Smacking kids is not acceptable, it's barbaric

OPINION: The subject of smacking kids raised its ugly head again on Wednesday after a Picton father was taken to court for smacking his child.

The man, who has name suppression, was discharged without conviction after a complaint was laid against him by the child's mother. 

A poll on the AM Show the same morning revealed that most of New Zealand is still stuck in the dark ages and in favour of smacking kids to discipline them. 

Our inbox at Newshub had a number of emails in support of using a smack on the hand or bottom for discipline. People pointed out a smack is different to beating children.

But here is the thing, we live in a country that has appalling child abuse statistics. They are among the worst on the OECD.

According to UNICEF in 2015, there were 6,491 recorded instances of common and serious assaults on a child and 1,982 for sexual assaults on a child.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children deals with around 150,000 reports of concern for children each year.

When I lived in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, the weekly court session was taken up largely with drunk drivers and people who had violently abused either their partner or child.

One case that stuck with me was an Opotiki father who, in a drunken state, asked his 8-year-old son to pass the TV remote.

The kid passed the wrong one, so to 'discipline' him the father repeatedly hit him over the head so hard with the remote he had to be taken to hospital.

The attack was so ruthless the poor kid barely made it through the night. He survived, thankfully.

Another was a Kawerau father who saw his teenage daughter making hand signs that were associated with a rival gang. He didn't just berate her, he stomped on her head, multiple times, she too was lucky to survive.

Just last week a five-week old baby with "unexplained injuries," was taken to Starship Hospital. 

That's the reality of the violence children in New Zealand suffer, and if protecting them means we can't smack our child when they annoy us then that is a small price to pay. 

The arguments that it's just a short smart smack on the bottom, it's a useful deterrent, it's something kids understand are just weak.

If you can't get a child to do what you want without resorting to violence, well that says more about your failings as a human and a parent than theirs as a child.

You can't use physical violence in other parts of life. I manage people, if they don't do what I ask I can't smack them around the head - why is it acceptable for me to hit a child. 

Using violence to discipline, control or dominate anyone is wrong and New Zealanders should wake up to the fact that many, many children need protecting from violent adults.

That so-called harmless smack is the thin end of a very destructive and dangerous wedge.

Mark Longley is the managing editor of Newshub digital.