What is Reasonable?

One of the worst/saddest/stupidest things about the Section 59 debate is the complete and utter change of the word “reasonable” when used in conjunction with the word “force”.

In the past, it was possible to use reasonable actions that used force to discipline children. This usually involved taking a child across the parents knee and applying an open hand. Sometimes it might have involved the wooden spoon, and times the cane. Temporary pain was the result.

Now, thanks to a handful of borderline cases, anyone who dares suggest that parents have the right to perform reasonable actions is called a “child beater”, who wants to hit their children with “weapons”, “bits of wood”, “large pipes”, or “horse whips”.

Never mind that none of those descriptions is a sober description of what was used in any borderline case.

Never mind that these borderline cases are so rare, and cases that are quite clear cut are thousands of times more common.

Never mind that for every borderline case that “got off” there was another that did not, and thousands who didn’t even bother to use the S59 defense because they’d simply have been laughed out of court.

Never mind that there were plenty of options to refine the law to do away with the worst practises, while leaving practices that we could all agree were reasonable.

So the other day we had this case.

In the latest incident, the child was having a tantrum so Lagataua put him into “time out”. When the child failed to calm down, Lagataua leant over and pinched the child around the neck, lifting him off the floor slightly, the court heard. The child screamed and was left with a small abrasion and minor bruising to his neck, according to evidence presented.

Seems clear-cut to me. Lashing out at a child’s neck, with force sufficient to lift a child off the floor seems quite unreasonable. I have severe doubts that this man would have escaped conviction under the old law, indeed, it seems that he struck his wife too, which can never be reasonable nor legal.

As an aside, it seems to me that this man would have benefited greatly from education on better ways to discipline, but nanny state tells that that we really shouldn’t discipline at all.

Sadly however, some people seem to think that this is a good example to get really worked up over.

Well here is your poster boy conservative NZ, where is the howling for his freedom? He only picked his child up by the neck and bashed mum, come on, where are the pro-abuse lobby to tell us how the law should be reversed so this guy can abuse his kids legally?

Time to admit maybe NZ that the Nanny State thing is a bullshit myth and that perhaps a lot of NZers jumped to a conclusion over the repeal of section 59, or do you wanna let this guy walk free?

This is the hate that gets thrown at you if you suggest giving mum and dad average reasonable rights. News flash: no one is campaigning for this guy to be let off scott free, just for a simple test of reasonableness to be applied.

Later on in comments, Bomber actually insists on sticking to a direct lie, even after being corrected.

…If Sue’s law hadn’t passed this guy could escape the assault charge just like the father who took a horse whip to his teenage daughter did.

At 3/2/09 10:44 AM, Blogger Dave said…
If Sue’s law hadn’t passed this guy could escape the assault charge just like the father who took a horse whip to his teenage daughter did
That’s rubbish Bomber. And do you mean the riding crop case? From media reports of this latest case I would think that pinching a kids neck and lifting him off the ground in the process is not reasonable in the circumnstances and is a lot worse than a hit on the bum with, say, a riding crop. The defence would have failed under the old law.

At 3/2/09 10:55 AM, Blogger Bomber said…
That’s rubbish Bomber.
No it’s not

And do you mean the riding crop case?
Yes the horse whip case.

I’ve been disciplined with both – they’re quite different. A riding crop on the nether regions like a bamboo cane – solid. A whip is more flexible and depending on the type, may bend to produce pain across a wider area.

Of course, “a whip” conjures up all sorts of images… It’s patently clear that Bomber insists in sticking with the lie because it sounds more dramatic and easier to sell.

But even more bizarre than that, he has the facts of the case completely wrong – he confirms to Dave that it’s the same case, but it was a mother, not a father and a son, not a daughter. Again, the facts seem to change in favour of a more dramatic telling. Mother controlling son becomes father beating daughter.

Oh, and never mind that the discipline came to light because it worked when nothing else would.

So let’s thank the government for telling parents that they can’t even do the most reasonable thing, let alone anything that might sound painful, just because this guy just might have gone free.

He’s not the poster boy. He’s the guy who isn’t even on your team, can’t run 10 feet, but insists in turning up and trying to get on the bus with people who have been training for months.

One last thing, and you can quote me on this one.

Supernanny might never smack, but real life can’t be edited to create happy endings.

Update: I will say one more thing. I had several conversations a few months back with a colleague. She thought that the S59 law was wrong, and that parents should have education on good ways to use physical discipline.

It was immensely frustration to try and explain that I agreed with her on that point. There’s far too much shouting in this particular debate. Most of us want the same thing – safe children, and parents who can parent properly. Some however, just focus on the first, ignoring the need for the second and deteriorate into abusing anyone who dares oppose them.

Also fixed spelling 🙂


  1. I often here the argument that police will not be prosecuting “normal” or “light” smacking. As these are usually the same people who acute anyone who smacks a child as being a “child beater”, I view this with suspicion.

    I think that fact that “light” discipline is undefined, in an environment that is highly emotionally charged like this, makes it practically impossible for an ordinary person to know what is acceptable. Consequently, the effect of repealing S59 is to prevent all forms of physical discipline of children. Although Sue Bradford may applaud this, the net result is that few children will be disciplined adequately, because most parents are not skilled enough to discipline without physical intervention.

    Add this to the fact that our young people already do not appreciate that actions have consequences and you have a mess that will make Lord of the Flies seems like a scout jamboree.

  2. We are finding that many people have fallen for the “smacking is always wrong” indoctrination. My wife has found this attitude deeply drilled into other young mothers. We have even noticed it in older people who certainly used physical discipline on their own children, but seem to think we must use other methods.

    This smacking issue isn’t about one law. It is about a lovey-dovey impractical childrearing philosophy that has been promoted by the media, the state and various charities (Barnardos, Plunket etc) for a long time now.

    As people have rejected the principles behind Christianity, they have started to believe people are basically good, and if left to their own devices they will develop into good members of society. All problems are caused by bad influences in the environment. Christianity on the other hand teaches that people are inherently sinful, and it is through training that they become good. These views are incompatible – the first despises all discipline, while the second requires it (although doesn’t require physical discipline of course if you can get alternative methods to work).

    The law was just a symptom of a damaging philosophical shift in society.

    Child abuse can happen when people try to follow the first philosophy for so long that they eventually cannot stand their unruly, disobedient children any longer and the frustrated parent lashes out. Abuse is rarer if you follow the second philosophy as you need little discipline that way, because the children have been trained well from the start and are far less likely to do something that would provoke a parent to give them the bash.

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