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Physical punishment for children is an offence in New Zealand

 

Physical punishment for children is an offence in New Zealand – (Photo: Child Crime Prevention & Safety Center)

Malini Yugendran
Auckland, December 9, 2022

According to research by the Ministry of Health, 7.9% of male children aged 14 and under and 7.2% of female children aged 14 and below received physical punishment in New Zealand during the four weeks of July 2021. The Prevent Child Abuse website states that physical punishment (PP), includes spanking, slapping, popping, whooping, or smacking, the use of physical force on a child with the objective of generating pain but not injury. Some parents believe that physical punishment can help discipline their children. In New Zealand, it is prohibited for a parent to smack or use force on their child to punish or correct their behaviour.

Disciplining your child

Discipline urges your child to behave responsibly. It teaches a child what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. But this need not be done through physical punishment. Experts say that discipline does not require punishment. Disciplinary procedures are intended to be constructive. They are based on speaking and listening and assist the child in determining what behaviour is acceptable in various situations. It is about learning to control one’s own behaviour and gaining important skills such as getting along with others. They say that disciplining works best when parents and child have a warm and caring relationship.

Nithya Kesavan with family (Photo: Supplied)

Nithya Kesavan, a businesswoman and a mother of two children, Shruthi and Surya said,

“When I was a child my parents used to reprimand me by yelling and hitting me. But I do not condone it. Rather than jumping to conclusions, I speak with my children and ask for their perspectives. Then I explain why something is appropriate. If talking to them does not work, I seek time out and make them sit and think about their behaviour before writing a two-page essay describing how they will correct their behaviour in the future. I also ground them by restricting their use of electronic gadgets. The purpose is to instil that their actions have consequences. Setting boundaries is important.”

Setting Boundaries

Experts say that setting boundaries is pertinent. Children need boundaries or they will “test” until they discover them. A child, for example, may believe “I can break my crayons without repercussion; can I now break my other toys? Thus, it is critical to have a consequence: provide a choice.  For example, parents can say “turn down the volume on your device, or I will put the video game away till tomorrow. This puts the responsibility in their hands.

Gentle Discipline

When misbehaviour occurs, experts advise using diffusion. Determine whether an underlying issue, such as exhaustion, boredom, or hunger, exists first. Addressing the underlying issue may make the misbehaviour disappear. If not, author Elizabeth Pantley recommends a “laundry bag” of tactics. This is a large collection of amusing games and diversion.

Ashwin Teegavarapu with his daughter (Photo: Supplied)

Ashwin Teegavarapu, a Software Test Analyst and father of a three-year-old daughter Ahanya said that,

“Children are mischievous. Even I was a naughty child. When my daughter is being mischievous, I distract her with activities she enjoys. For example, I pull out her colouring book and offer that we colour together. Or I strike up a conversation with her about her friends. But the key to disciplining a child through distraction is to spend quality time with them so you learn how to distract them.”

Positive Discipline

In positive discipline, misbehaviour is seen as an opportunity for learning, and children are actively engaged in coming up with a solution. Experts suggest that parents talk with their children and try to find out the underlying cause of their misbehaviour. Assume a 3-year-old refuses to stow away her toys, is she trying to get attention, or does it give her a sense of power? Once the reason is established, give the child the right kind of encouragement and work out a solution. For example, if the child is struggling with powerlessness, parents can encourage them by saying, “We need to clean the space. Can you help figure out how to do it?”

Setting a good example

Experts believe that when you do good deeds in front of your children, they will notice and even replicate your actions. Thus, having a good role model is important for developing children.

Jennifer Vijayalaxmi Sivagurunathan with her two daughters (Photo: Supplied)

Jennifer Vijayalaxmi Sivagurunathan, a mother of two daughters Suhana11, and Sunaina, 8, and a project coordinator said that

“When I was a child, everything was told to me in a firm and sometimes harsh way, but I feel the best approach to discipline children is to set a good example and be a good role model.” What counts most is how disciplined we are.”

 

Lavanya Komal. A mother of two teenage boys Rishi and Bharat said that

“I was fortunate with my two children since I seldom had the opportunity to smack discipline them because their behaviour and attitude would not warrant it. We believe in communication and explaining things than punishing them.”

Lavanya Komal with her family (Photo: Supplied)

Ministry of Health on Physical Punishment

The are a few instances under which a parent or guardian may use reasonable force against a child:

Preventing or minimising injury to the child or another person; Preventing the child from committing a criminal offence and keeping the child from engaging in offensive or disruptive behaviour. When a parent uses force on the child for other than the above-mentioned reasons, the child can call the police at 111 or Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children (OT) at 0508 FAMILY (326459). When OT is involved, the child has little control over where they will live as OT can take the child to a foster home or a safer home. Also, using force on your child may entail the police charging the parents. The rationale is that parents are not authorised to admonish their children with force. Using force on their child or another child on a regular basis for discipline or correction may constitute domestic violence. Parents and anyone 18 years of age and older who are aware of child abuse in the household in which they live must take reasonable actions to safeguard the child from death, serious harm, or sexual assault. Parents or adults who neglect to report abuse may face substantial criminal penalties. Employees in hospitals, institutes, or homes where a child resides are also bound by the legislation. Guardians are also responsible for keeping children in their care safe from harm. The highest punishment for failing to take reasonable precautions to protect a child is ten years in jail. One will not be punished for reporting abuse unless it was done in bad faith. When OT receives a notification, it must investigate it. The person who made the report will be notified of the findings of the investigation and the action that OT will take.

Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Auckland.

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