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Beating Children


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I heard on Swedish radio this evening that the House of Lords has just amended the law on beating children in the UK in a way which allows the practice to continue. The way they described it here was "you're allowed to beat children, provided that you don't leave any marks".

Physical violence against children was banned her about 30 years ago. What do people in the UK think about the continuation of this practice there?

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Choice of words are important here. I believe the Lords debate was about smacking (implies angry parental arm) rather than beating (implies big stick).

After 15 years of teaching in comprehensive and secondary modern schools it is hard not to come to the conclusion that there are certain children who should be struck regularly like gongs ;)

On a serious note the question is really one of children's rights and is probably an important one... is it possible for instance to bring up a child effectively to respect human rights if you imbue them with a sense of their own equal human rights from the start?

As a non parent I feel I have important things to say on this issue :rolleyes:

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It was the lack of a choice of words which has been so important to Swedes - they don't make a distinction between one kind of physical assault and another here. And it's many, many years since the last time a child was killed by its parents whilst they were chastising him.

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It was the lack of a choice of words which has been so important to Swedes - they don't make a distinction between one kind of physical assault and another here.

This strikes me (no pun intended) as quite foolish. All contact in Sweden is physical assault?

Words are actually quite important here as they could describe quite different actions - hitting, smacking, assault, patting, groping, beating, caressing, punching, chastising, thrashing, stroking - could all for instance be different things with different motivations don't you think?

I am no supporter of striking children by the way. But let's communicate with some accuracy.

If the Nanny State wishes to legislate between parent and child then I am sure it will reap a bountiful harvest :rolleyes:

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It's fairly easy to divide your list up:

Not OK:

hitting, smacking, assault, groping, beating, punching, chastising, thrashing

OK:

patting, caressing, stroking

The main point has been over the years that if you remove physical punishment from your list of things you can do to children, you have to find other ways of dealing with the conflicts that inevitably arise when people come into contact with each other, especially when one of them is big and strong and the other is smaller and physically weaker.

One of the mechanisms Swedish schools have for dealing with disruption, bullying and other forms of physical and mental violence is the class and school council. Pupils get involved in the running of the school from a very early age (Class 1 - 7 years old), and a lot of the work of avoiding the kinds of situation where some kind of physical chastisement happens in other countries is done by pupils, teachers and parents working together.

Parents also have access to a range of different support groups to help them avoid ending up in a situation where children get hit. The mechanism involved here starts with the myriad of parents' groups you get involved in in conjunction with pregnancy and the birth of children. One revelation for new parents is that the system is much more geared to the mental and physical health of the child than of the parent, although people have begun to put more effort into making sure that parents can cope.

The main effect of the law that's been in force now for 30 years or so is to put physical punishment beyond the pale. The spin-off effects of this stand on principle have been generally beneficial (Sweden as a society definitely isn't breaking down). Of course children are still abused by their parents here, but the cases have been reduced to the 'pathological' cases, which are picked up on very quickly.

A local case this spring involved someone who gave birth at home without medical attention and refused to attend the post-natal clinic, for religious reasons. When the child was 12 months old it developed severe eczema and the parent took the child into the emergency clinic. The child was found to be severely malnourished (the only food intake was breast milk) and was taken immediately into care. However, now that the case has been reviewed and the child is healthy again, the care order has been revoked, on condition that the parent accepts the help and support that is available. The point of this case is that it was so unusual that it made national headlines and was discussed in the papers for weeks.

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It was billed in the media as a debate about "smacking" because New Labour is too scared of headlines in the Sun: "Blair bans smacking." Calling it "smacking" does make it hurt less....it makes it hurt more because it trivialises it...."Why are you crying it was only a smack"

In fact all that was proposed was that children should have the same rights as adults. The right not to be hit.

This applies whether it is a parent, an uncle or a total stranger in the street. It is assault if someone hits me. If it leaves no marks and there are no witnesses it is harder to prove.....but it is still assault. I did not like being hit when I was a child. I was caned for drawing a cartoon when in secondary school and I assure you I did not have more respect for the little g*t who caned me after the event.

Where is the evidence that beating children makes them behave better?

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The main effect of the law that's been in force now for 30 years or so is to put physical punishment beyond the pale. The spin-off effects of this stand on principle have been generally beneficial (Sweden as a society definitely isn't breaking down). Of course children are still abused by their parents here, but the cases have been reduced to the 'pathological' cases, which are picked up on very quickly.

As a regular visitor to Sweden I would argue that it is in a better state than the UK. One of the noticeable differences concerns the behaviour of young people on the streets late at night. It is rare to see acts of public violence in Sweden. This is in direct contrast to the streets of the UK. It would be simplistic to suggest that the main reason for this is Sweden’s laws on physical violence towards children. However, I am sure it does contribute to this more peaceful society.

It seems very strange to me that everybody in the UK except children are protected from acts of violence. It is true that most acts of violence towards children are the result of parents losing their temper. It is no coincidence that they are usually able to control their temper when they are faced with someone of their own size.

My parents found it possible to control themselves enough not to hit me as a child. They set me a good example and I have never resorted to hitting anyone (child or adult). The problem is that most children are taught that it is acceptable to hit others as long as they are small enough not to be able to retaliate. Should we be so surprised that we are so good at producing bullies who use violence to solve their problems?

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. It would be simplistic to suggest that the main reason for this is Sweden’s laws on physical violence towards children. However, I am sure it does contribute to this more peaceful society.

Quite - it shows that there is some point in having this kind of 'idealistic' legislation on the books. On a purely utilitarian basis, it probably has no effect whatever for a couple of years … but over time it changes the parameters within which people think, in this case to make violence against children unacceptable.

Another effect is that legislation like this often provides people with an 'alibi' to behave well. They've just installed speed cameras on a stretch of local road and it's done wonders for the people who want to keep to the speed limits - even though they've only installed the boxes, not the cameras.

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I wonder whether the increasing levels of aggressive behaviour in schools is the result of the way children are treated in their formative years at home. If they have experienced any sort of physical assault children may resort to the same response. I think that children should be taught the skills of negotiation from a young age to resolve conflict.

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