Violence against children

21 October, 2014

Here I was, not thinking at all about violence against children, simply sitting at the playground while Juno and Ramona hang off the rusty roundabout, all ready to write about how a one legged Barbie has infiltrated our lives when my husband reads out a BBC headline:

Violence kills a child every five minutes- the majority not in war zones.

And my fingers are struck numb and dumb.

About our Barbie, at least.

My mind shot immediately to a quote I’d read by local child right’s hero Pennie Brownlee just this day- about how we need to completely overhaul our perception of children.

I read the articles about Unicef’s report with these words ringing through my mind. There is an enormous number of children growing up in violent homes- how much can changing our perception of children change the experience of childhood?

Here in Thames, NZ, Pennie and a small team have been teaching respectful parenting courses for several years- and I’m sure- I am so sure!- there is a palpably different parenting culture here. It is apparent at tots groups, in the kindergarten, here at the playground. There is just *that* much more respect for children. I’m sure of it.

New Zealand is one of the 41 countries that have laws about violence against children- although absurdly this government has made noises about reversing it, and surveys seem to show 50% support for this.

The law came in in 2007- probably one of the most controversial laws implemented in recent years. It basically made smacking a crime. Which, if you consider children as being real people with real rights, makes real sense- but very few other countries are willing to go there. Now, this wasn’t a case of just awesome old New Zealand generally just being awesome: great beaches, inventive personalities, relaxed working environs, anti smacking bills! Not at all, actually the statistic on child abuse here are dire, truly dire. They really HAD to do something about being one of the worst OECD countries for child abuse.

I hosted an event earlier in this year with the politician that made that law happen, Sue Bradford, and I was convinced by her report on the difference it had made to the lives of children here. There had been an increase in reporting of child abuse, and nearly every incidence of abuse reported was serious. (It is often suggested that laws like this will put gentle parents who non thinkingly give a violent shake when their child runs across the road in prison- NZ shows this simply isn’t the case.)

violence against children
I believe that we can build a world where childhood can be free from violence- where children don’t grow up in fear. We all have a role to play in that- by respecting the children in our lives, recognising their rights and defending them. Family life is far less violent now than it has been in history- we can be encouraged that culture does evolve, albeit slowly. Paradigms and perceptions do shift. Heck, it used to be commonplace to leave babies deemed to weak or sensitive on a hillside. (Read Robin Grille’s Parenting for a Peaceful World for more on this.) We can change the culture of parenting and the experience of childhood.

And when we, as parents and teachers and neighbours and grandparents, are willing to consider children as rights holders, then their right to safety and security might be written into law. The UK has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child – but as yet have no anti-smacking policy.

We need these laws, absolutely, but we need a cultural shift too. And we can herald that.

It’s easy to feel immensely hopeless and unendingly helpless, reading about the violence bleeding into so many children’s lives. Children dying this very day. I want to hold a minutes silence for them in my heart.

I guess I want that silence to somehow warm a kernel of hope. To set my parental feet in the ways of non violence, and gentleness, and respect. To hold tight onto what history shows us about change. We can only do a little bit, but we should do it, and we will see few moments the ripples that can make across the world.

Here are some other words from Pennie, to finish my sort of inspo-rant:

“Here in New Zealand, when enough of us begin to change the way we behave with babies and children, we can look forward to climbing up from our dismal position of last on the table of OECD countries for child abuse, neglect and fatalities. I look forward to that day with all my heart.”

Oh, yes! Let’s herald that day. Let’s stop violence against children.


IMG_1239.PNGWe are out to change the world for our children, for all children.

One legged Barbie can get her rant (non-inspo variety) on this blog another day…

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  • ThaliaKR 21 October, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Thank you for putting this so well, Lucy (and for the excellent graphics which I’ve just pinned! Let’s change the world through Pinterest, too 🙂 ).

  • Kiran at Mummy Says 22 October, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I was a reporter in NZ when the law was brought in, so thank you for this read on where you see things now. Sue Bradford fought for a change, and perhaps it is coming about, as you say. I agree though that more than laws are needed. As a crime reporter in NZ, I wrote about too many children either seriously injured or killed by violence. Each and every one was failed not only by those who were violent, but by something bigger, and by all of us. The change starts with conversations. It’s the only way we can bring about action. For all the children xx

    • Lucy 22 October, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Thank you – so good to hear your thoughts! I love your points x

  • Rebekah Manley-Campbell 22 October, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I agree completely… As a mother who is choosing to treat my children with the respect I give adults, I am constantly experiencing situations I am un-prepared to negotiate, as there are not that many examples in our culture of how to deal with ‘behaviour’ which I find difficult. More than that though, I think that in order for our culture to adopt a less violent approach to being parents a lot of things will need to change. Parents will need support so that they can behave in assertive non-violent ways. By this I mean that they need to have breaks from the constant job that is being a parent, they need examples to follow, they need stability – economic, emotional….- they need time to do nothing… the list would probably be endless. But I have four kids, so I don’t have time for endless musings on what would make my parenting easier!!! Usually it is practical, physical things: someone making dinner for my kids (thanks Lucy and Tim!), someone dropping my child somewhere, someone taking ALL of my children for a weekend (yes that does happen!), someone taking one of my kids so the others can have space from one another… sometimes it is listening to me, less often it is pearls of wisdom… I think that in order to support our children we need to feel safe, confident, and belonging as parents…

    • Lucy 22 October, 2014 at 11:41 am

      YES! Isn’t this SO TRUE! Thank you for bringing it up. It is fine to say “We should be more respectful” but we do need a lot more of that tangible stuff to be able to do it. *falls asleep at the library*

  • Katy Hill 23 October, 2014 at 12:52 am

    A brilliant blog. As a parent, it makes me go cold inside when I look at my children and think that some people actually smack their kids. I find it deeply disturbing. Just so many kinds of wrong. And I can’t believe there are some calling for NZ law on the matter to be reversed. Mind. Blown x

  • Michelle Twin Mum 23 October, 2014 at 2:45 am

    In truth I’ve not given that much thought to violence against children in the developed world but you have bought it right to the forefront of my mind and I need to find out more now. I love the notion that childrens must be treated with the same respect as adults, we are all equal afterall. Mich x

  • Emma 23 October, 2014 at 6:30 am

    That figure is absolutely shocking. I actually really like the fact that here in Germany it is illegal to hit anyone whoever they are, however old they are….

  • otilia 23 October, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Wow! I agree with EVERYTHING. We all need to shake the world. Our children and grandchildren need it xxx

  • Cass@frugalfamily 23 October, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I feel like standing up and clapping 😉

    Excellent post x x x x

  • Emma 23 October, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Awesome post, I love how you challenge me to think about things.

  • Anya from Older Single Mum and The Healer 23 October, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Those different terms of how to label hitting someone really hit home and I agree with everything you’re saying. Good work 🙂

  • Genevieve 23 October, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Thank you Lucy for this insightful as always post. We do need to keep our awareness strong that we are all part of the problem and must be part of the solution. There is SO much education needed, so much healing needed. Discussions open up all the time on the peaceful parenting forums where parents, who are now attempting to parent in a much gentler and more respectful non-violent way, become increasingly upset as they now see more and more of the injustice in their midst and wonder what to do. There are always parents sharing the same questions and many other parents who become very angry at these same parents asking “what can we do” because it’s, defensively I presume, seen to be judgmental. And it is and the time has come for us all to care about how other people’s children, as well as our own, are being treated on a day to day basis. I don’t know all the answers at all, but I love to see more and more parents truly truly caring about the level of peace or conflict that our children are living in.

    As a friend, as a parent coach and a counsellor I also know SO many parents who are truly truly struggling to break the old cycle, who go to bed feeling wracked with guilt, shame and defeat because they’ve again been rough to their child, again shouted, grabbed them too roughly, said things they deeply regret. So I’m ever mindful of how hard it is to change the patterns and how compassionate we need to do AND keep standing up and saying it’s not okay, children deserve better. Setting limits with love for each other, as we need to do for our children.

  • Sim @ 23 October, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    A fantastic post – a very shocking statistic indeed and something needs to be done!

  • Carolin 24 October, 2014 at 4:31 am

    Amazing post, Lucy!

    A person’s a person, no matter how small and no one should experience violence, especially not children who are the most vulnerable of our society.

    Imagining that parents, the people these children look up to and instinctively trust the most, smack or beat them, makes my blood run cold. Not only because of the physical pain these children experience, but also because of the emotional pain that they are feeling when instead of comforting them and building their confidence, their parents destroy their little souls.

    It’s heart-breaking that a law like this is even needed, but it’s good that it has been put in place to protect them.

  • Pinkoddy 24 October, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I can see how it would work – it would get rid of the bystander apathy effect – if you saw someone smack a child you would report it (if it were illegal). I do hope that the law in NZ doesn’t change back, and that we get a law here in the UK to make it illegal. Is there a petition or something to try to make it happen?