Disciplining adults

spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London).

Mick Hume

Mick Hume
Columnist

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Topics Politics

If the Government wants to improve adult-child relations, it could start by banning the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children from repeatedly beating parents and carers over the head. The NSPCC is today celebrating its latest step towards total world domination. The Government is giving in to the charity’s demands by banning childminders from smacking children, even with parental permission.

New Labour previously insisted that such a ban would be an unacceptable ‘thin end of the wedge’ – one step from telling parents how to discipline their children.

Now the Government insists the ban is no such thing, and that it will not outlaw parental smacking. But the NSPCC knows that every crack of the Whitehall whip gives it more power. ‘This is a great step forward,’ said a spokesman, ‘We want them to ban smacking totally and this is a significant step.’

We have all been made wearily familiar with the few horror cases of abuse by childminders. Nobody can seriously suggest that these would be avoided, or better dealt with, by a petty ban on smacking; so far as I am aware there are already laws against beating a baby to death. It is also obvious that corporal punishment is less common today than ever before. Yet the less we smack our children, it seems, the louder the anti-smacking lobby protests.

Behind the focus on smacking, these campaigns are promoting a more poisonous message: that adults cannot be trusted to care for children. The underlying assumption is that abuse is the norm in adult-child relationships. The emphasis on the emotive issue of smacking is a PR ploy. Many campaigners are opposed to any kind of parental discipline or adult authority as an infringement of children’s rights. To these crackpots, telling a child off or sending her to her room are just alternative forms of emotional or psychological abuse.

In this twisted world view, teachers, nursery staff and now childminders are assumed to be the least trustworthy adults of all. Far from benefiting children, these corrosive campaigns are destroying the bonds on which good childraising depends. We are educating adults not to trust one another or themselves around children. And we are teaching our children not to trust teachers, childminders or grown-ups in general. We are creating a society with a dirty mind that sees abuse behind every front door.

The NSPCC wins support by equating smacking a child with violent abuse. Yet smacking is not violence. That is defined by the intent to do harm. By contrast, an occasional smack as a last resort by those who care really can be for the child’s own good. To the child protection industry, however, it is all the same thing.

Lady Walmsley, an ambassador for the NSPCC, said last year that every child death caused by violence or neglect ‘starts with a smack’. A clip round the ear in the supermarket, and we are apparently on the slippery slope to the Tesco chainsaw massacre. The NSPCC even had the nerve to use the Victoria Climbie case to further its anti-smacking crusade, arguing that the little girl’s killers started abusing her as a form of family discipline. In fact the NSPCC’s failure to save Victoria, despite its close involvement in the case, illustrates the dangers of its ‘smacking can kill’ approach. The zealots appear to be so busy lecturing normal parents, and imagining signs of abuse in ordinary adult-child relationships, that they cannot see murder being done in front of their faces.

I am sure the NSPCC started life with good intentions, but somewhere it went astray. Perhaps if somebody had taken it in hand, and knocked some of the nonsense out of its head, it might not have grown up to be such an unpleasant, antisocial bully.

This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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