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August 21, 2009
New Zealanders vote to overturn ban on smacking children

Should governments make laws about how to punish children? Or it is a private matter?

In a nationwide non-binding referendum that ended on Friday, nearly 88 percent of New Zealanders voted “NO” when asked this question: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense?”

There is already a law on the books in New Zealand that prohibits parents from hitting their children. Some parents think the law is intrusive and that this form of discipline is a private family matter.

The government has said that the existing law will not be changed.

Should governments make laws about how to punish children? Or it is a private matter? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

New Zealand bloggers weighed in on the issue.

Kiwi blogger Kelvin Hartnall takes issue with the language of the referendum:

My first complaint is with the unnecessary adjective ‘good’; how can ‘good’ parenting be wrong? To see the effect of this word, just try rereading the question by placing a negative adjective in this place such as ‘abusive’.

My second complaint is with the word ‘smack’ in the question. My issue is that this word doesn’t actually appear in the Act at all. In this question it helps conjure up a loving gentle smack on the bottom. The Act was passed to prevent physical assaults on children that would be prosecutable if the child was an adult.

Blogger “KiwiPolitico” explains why s/he voted yes to overturn the smacking ban:

I voted yes because I believe smacking children is wrong.

I voted yes because I want to reaffirm that the Christian right do not speak for me. Many many (many) Christians in New Zealand believe, as I do, that smacking is wrong.

I voted yes because countless people gained the signatures of 300,000 voters to give me the opportunity to say out loud what I believe.

I voted yes because I want to live in a country where children are hugged, held, comforted, and raised to be non-violent adults.

At a Facebook group urging a “NO” vote, “Bart” writes:

It demotes Parents from being the highest authority in their childrens lives and devalues the role of parents in the family, and the family is the cornerstone of civilised society.

It leaves children without guidance, a quick smack is effective at communicating without resorting to emotional blackmail and other methods which are actually more damaging and have a longer lasting “scaring” effect.

It supposes that behaviour (if it is bad, but it’s not when done normally in loving correction) can be changed by legislation. If it is such a good thing to not smack (for the correct reasons) then why is there not several years of education instead of the intrusive law telling good parents how to bring up their own children.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Stephen Poff under a Creative Commons license.

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Government should not have any authority over parents on how to discipline their children. Spanking without anger does more good than harm.
Government’s interference goes too far in allowing children to get abortions without parental notification and pushing the homosexual agenda in K-12 against parents wishes.


A slap in the rear at the right time is necesary and proper.My parents did not spared the rod and both my brother and I turned out pretty good.


Discipline of one’s children should be a decision for the parents, and of nobody else. It is different if it becomes abuse, and the definition of abuse is where the disagreement starts. When I was in grade/high school (an all-boys Church of England school in England), we had punishments for misbehaving, anything from not doing homework to running in the corridors. The punishment was usually a choice between writing an essay and 3 “strokes” with a bamboo cane across your trousered bottom. Nearly everyone chose the cane, because it was quick (not the drudgery of writing an essay), quite memorable, and your parents would not find out.


Every child is different. How you discipline each child will be different. I have raised 6 children. For some a stern word and they respond. For some it required a sharp swat. Government involvement in normal discipline would be disastrous. Parents have a duty and obligation to properly discipline their children and guide them to into good citizens. I have ZERO confidence that any government program could do us any good.


As I commented earlier a spanking is okay. I would also like to add that a spanking should only be used as the last action, as several warnings, talkings to, last ditch and then the final, okay, you knew it was coming and you continued on….shoot, it only lasts a few minutes and then its over, but you DO THINK ABOUT IT for a while afterwards! And it works. Ad far as passing it down, I think it makes you a little bit more sympathetic to your child as you remember what it felt like. Did it really hurt? NO…were you sorry? YES….Did it work? Yes it did, yes you didn’t do it again and yes when you grew up you appreciated it, that’s 3 yes’s for me!


When I was a child and did something wrong, I got a smack, or spanking. I believe those spankings helped me, even though sometimes they were not deserved. When a child does something wrong and they do not receive a punishment they learn that doing something wrong is not punishable, that what you do in life doesnt matter and there are no bounderies or laws. Spankings or smacks set up bounderies for life. Even I stuck my hand on the stove after I was told not too and that was the same as a spanking! It is to what degree a spanking is rendered. If a parent gets out of control or over does it, then I think the government should protect the child or anyone that gets abused, but a spanking on the butt is okay as long as it doesnt go to other parts of the body, a good swift kick in the butt never hurt anyone, so a spanking is allowed. That is what is wrong with the world today! The government is taking too much control, thus giving the parent none. I think a spanking from a parent goes much deeper meaning to a child, so does a hugg or a kiss or a good word. The government would also have to give that to be both the punisher and the parent.


Would not the Manner Of Instruction
depend much on the Psychology Of The Child
as to whether any Form Of Punishment
should be somewhat Harsh or Mild?

Anyone can Punish
but to Give…(Selah!)
a good Wisdom Instruction
a better Finish
(as did the Ancient
Egyptian Sages
to their Attentive
Students of Old)
surely means more
than lavishing…(Selah)
Unnecessary Abuse
to those
Spiritual Regions Of Youth
where ’tis possible still
before the moments of Maturity
come forth (Selah)
to create
the Destruction
Of The Child
which may be lurking
in its Nebulous Incipiency
along the truce-created
Borders Of Forming Evolutions
Of Impending Attitudes
which will inevitably prevail
in the Life
despite the first
Fixed Nature of any Methodology
which often shifts
by Necessity
within the genealogy of
Personality and its
Etymological Nuances
of the Human Language
Terminologies used.

Not Everything can rest
within the Open Palms
of the Hands of Man.

One Sandal cannot fit
the variably sized feet
of All which must Walk
through the Sandgrains
of our Lives
passing Time…
by Way of this
Desert Life.

What would the
Thousands Of Years Gaze
of the
Sphinx at Giza
Say…or Do?

while This is Considered.)


Government interferance represents an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy and autonomy of parenthood. The autonomy to make one’s own decision about risks to subject a child to is not to be interfered with lightly. It should only be done in cases where there is a substantial threat of severe harm to the child,


I think Newzelanders got it right. Government should stay out of how we parent or reprimand our children.
When we were small, our parents spanked us(my brothers and sisters)and we grew up unscaved.
We all have children and our children have children and their children…
“Spair the rod and spoil the child”
Don’t beat them, but let them know that there are consequences. And some far worse than a spanking!


To Estelle,
There are a host of problems with using “models and conviction that love pays out” as a means of correcting children. Its a difficult lesson to teach and you are choosing a method which maximizes ambiguity (even in adults) and minimal impact because its being delivered with the message that they can take it or leave it; the result of your method of teaching is unpredictable which is unfortunate since bad outcomes are exceeding more likely than good. Objectively, I am not sure that children are capable to distinguishing between “love pays out” and neglect.
Even if I am completely wrong and your use of “models and conviction that love pays out” bears out, when those children leave home it will be like throwing hot house flowers into the snow outside.


Violence never solves anything long-term. Hitting or smacking is violence. When someone with a size advantage hits a smaller person, it is especially offensive. when children are hit to punish their misdeeds it sends them the message that this is the consequence of certain unwanted behavior. These same kids are likely to become adults who hit their kids as a means of punishment. On & on it goes. The cycle never ends.


We want children to develop into caring, competant adults. They need models and conviction that love pays off. When children see that we care about their feelings they learn to modify their behavior,rather than risk losing the parents approval and warmth. Spanking gives a different message. Top down, it says to a child,your needs and your feelings don’t count…what counts is what we (parents) want, and because we’re bigger and more powerful than you (child) we can force you to our ways. That approach teaches children that fight is might. They pass that message on to other kids who are weaker than them or they wait their turn until they’re big enough to strike back at adults in power.Ideally, children can be helped to learn how to use language rather than fists to express their needs and to learn about fairness, compromise and caring for others.


To Ms LuAnne Codella, MD, RN, C.Ac.,
There is two camps on the issue on whether it is right to use physical punishment on children. You stand in the non-violent camp believing that children have developed sufficiently to appreciate compassionate communications and that debate can change behavior. If your view point is right then the same methods should work even better on more developed adults in which case criminality would disappear.
It is sad that reality is harsher and less yielding to such dreams.


I agree with Bill. There are times, ie: extremely bad behavior, that warrant a smack on the bum. I worked for me and it worked for my very well behaved children. Sometimes all those degrees don’t mean much when it comes to reality.


Smacking children is never the answer to bring up children with cogent self esteem, positive behaviors to imperfect human foibles. Adults must learn to communicate with our most fragile children with patience, compassion, and tools that promote a nonviolent response. If New Zealand’s people feel they can not manage doing so without violence, than perhaps they ought to require a certificate indicating they have the proper training. The ‘ripple’ effect of bullying children survives for generations. It infects the playgrounds, class rooms, jails, and even high level management corporations. Just ask Mr Bill Clinton, or Hilary.At least it was up for discussion in New Zealand, unlike other ‘civilized’, developed countries. Say no to Bullying!Find a better way to care about the ones you love the most. It will certainly pay off in the long run.


Within reason a good smack on the kids bum is

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