This morning while I was driving to work, I was listening to Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB. Considering that my ride only lasts 15 minutes and one must listen to several commercials as well, I managed to catch just a little snippet of the discussion.

One caller spoke about how children needed a balance of love and firmness. Love without discipline, he explained, produced pampered and rude children. Firmness without love produced repressed children. But with the balance, you had children who respected others and who were also well liked.

This caller went on to explain that the parent’s tool for firmness had been taken away by the Anti-smacking bill, and power over the children was being shifted from the parents to the state. He said that the situation reminded him of the Nazi regime where children were encouraged to spy on their parents.

I believe Leighton agreed with this caller almost entirely, except that he wanted to make two observations. One, that we must not give up and think that as parents we have no way of remaining firm. The bill had made it harder, much harder, but parents had to put their minds to it and figure out how to work around this issue. Not only this, parents had also to make up for the deficit in morals among the children’s peers and in society generally. Two, while he agreed that power was being transferred from parents to the state, to be fair, he felt that it was happening more by default rather than by sinister planning, unlike what had been the case with the Nazis.

Leighton then went on to read an email from a woman who explained how in the pre-bill days, disciplining their children included one or two warnings and lastly a smack if the child persisted in being difficult. But after the anti smacking bill, the smack has been relagated to the last last (sic) thing, the main punishments, now, being in the form of not being allowed to watch TV shows, pocket money being withheld, and so on. Leighton wanted to interupt his reading at this point, but read on.

The email narated that when that woman and her husband explained the new system to their children, the daughter had wanted to know whose idea the bill was, and they explained that it was Sue Bradford’s. Nowadays, whenever the girl has been naughty and is not allowed to watch her favourite Disney channel, or whatever, for a week, she grumbles that it was all because of the Sue woman, for a smack would have been so much faster. “Out of the mouth of babes . . .,” she wrote in closing.

Leighton continued by explaining how a punishment of this nature was so much more harder on parents as well. Where once a smack would have sufficed beautifully, one now has to go through a miserable week with the child, constantly explaining the reasons for the punishment and struggling not to back down.

Good on good NZ parents for persevering in the disciplining of their children.

(Disclaimmer: I do not agree with all that Leighton says all the time.)