Scots parents urged to resist bid to ban smacking children

Children join a protest in Wellington against the introduction of the ban on smacking by parents in New Zealand in 2007. Photograph: Getty Images
Children join a protest in Wellington against the introduction of the ban on smacking by parents in New Zealand in 2007. Photograph: Getty Images
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SCOTTISH parents are being urged to argue against a ban on smacking children by family campaigners in New Zealand where it has been outlawed for the past decade.

The Family First organisation has warned that the 2007 ban has not resulted in any improvement in children’s “wellbeing” – and in many cases it has worsened.

It is now offering to advise Scottish opponents of such a move here after children’s minister Aileen Campbell recently hinted that ministers are considering a ban.

Campbell revealed that New Zealand was among the countries which the Scottish Government is now looking to “learn from” in its approach to tackling physical punishment of children. Ministers in Scotland say they oppose smacking but have no plans to legislate until a full consultation is carried out.

But Family First New Zealand, in an article for Scotland on Sunday today, warns that the move may be more about “political ideology” then the impact on families.

National director Bob McCoskrie said the group has already been in contact with politicians and family organisations in Scotland to discuss New Zealand’s experience.

He warns in today’s article that the New Zealand ban has not been a success.

“The problem is that politicians and anti-smacking lobby groups linked good parents who smacked their children with child abusers – a notion roundly rejected by families,” he states.

“A law change would also communicate the message that politicians don’t trust Scottish parents to raise their own children responsibly.

“Ultimately, as we have observed, the supporters of smacking bans are influenced by political ideology rather than common sense, good science and sound policy-making.

“Criminalising good parents who simply want to raise law-abiding and responsible citizens is bad law-making.”

Parents in New Zealand now report they increasingly face threats from younger children to report them if they are smacked. About a quarter of parents now say they are less confident in tackling unacceptable behaviour of children.

In Scotland, although physical punishment of children is classed as assault, smacking is generally allowed under the defence of “reasonable chastisement”. A growing body of children’s campaign groups and academics want to see this defence removed.

Rev David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, said he was opposed to any form of abusive behaviour towards children, but added that an outright ban on smacking was “over the top”.

He added: “To criminalise parents who may be good and loving people and are only looking out for their children is just daft and is just another example of the moral thought police approach.

“It seems to me that the evidence for a smacking ban is very limited. It’s something you should do rarely, but in some instances you could argue it may be more abusive not to discipline a child.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said last night: “We do not support the physical punishment of children. In line with our Parenting Strategy we will be developing comprehensive, practical advice on different approaches to support parents in managing their children’s behaviour.”