October 21, 2015

MummyPages welcomes the removal of the legal defence for ‘reasonable chastisement’ of children

As a longstanding advocate for children’s rights,, Ireland’s leading parenting community welcomes the giant leap made today by Ireland’s Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly in protecting our vulnerable children. The Seanad will meet today for the Report and Final Stages of the Children First Bill to finalise the newly amended bill which will bring our nation one step closer in criminalising the physical chastisement of children. Once the amends have been approved they will be presented to the Dáil in due course and signed into law.

The primary focus of the newly amended Children First Bill 2014 will incorporate the removal of ‘reasonable chastisement’ protection from common law for parents and childminders, with this element cosponsored by Senator Jillian van Turnhout. Earlier this year, the Minister vowed to review the defence of reasonable chastisement following a Council of Europe ruling earlier this year that states lack of a clear ban on smacking In Ireland violates young people’s rights.

The newly amended Bill also focuses on what constitutes as the ‘emotional abuse’ and ‘neglect’ of a child. Once passed the amendments to the Children’s First Bill will ensure all children in Ireland are better protected from physical and emotional abuse from parents, guardian, teachers and indeed childcare workers.

With MummyPages representing Ireland’s largest community of over 675,000 mums, it was fitting our Mum-in-Residence, Laura Haugh was invited by Senator Jillian van Turnhout to participate in the debate by the House of Oireachtas where the views from MummyPages’ mum community were taken into consideration by Ireland’s top policy makers.

Commenting on the changes to the legislation, Laura Haugh, Mum-in-Residence for said:

“Our MummyPages mums wholeheartedly support the campaign led by Senator Jillian van Turnhout to repeal the defence of reasonable chastisement by parents and childminders of up to 3 children, in Irish law.”

“While a small number of our mums have admitted to slapping their child in extreme circumstance where their safety was at risk, almost all agree that it is not an effective or acceptable disciplinary method to use on a regular or even occasional basis.”

“It is our view that slapping another person, especially a vulnerable child is wrong. Firstly, allowing a caregiver to slap a child under the term ‘reasonable chastisement’ is legalising physical violence to another person and a form of child abuse. It demonstrates that it’s ok for a person to hit another person and indeed that it’s ok for a bigger or stronger person to hit a smaller or weaker person. This kind of behaviour can lead to abuse in the home for the child that does not learn quickly from the ‘reasonable chastisement’, and it is at complete odds with what is acceptable in today’s adult society or indeed the school playground.”

“Secondly, slapping is not actually an effective form of discipline. Instead it breeds contempt and even more bad behaviour as the victim looks to punish the perpetrator for the injustice of the physical punishment by acting out again and so the negative cycle continues. Initially the child is hurt by the physical action and emotional breakdown of trust between parent and child that they forget what they have done wrong. What you want in effective discipline is for the child to understand what they have done wrong, and the consequences of their actions to others. You want the child to feel remorse but ultimately to still believe that they are a person of value, slapping does not promote this.”

“The main principle in promoting desirable behaviour is for the child to feel good and therefore be good. This is why regular positive affirmations of good behaviour is a much more effective tool to maintain this type of behaviour than anything else.”

“It is now well researched that when responding to an incident with a child that requires discipline; tuning into the child to understand exactly why they misbehaved, helping them to realise how their behaviour might affect others, and consistent follow-through with age appropriate consequences is much more effective than physical chastisement, no matter how ‘reasonable’ it is perceived.”