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New Zealand Says: Let Us Spank

By jeannesager |

spankingWhile much of the world goes in the opposite direction, voters in New Zealand put up a public referendum asking to be allowed to spank their children.

The two-year-old law banning spanking is in line with the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of Children, prompted by the deaths of two kids in 2006.

Enforcement has been controversial – the law allowed a loophole for police “not to prosecute complaints … involving the use of force against a child where the offense is considered so inconsequential there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.” When the first father was brought up on charges for smacking his son three times on the bottom, it gave fuel to the fire of politicians who said the government was taking away the rights of parents to discipline.

A referendum this summer drew support for overturning the law from eighty-eight percent of voters, an overwhelming majority (although those are preliminary figures, expected to be firmed up this week).The exact question: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense in New Zealand?”

But what the parents want might not matter: it’s a “non-binding” referendum, and Prime Minister John Key says unless he sees evidence that parents are truly being unjustly prosecuted, he won’t be making any moves to change the law.

Here in the states, spanking is still A-OK with lawmakers – an attempt to ban corporal punishment in California two years ago (around the same time as the NZ ban) got nowhere. It’s not, however, OK with scientists, who have largely come out as anti-spanking, linking it to a number of problems down the road. Perhaps that’s because the most hard core “the state can’t tell us what to do” parents I know are also the most likely to spank? It seems the squeaky wheel controls the whole issue.

In New Zealand, the squeaky parents are coming out in droves, lest the government stop them. But the question is, stop them from what? According to most reports, only three parents in the ENTIRE country have been convicted on this issue. Three out of more than four million people. Is this really a wide sweeping problem?

Image: holistic monkey via Flickr

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About jeannesager



Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer and photographer living in upstate New York with her husband and daughter, Jillian. She maintains a blog of her award-winning columns at

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12 thoughts on “New Zealand Says: Let Us Spank

  1. Ali says:

    Since a majority of parents still spank their kids in this country if we prosecuted all of them our foster care system would be overwhelmed. A recent study on one Sandinavian country where spanking was outlawed shows that child abuse actually rose. Child abuse and neglect are not caused by parents who spank. It is caused by poverty, poor education and lack of support for families.

  2. Lee says:

    Why is no distinction being made between spankings and beatings? A swat on the behind is a far cry from a beating that results in injury or death whether you agree with corporal punishment or not.

  3. Manjari says:

    Of course there is a difference between a swat on the behind and a severe beating, but the problem is where exactly to draw the line. Is any and all violence against children acceptable as long as there are no marks or serious injury? I think Cindy Kiro put it very well when she said, “Children are entitled in law to the same protections that adults expect: to be free from assault, to be free from being hit.”

  4. Manjari says:

    Also, the picture here is a very strange choice. It doesn’t seem to match well with a story about two infants being brutally murdered.

  5. [...] are hazy, but a toilet seat, a sheet of “Jeanne” stickers and a swift hand across my behind still stand out in my mind. [...]

  6. Dennis says:

    I just can’t imagine under any circumstances why violence against a child is the best option. It indicates a void in parental resourcefulness and skill. Children do the what they do because that’s what they understand. My son is seven years old, extremely active and on the go from the moment his eyes open. Yet never have any of his testing of boundaries had me thinking, “hitting him is the best course of action.” We talk, starting with me listening, then appealing to a simple question: Were your actions meant to be helpful or harmful?
    Another question when he has hit me or someone else: Do you want to be the type of family where people hit each other?
    It’s amazing what those questions leads to.

  7. Sarah says:

    I voted no, largely influenced by my baby who has just started to crawl. As I watch him head towards the electrical cords or the fireplace yet again I don’t know that a discussion about whether his actions were intended to be helpful or harmful is going to be very helpful. I haven’t done anything yet, but in a few months I wonder if a smack on the hand as it reaches up to the fireplace may reinforce what the word no means. And yes, I could manically baby proof but he isn’t going to be at my house under my care all the time.

  8. Rosana says:

    Smacking a child does not help with discipline it actually teaches de kid that violence is the solution to problems. Firm rules and consistency is what really teaches our kids. No spanking also requires us parents to be more proactive and avoid situations in which our kids can be in danger or get in trouble. I firmly belive that spanking is simply a result of stress, tiredness and even lazyness on the parents side, because it takes a lot of energy to raise a kid and some people did not bother to find out if they were cut out to deal with parenting before they got into parenting.

  9. Dennis says:

    Sarah, some thoughts … Picking up your child and saying “Hot! Hot!” As you mimic pain from touching the fireplace or electrical socket might be helpful. Being kind of dramatic can be a great teacher lending itself to clarity.
    But your child is more likely to justify hitting if you justify it. Or you just end up parenting from a position based in fear (your child afraid of you) rather then one of love and gentleness. It is your child’s nature to explore. Encourage it through parenting rather than punishment. It’s a lot more fun and effective that way.

  10. PDeverit says:

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    PsycHealth Ltd Behavioral Health Professionals,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  11. skipro3 says:

    Amazing how a nation that essentially has abortion on demand is so concerned over the rights of children outside the womb. Please explain that logic.

  12. sosad says:

    So sad. You have been silenced, New Zealand. You will reap what you sow, as will the rest of the nations falling to enslavement of twisted-thinking socialist idiocy.

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