Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why hitting a child is not like smoking

Should Parliament only adopt legislation if it knows the legislation would be enforced successfully, or are there other benefits to the adoption of legislation beyond immediate enforcement?

I am asking because a friend berated me for arguing on this Blog that those parts of the Children’s Amendment Bill banning corporal punishment of children by their parents was a rubbish move on the part of Parliament.

She points out that many people shouted to high heaven when the anti-tobacco legislation was introduced and argued that it would not be enforced, yet most Restaurants now comply and there has been a dramatic change in the public attitude towards smoking – at least amongst the middle classes.

This means that the law can change behaviour - even where it is not perfectly enforced - because new legislation can change the way we look at a specific issue and can thus change the very culture which tolerated the anti-social behaviour in the past. The policing - such as it was - of the anti-tobacco law came from fellow diners and not from the police, but it resulted in most formal restaurants having to comply with the law.

This is a good point. Maybe now that hitting your children will become a criminal offense, you will think twice of hitting those children because the neighbours might not like it and might even report you to the police.

Yet, I am not completely convinced. Unlike with smoking, most parents do not hit their children in public but only in the privacy of their own home. This makes it far less likely that informal public pressure will change the way our society view corporal punishment of children.

What is more likely to happen is for parents to hit the bejeezus out of their children at home, but behave impeccably in public, thus driving the whole thing underground, as it were. The other fear is that – unlike with public smoking – the acceptance of corporal punishment of children is so widespread that the law will have no effect on how others view the matter.

There might well be a communal shrug of the shoulders, accompanied by an exasperated “the-law-is-an-as” roll of the eyes whenever the matter comes up. And that is exactly what one does not want because it breeds contempt for the law more generally. Today that shrug, tomorrow cable theft and the day after that you have become the new Dina Rodriguez.

6 comments:

Guy McLaren said...

it's a stupid law, mainly because it is one of the tools in the arsenal for discipling children, I am not a beat them until they bleed kind of chap. I however know that because the kids were threatened and punished, that now I just tell them that I will and the misbehaviour stops. My kids have not been given a spanking in a year or more but the implied threat is enough to change their attitudes.

Friends children who do not suffer consequences, no longe visit my home bcause if their is no formal punishment procedure there is no discipline. Suspending the little bastards from school is a very useful tool and improves discipline does it?

Frank Shearar said...

I have yet to have to hit my boy. I like that; I don't think violence is a particularly good way to teach children.

However, parents bear the moral responsibility of raising their children. As such, it seems right to leave the methods of discipline up to them.

There is a difference between spanking a child and beating it senseless.

Pierre de Vos said...

I must say, I cannot imagine hitting a child - even my own. But I do agree that it is in the interest of everyone - including one's children - that they are well behaved and relatively disciplined. Surely that can be achieved without corporal punishment?

Anonymous said...

This law, if passed, is sure to be subjected to consitutional challenge as many, if not all religions and cultures in South Africa (and the largest part of the world) still consider physical discipline as the only way in which a child can be taught the way. (Prisons and reformatories are the other ways.) There are many grownups, granted, that do not feel that way, but I think they are in the minority. I have been given hidings in my childhood, some even unfairly, but I grew up into a well educated person. I have three children, all three of them having had to receive a 'moderate' spanking on their behinds once or twice many years ago, and it did not affect them adversely at all. Instead, two are now out of school, graduated with top colours, have been top prefects; and, the other quickly following in their footsteps. I think the last time they got a 'moderate' hiding, were when they were seven or eight yeas old. The line was drawn, the borders set, and they knew how to behave from there on. No violent reactions were elicited. They have not become iolent persons. We are a loving family, and everyone knew how it grieved us at the time to practice corporal punishmet when needed.(In fact, when doing a skin draft, surgeons usually use skin tissue from the bum, which is the strongest and less vulnerable piece of skin on one's body.) I agree with he chair of the Portfolio Committee yesterday - they must consult wider, before they make te law. Disciplining is not about hitting the bejeesus out of one's children, not to break their will, or to infringe chidren's rights, but to bend their behaviour a little so as to avoid serious anti-social behaviour later on, when one might have to resort to violence of a much more serious nature to prevent or stop them from doing crime.

Africannabis said...

This comment has nothing to do with abusing children - I appologise upfront:

Pierre: your words - just a little different "There might well be a communal shrug of the shoulders, accompanied by an exasperated ... roll of the eyes whenever the matter comes up. And that is exactly what one does not want because it breeds complaicency for the abuse of children....

Today that shrug, tomorrow sex slaves

Frank: "However, parents bear the moral responsibility of raising their children."

* Do you want HOT-sexy-tips? SMS Love to Childs voice "3-13-12"

* MTN's 3-6-9 "Clap-ClaP" advert; the song is owned by Gary Glitter a convicted child sexual preditor. In the advert young girls in short skirts clap and dance...

Every-time this advert is played a Known International Child sex offender gets paid

Something wrong with this picture? - As I said it's not child abuse - it's child USE - in a sexuall way - is that then child pornography or prostitution - either way it's clearly acceptable - both these adverts are played on our national electronic media...

The watchdogs the BCCSA and ASASA - don't seem to have a problem with it - so it must be alright

I don't have children - I wouldn't know...

Danielle said...

I happened to stumble across this site when doing a Google search with the words "MTN Clap". I work for the advertising agency for MTN and would like to make it clear that "The Clapping" song was written by Shirely Ellis and Lincon Chase. The Master rights to this song are owned by Universal and the Publishing company is EMI. I have also done a search on allmusic.com and Gary Glitter is not listed as having performed this. However, he may very well have performed this live (which I cannot either confirm or deny) and if he has, I can assure you that neither the advertising agency nor MTN were aware of this. But the important point that I wanted to make is that Gary Glitter is not making any money off the usage of the song in the commercial.