old who just wanted to buy another sausage from the saturday sausage sizzle, but it taught me that if I don’t have money, I can’t spend it.

    Same with smacking, it was only used when no other form of discipline had worked, and they always made sure I knew why I was being punished. I cannot remember a time it was used after the age of 6 or 7, grounding or timeout where then used as I could understand them.

    Others have scoffed at Bob’s comment “A little tap, a two fingered tap on the top of a hand of a three year old can be sufficient.” Have they tried to raise or discipline a three year old who is trying to run off in a busy mall at christmas time? Or to stop a 4 year old from pushing other children over in the playground? Of course the physical discipline only happens when verbal has not worked.

    I fully agree that it is not the form the discipline takes, but how far it goes and Bob makes a good point “It says there can be no evidence of bruising or welts—that’s an immediate indicator of whether it has gone too far and also says that it can’t be degrading or humiliating”

    I am also worried about the slippery slide we seem to be on where a “smack is on the continuum to child abuse—physical abuse. Time out is on a continuum to neglect. Withdrawal of privileges is on a continuum to bribery and bullying. A telling off by a parent is on the continuum to verbal and emotional abuse”

    I ask, where will the legalisation/criminalisation end?

  5. kiaorakid says:

    Nice interview Jackson – good to hear some balance in this debate.

    And ‘T’ – you’re a tosser (maybe that’s what the ‘T’ stands for?). At least Bob didn’t have to resort to verbal abuse… like I did ;) Obviously you’re not a parent, ‘cos the “two fingered tap” works wonders, unlike the “bullshit” you’ve cobbled together…

  6. A says:

    T is obviously not a parent, otherwise they’re calling themselves an idiot.

  7. Craig says:

    Those favouring the law as it has been rewritten say violent child abusers were hiding behind the old Section 59’s justification of “reasonable force” used by way of “correction.” This new legislation justifies the use of “reasonabe force” in four different scenarios apart from correction. So those who favour the law change are clearly not against the use of “reasonable force”. What I would like to know is why these folks think “reasonable force” is violence when used for “correction” but not violence when used, for example, to stop “disruptive or offensive behaviour”?

  8. Steve says:

    This is one of the most informative media interviews I have read on the topic. Not simply because it demonstrates just how thoroughly informed McCoskrie is (which he is), the interview also affirms that Wood has done some significant back-story research on the topic prior to the interview.
    What a refreshing change this article is, compared to much of the willfully ignorant MSM commentary on this issue.
    Well done Salient.

  9. N says:

    That Mr/Mrs/Ms/or whatever T is a worry. Obviously not a parent, and by the level of verbal abuse, would suggest he/she remains a non parent.
    Anyway, enough of that. Would like to congratulate the interviewer on a balanced approach to the subject. I have seen the result of a “non smacking” phylosophy in a household, and it caused so much stress (for the parents) that I believe it did them quite a bit of harm. I believe the real argument here, is, that whether or not I choose to smack my children, it is my choice, not Sue whatsherface’s. That nearly 90% of right thinking New Zealanders agree with that shows the law at present to be flawed. Whatever people think of Bob McCoskrie, he and Family First are certainly one of the main champions for the family in New Zealand. Keep up the great work Bob, your’e the guy.

  10. Shitkicker McGee says:

    How many Salient readers are parents? Four? Parental types shouldn’t be reading Salient. It destroys the family.

  11. Andy Moore says:

    Great interview James.

  12. “We have six cases in front of the Prime Minister at the moment that involve a simple open-handed slap on the leg, a couple on the bottom, a smack on the arm, pulling the blankets off a kid who won’t get up in the morning. Throwing a pair of jeans at a child to get them to hurry up in the morning.”

    I think it should be said that Bob is not actually talking about convictions here (which actually would indicate a heavy-handed approach to the law). In fact the police’s latest six-month review shows that out of 33 reported ‘smacking’ incidents, only one resulted in a prosecution – and even that was dismissed when the witness refused to give evidence.

    And to be fair, there were also 169 generic acts of “physical discipline” reported, ending in seven convictions. However all sentences were either, diverted or suspended or less than a year’s supervision. In any case it’s nothing like the “spank = jailtime” meme that Family First and others are so set on perpetuating.

  13. Wyn Fountain says:

    That was an excellent interview, the questions were pertinent and the answers were reasonable. Very sharp.

  14. YO! – Thanks for this – Up on Equal Parenting @ Ration Shed BLOG – Onward – Jim

  15. Kylie says:

    The jury in my head is still out on how I’ll vote in the upcoming referendum; however, this article has helped clarify my thinking. Thank you for an excellent, thoughtful and thought-provoking piece that puts mainstream media reports to shame.

    Incidentally, ‘T’, comments like “parents are idiots” help no-one. I’m a parent of three kids under five. I’m far from an idiot. The vast majority of parents I know are far from idiots. (Many of us have one or more degrees – got yours yet, sunshine?) We’re doing our level best to raise kids in a social, political and economic environment which gets more fraught every day. If you assume we’re all idiots I’d suggest you stop wasting your invective on us and hang on out message boards populated by more intelligent life forms.

  16. Kylie says:

    Ha. “…and hang out on…” even. Not an idiot, but certainly prone to typos. :)

  17. Michael Oliver says:

    Finally had a chance to read this from top to toe, and I realise I’ll get a chance to tell you tomorrow (as well as launch my usual brand of insults in your direction), but:

    “Do you think children, at some level, if you believe they’ll understand what you’re saying to them as we’re all humans, that if you can explain to them that what they’re doing is wrong and there is a consequence to it, and you don’t have to reinforce that with pain?”

    Awesome question, man. Great interview.

  18. Harvey Rosieur says:

    The anti -smacking lobby went to a lot of trouble to get Section 59 of the Crimes Act in New Zealand repealed. A lot of lies were told and a lot of bullying was done – Helen Clark (former P.M.)who championed the Bill and ordered her majority party how to vote (they called it a ‘conscience’ vote) used both tactics.It had nothing to do with truth or democracy.I would like to see Sect 59 restored.It is the thugs and bullies who abuse children that we want to stop and the current law change has not helped. It has merely created an atmosphere of fear on the part of ordinary parents who are scared now to discipline their children.Many are breaking the law because they want to bring up their children properly. That makes them law-breakers, sadly.I am a grandparent . I was smacked , I smacked our children and would still smack my grand-children if it were necessary. I want them to grow into good citizens; not society rejects.I applaud Bob McCoskrie’s efforts. I dont think smacking with two fingers is realistic though and I would reserve those for gestures ( except that I am too well brought up for that). We don’t want a communist type state where government has control and parents who are scared their children or someone else might tell on them for using responsible dicipline. Parents must be trusted to know what is reasonable. I know there are some who go too far but the law was able to deal with them before.

  19. Biggles says:

    Excellent and thought provoking report. I was going to vote YES but have actually changed my mind to voting NO. Not just because of this interview but it has had a part in the process. Bob your made out to be a bit of an dick in the media but that is NOT the case.

  20. T says:

    A – “Have they tried to raise or discipline a three year old who is trying to run off in a busy mall at christmas time? Or to stop a 4 year old from pushing other children over in the playground?” – I assume that’s for me. I wouldn’t use a “two-fingered tap” to discipline a child. ESPECIALLY if it was at “christmas time”.

    KK – I am calling bullshit on you using a “two-fingered tap”. How is a kid going to react to a two-fingered tap? Even a toddler is going to be wondering why the fuck daddy is tapping him.

    A – Everyone is an idiot. Nobody needs to be qualified to be a parent and you don’t gain any qualification by being a parent.

    N – Why do you have a problem with verbal abuse and not physical abuse?

    Kylie – You might not be an idiot.I don’t care. The point is having three kids doesn’t NOT make you an idiot. So you had kids. Big deal. As I said it’s not a qualification.

    Anyway great article Jackson. It really is the best interview I’ve seen on the issue.

  21. Superior Mind says:

    I was smacked as a kid. Not often and not hard at all, it was more the humilitation and knowledge that I had done wrong to such an extent that I deserved a smack that got to me. A “two-fingered tap” isn’t a smack – maybe to a newborn infant but who’d dicipline an infant?

    My dad preferred to use psychological torture on me. I remember quite clearly after me and my sister did something wrong, (probably something insignificant that we thought was really bad,) he charged into my sister’s room. I heard some yelling and then two great whacks while my sister wailed. I curled up in the corner of my bed bricking myself. Dad stormed into my room, belt in hand and I screamed. He just stood there with my sister laughing at me. Turns out my sister was in on the act and Dad had taken off his belt and whacked the mattress while my sister yelled. My dad is a cruel, cruel man.

    Either way it didn’t do me any harm. I don’t think so anyway.

  22. Karen Audrey says:

    You have no idea the stressful intrusion this legislation has caused. Before a case goes to court CYFS can detain children from their homes. Those children can go anywhere but stay with their families. CYFS seldom checks in on those children.They only check that they are not at home. Think about that for a moment. Then CYFS workers take their weekends, their lunchbreaks, their public holidays; and follow up those allegations in their own sweet time. There is no objectivity applied to their actions. They are a govornment agency with little restraints and no accountability. This has happened in my town over an allegation made by a public health nurse when she saw a bruise on a ten year old girl and felt obliged to report it as possible abuse. The father had smacked his daughter through her clothes on her bottom when she was trying to knock a hole in the wall during a tantrum over not getting something she wanted. She had a cry, pulled her head in and apologized to her Mum and Dad, then they gave her a hug.The bruise was unrelated.Had there been a court case the family could have had the oppurtunity to defend themselves but instead the father and children were traumatised by the sudden expulsion of those kids. They were told that the only way the kids could move back home was if the Dad moved out. Over an unfounded allegation. He had to fight hard to be heard. Men are you really ready for this kind of society? Check your thinking. If you haven’t had kids you probably can’t wait to prove yourself better than all those other generations of…’idiot parents’, but it is men who are most at risk if they put the firm word on their kids and are prepared to back it up with action. Kids need to know that their parents are the boss. Some kids are relieved when they get a smack just to know that Mum and Dad are still in control. I lit candles under our old wooden house because it was romantic. I was 11. I had one warning, and then when I did it again I got the cain. It hurt like hell. But burning our house down would have left a bigger scar, and I looked long and hard at myself. Why protect kids from regret? There is hope for that girl if he is going to care enough to wake her up to herself. Like my Dad did when I needed it. Now that family has been traumatized by CYFS and it could happen to any family, anytime.
    Ironically that family has been used as emergency caregivers when kids needed urgent placement. CYFS did not check them out or call to see that the kids were there. Do I see a double standard?

  23. Random letter of the alphabet says:

    Great, balanced interview JJW.

    “The difference with a child is that there is a parent/child relationship”
    This is a point that many seem to miss – people against smacking argue children wouldn’t have the same rights of adults, if it’s illegal to hit adults but not children. The fact is that most adults have the capacity to resolve issues through other means – for example, if you tell them they’ve done wrong, you can present an argument for why it’s wrong, and adults can follow what you say and comprehend your argument. It takes time for children to gain this ability; sometimes a smack is the quickest way to teach young children that they shouldn’t do something.
    Though I certainly agree that smacking should be a last resort technique, sometimes all other methods fail, and then what are parents left with?

  24. Random letter of the alphabet says:

    Oh also, T, a tap can be more effective than a more severe smack in some situations. Psychology says so.

  25. Steven Dromgool says:

    Congratulations Salient that was actually one of the fairest most open interviews I’ve seen. It was a great example of disagreeing with the interviewee without distorting their view. Great job.

  26. Ernst Heinder says:

    It is interesting to note Wood’s personal view on the subject in his editorial

  27. Hank Scorpio says:

    It’s interesting to note that that link is pretty much sitting there on the front page, bold as brass, ready to be clicked. Ernest cracks the case again.

  28. Ernst Heinder says:

    Hank. It strikes me that some of the people looking at this link are obviously retards – you being the case in point – and they may – and from the looks of it, do – think this is a “pro-smacking” piece. It isn’t.

  29. Rory Mackinnon referring to the cases we reference says “Bob is not actually talking about convictions here” – Wrong! We are talking about convictions! More info here

  30. BJ says:


    : What if you’re wrong? Family First points out there are a whole lot of social problems in New Zealand—what if you’re wrong and those social problems are a direct result of using physical force against children and it’s a cyclical problem?

    BM REsponds: If I see evidence of that, then I’ll be the first to accept it. But there is not a single bit of reputable research that smacking done by a non-abusive parent is harmful. Not a single shred of evidence.

    IN support of that are these observations

    Why is it that 4 of the 5 countries with the lowest child abuse rate in the OECD have not banned smacking?( Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland)

    Why is it that Sweden, held up as a model country for being one of the first to ban smacking in 1979, had tot set
    up a special commission to investigate the high number of cases where children die in violent circumstances in
    the hands of their parents?
    The UNICEF report into maltreatment (2003) identified substance abuse, family breakdown, poverty and stress
    as the key indicators for child abuse?

    Why is this information being ignored and good parenting practice being
    Do we want a situation like Sweden with twice as many children in foster care homes (per head of pop’n)?

    BJ Whitaker
    Te Horo Beach

  31. Bob, it says in your own poster that the jeans incident you cited did not end in a conviction.

    “A 30-year-old Glen Innes father was charged by police for allegedly hitting your five-year-old daughter with an open hand on the back of the head and swinging a pair of jeans at his six-year-old daughter …. When the matter eventually came to court, the police offered no evidence and the case was dismissed.”

    So perhaps you could specify which six convictions you’re talking about then? I’ve looked all over the internet for your submission to the PM and can’t find it anywhere…

  32. Boganette says:

    McCroskie’s link to the vote no website is hilarious. The yes vote website ( has Plunket, Barnados, Save The Children – pretty much every single organisation in NZ that works with children and the no vote website has….Simon Barnett.

  33. Graham Leech says:

    At last! Some balanced reporting on an emotion-charged issue. Thanks for presenting the other side of the debate, that the mainstream media are largely choosing to ignore. Well done.

  34. Hank Scorpio says:

    “Other side of the issue.”

    You guys are pretty fucking dumb.

  35. Chuck Bird says:

    “In any case it’s nothing like the “spank = jailtime” meme that Family First and others are so set on perpetuating.”

    Rory, please show us any statement by Family First that made the above claim.

    Many others have explained the damage done by the investigations not to mention the waste of resources that could be used investigating genuine child abuse. That is the issue.

  36. Rory MacKinnon says:

    Chuck, it’s fairly implicit from the campaigns. Hell, even the posters Bob linked to feature the ‘hands behind bars’ stock image, and you’d have to be incredibly naive to argue that it’s not the first thing that springs to mind when reading the referendum question.

  37. Rory MacKinnon says:

    Incidentally Chuck, would you say that Chris Kahui is one of those upstanding citizens whose reputation has been damaged by baseless allegations? Was his time in the dock a waste of resources too?

    This isn’t hyperbole, by the way, I’m honestly curious about your opinion.

  38. BJ Whitaker says:

    Boganette says
    “McCroskie’s link to the vote no website is hilarious. The yes vote website ( has Plunket, Barnados, Save the Children – pretty much every single organization in NZ that works with children and the no vote website has….Simon Barnett.

    Look again Boganette.
    Your observation highlights one of the most overlooked sources of opinion in this debate.
    That is the opinions of 1000’s of ordinary mums and dads @ the coal face of parenting. Many of whom support the opinions of FF and the stance of Vote No .org
    Organizations like the one’s you mention don’t have a monopoly on the wisdom of parenting. Far from it

    Their stance only high lights the degree to which they have become disconnected from main stream parenting. Increasingly their social workers by training and more recent tradition have view points at loggerheads with many parents


    Note especially the involvement of organisations like Barnadoze and Plunket who we are told have allegedly done so much more, for so much longer, in caring for New Zealand kids than any of those behind the ‘Right to Smack’ campaign.”
    Aren’t families 24/7 whole of live child focused organisations? When is due weight going to be attached to their observations?
    The people who established the organisations you refer to above, and more importantly their “good” name, and worked hard for children over the decades, held totally different views from those who now manage them. Read up on how Dr Barnados ran his children’s’ homes – with a firm policy on discipline. And at Truby King’s views on how to bring up children(Plunket Founder)
    In many ways the current management of Barnardos, Plunket et al trade cynically on the good name of those before, who would be squarely on the other side of the fence if they were alive today.
    These organisations, and many similar to them, are dependent on government money to keep going. So the phrase ‘who pays the piper calls the tune’ applies. Unless management and philosophy coincides with those dispensing the cash (and in recent years that has been the thin liberal veneer) then the lifeline dries up. Just look at the refusal of HC’s government to give anything to Parents Inc, who are doing an absolutely superb job.
    BJ Whitaker


  39. BJ Whitaker says:

    1. Kylie says
    “The jury in my head is still out on how I’ll vote in the upcoming referendum……”
    The following might help make up your mind Kylie?.
    It was printed in some of the national dailies and forwarded to MP’s and Talk back Hosts
    Through out 2006 & 2007 as well as 2003
    It will come as no surprise that no one has made a claim apart from a poorly informed social worker who still hasn’t tabled her evidence. The offer still stands.
    You can imagine what fun I have when Barnardoze And Plunkett ring up wanting a “Donation”


    In researching this issue my conviction as to the flawed methodology adopted in various surveys and studies is such, that I re issue the following challenge originally publicised in October 2003 and repeatably presented to anti smacking lobbyists.

    One assumes that the anti smacking lobby group including UNICEF, Plunket, Barnados and Sue Bradford have the resources to back up their opposition to the smacking of children. That being the case, they will have no trouble responding to the following challenge,…. or will they?

    I have $10,000 in Trust, payable to anyone who can produce one single, credible piece of research that shows smacking under correct circumstances, and administered the correct way, is harmful to our children.

    The truth of the matter is that the research on the alleged negative affects of smacking does not separate out those who smack with harshness, oppression, meanness, rejection and lack of love, from those who discipline in the right way and with restraint.

    The researchers throw all the outcomes together, and say it is smacking (in whatever form) that contributes to subsequent negative behaviour.

    Those who sadistically abuse their children should be subjected to the full force of the Court’s punishment. But it is grotesque to compare the smack of a concerned parent with the violence of the irresponsible adult.

    Concern for violence is commendable, but when will the anti-smacking lobby group accept that statistically, the most dangerous household for a child, is where mum lives with a boyfriend. It is not in a household where a child gets smacked in the correct way.

    The death of the Kahu Twins and many others serves only to prove the point yet again.

    B J Whitaker
    28 SEPTEMBER 2006

  40. Rory MacKinnon says:

    BJ: In the words of Roseanne Barr…

    “They say you should never hit your children in anger. When do you hit them? When you’re feeling festive?”

  41. Fonswaar the Pretentious Actor says:

    O! Loathe the scurge of spanking upon thine humble behind. Sayeth to me, Rory of MacKinnon, is it not true such beasts descend upon the humble website of Salient to encroach upon the virgin plains of its comment box? Away with them! Away! Until this dying day.

  42. BJ says:

    Rory ,You say
    1. BJ: In the words of Roseanne Barr…
    “They say you should never hit your children in anger. When do you hit them? When you’re feeling festive?”

    I do like the sarcasm even if the authority quoted (Roseanne Barr) leaves a lot to be desired
    Your question presupposes there are only two stages of mind in which discipline is administered. Are you not aware of others?

    E.g. when you’re not in a state of uncontrolled anger.( You may still be angry)

    Given that words are the means to meaning,
    when you say “hit” What do you mean?
    Given your previous postings I suspect your inflated language is designed to take the reader out of smack imagery and into” hit” then beat? thrash imagery etc (So that the person being questioned is incrementally and inadvertently then placed in the position of having to defend the indefensible ; the thrashing of children)

    It was Bradford who continuously used the phrase “Beaters & Thrashers” when describing who her law was designed for. This is very important as it was supposedly designed for those that “Beat and Thrash” their children, However it is also being implemented against good mums and dads who do not abuse their children.

    Anti smackers continually blur the distinction between smack and beat? Are you going down the same pathway by fusing together the words of hit and smack.?
    I smack. I don’t hit ( See the definition asked at the commencement of the interview)

    A concerted effort by the media and others, to halt the deliberate blurring of distinctions (as between smack, hit, beat thrash etc), will go a long way to insuring honesty is at the fore front of this debate

  43. Matt says:

    I love phrases that elaborate their own meaninglessness.

  44. Rory MacKinnon says:

    BJ: I say potato, you say South American tuber :D

    I’m afraid I didn’t really want to get into this side of the debate, because whether you or I spank our kids’ botties beatifically is beside the point. The problem is that anyone who actually does beat their kid is going to rationalise it as correction.

    It takes an outside observer (like you, or me, or the courts) to look at the situation objectively and make the distinction – which is why investigations and prosecutions are necessary.

    I understand your concerns about the potential trauma of a prosecution experience, but here’s the thing: social workers and police officers are people too. They’re often nice people, with families of their own, who are underpaid and over-worked and do their job simply because they think it’s a good thing to do. Every day they are reminded of the consequences of their actions.

    Even if they were malevolent trolls bent on destroying people’s lives, they’d still be too busy for the most part to bother with baseless allegations. I’d refer you again to the number of complaints in the last six-monthly review compared to the number of prosecutions. It’s clearly not a workload they’re taking lightly.

  45. Chuck Bird says:

    “In any case it’s nothing like the “spank = jailtime” meme that Family First and others are so set on perpetuating.”

    Rory, your statement above clearly implies that Family First has claimed that all or nearly all parents who have been reported for smacking their children will end up in jail. I have read much of Family First’s press releases and I do not see things that way. The picture is a bit hyperbole. You are drawing a long bow to claim it is seriously claiming that it implies that a smack = jail time. The YES lobby including you equating a smack with hitting or beating is at least as misleading as the poster you refer to.

    Regarding Chris Kahui I think the authorities should have been investigating the home environment that he and more importantly the mother were going to bring the twins home to. I understand there were warning signs at the hospital. Most parents would have been visiting a lot more often.

    Do you think that if CYFS have of investigated complaints by the real father Coral Borrows she might be alive today? That is just one high profile case. There are plenty more that fail to investigate or do so inadequately.

  46. Rory MacKinnon says:

    But Chuck, don’t you see CYFS investigations are exactly what you’re railing against? Police and social workers simply can’t afford to make the kind of prima facie assumptions about cases that you or I do.

    I’m not presuming guilt or equating all discipline with brutality either. I’m saying that some people rationalise their brutality as discipline, and therefore investigations are something to be tolerated in a civilised society.

    And again, what do you think is implied by all the handcuffs/prison cell imagery in Bob’s link?

  47. Chuck Bird says:

    “but Chuck, don’t you see CYFS investigations are exactly what you’re railing against?”

    Rory, where do I ever say or even imply that. We do need CYFS and/or the police to investigate child abuse. A parent smacking a naughty and defiant toddler on the bum is not abuse.

    “I’m saying that some people rationalise their brutality as discipline”

    That is a theory. Ever if it is true for a few individuals does the fact that smacking is illegal change their minds? I do not think this is likely. Some paedophiles rationalise that they are helping. I believe that most people who brutalise children know what do is illegal and very wrong but they do not care.

    The proposed law change the NO lobby is promoting is a very much watered down version of the old S59. No implements such as a strap are allowed. If this amendment was adopted as law no one who bashed their child could successfully use S59 to be found not guilty as had happened very occasionally under the old S59.

    This was the excuse Bradford used for the law change. Her real reason was that she thought the State not parents should have primacy in the raising of children. This is what has upset so many good parents. To many it was the final straw. Parents teach there children that they should delay sex. The kids go to school and are told it best that you delay sex but we relines this will be difficult so if you choose to have sex here are the condoms and if they fail we can arrange an abortion and you parents will not be told.

    “And again, what do you think is implied by all the handcuffs/prison cell imagery in Bob’s link?”

    I thought I answered you. It was hyperbole. It was bit of an exaggeration. Compare this with the misrepresentation of the facts by Sue Bradford. She used false figures is relation to Sweden. That is just one example of Bradford misrepresenting the facts.

    Challenging claims by both sides is a side issue.

    The issue is if a parent disciplines his or her child with a smack who decides if the force was excessive the police or a court?

  48. A says:

    Well said Chuck

  49. BJ says:

    RORY says: “The problem is that anyone who actually does beat their kid is going to rationalise it as correction…..”:

    And your point?


    Is it, that because of this likely hood we need to ban smacking?
    I.e. because someone is going to abuse a method of discipline we need to remove that option?
    What happens if we apply the same test to the other methods of disciplining?

    If we inflate and distort the meaning of other disciplinary methods to the same degree, that smacking has been distorted (To now be regarded as “violence” , it gives rise to the following :

    Taken to extremes ,Why shouldn’t “ time out” be regarded as imprisonment? Why shouldn’t “ withdrawing privileges or personal items” be regarded as theft? Why shouldn’t “rewards” be regarded as bribery? Why shouldn’t “ threats” be regarded as intimidation? Why shouldn’t “ ignoring various behaviours” be regarded as neglect?

    It is also unacceptable to inflict imprisonment, theft , bribery, intimidation and neglect,. So perhaps we should ban all these other forms of discipline on children as well. After all, they to inflict pain which is either physical or psychological

    Like the other methods of discipline why wouldn’t responsible smacking have its place.?

    “Ultimately, it’s not the technique that the parent uses to correct their child that’s necessarily the problem – it’s the way it’s used. ‘Calling a smack ‘violent’ is like calling ‘timeout’ imprisonment, or withholding allowances, as robbery!”
    If the bad guys attempt to rationalise their abuse as “ correction” under the new law they’re history because it states that “….. Nothing…justifies the use of force for…correction.”

    Under the previous section 59 (Which is what I suspect you’re referring to) you inflate the ease with which they might escape prosecution. Very view did.

  50. Harvey Rosieur says:

    A lot of rhetoric has been used by the anti-smacking brigade to make smacking sound like brutality. People who smack suddenly feel the need to qualify their smack as just a ‘light smack’ in case someone thinks they have been too harsh. A smack has to be hard enough to deter or punish and to get the message through. You cannot spell that out adequately in legislation. It simply leads to further anomalies ie preventing something which should be allowable or allowing something which should not be allowed. Under the old Section 59 it was up to the court to decide what was reasonable under the particular circumstances. I would rather trust a jury of 12 peers to decide that than Sue Bradford and the likes.
    The word violence as used in the act means any use of force. The turning of a door handle for example or picking your nose cannot be achieved without an element of force. It comes back to what is reasonable. Since there is no limit to the variation of circumstances which could be involved you cannot specifically legislate for each of those circumstances because you cannot think of everything which could happen.The use of implements can be made to sound brutal but what of the wooden spoon with which so many of us are familiar. I used to try not to laugh at the hairbrush my mother used because it might make her angry and try something else.
    Again I say, we must trust parents who, in the main ,care for us more than anyone else.We must deal to the brutes and thugs, often the live in partners who find the kids just a nuisance; the alcohol and drug users and abusers who are the real shame of our country

  51. Ricky says:

    oh yeah smack on the bum that’ll sort the kid out you guys are plonkers

    psychological warfare thats what we need

    kid acts up

    lock his FAVOURITE TOY



    fuck with his mind

    tell him the toy is doing time for HIS crime

    see how quickly the little shit plays up next time

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required