MENZ Issues

Is the Ban on Using Force in Discipline Working?

The anti-smacking law (actually the anti-use-of-force-in-discipline law) was based largely on feminist ideology. The idea that male characteristics of size and strength should be allowed to be used to exert ‘power and control’ was anathema to feminists, and they projected their sense of injustice on to the matter of raising and disciplining children. State-sponsored sole parenthood often involved rejection of male influence in raising children and the anti-smacking law was an extension of this.

Instead of using any physical force in discipline to teach children some fear of consequences and that adults will take control where necessary, adults such as teachers now are allowed only to call police and/or to use female-type violence such as ostracizing (through suspension and expulsion), labeling as ‘bad’ or ‘sick’ and manipulation of children in an effort to have them feel guilty and unacceptable.

Is the current law serving our society and the next generation’s development? Having removed rights from adults to use force and leaving such rights exclusively with agents of the state such as police, is this benefiting our society? Are our children becoming less violent as we follow the principle of ‘not modelling violence, power and control’ in the way we manage our children?

There seems to be little evidence of the predicted improvements. Two news stories this week reflect the true direction that is resulting from our rejection of male approaches in socializing children and managing our communities.

The first story was about a college student who came to school drunk or drugged and aggressive, then when police attempted to arrest and contain him, other students tried to stop those police. Those students’ lack of fear of authority will not help them in life. Their confidence in the ‘rights’ of their friend to be an unruly vandal and not to be subject to force or control was unrealistic and maladaptive. Effective discipline during their previous schooling experience would have led to a different outcome in this situation. Such discipline would have been quick and unpleasant but the students would have returned to their classes immediately afterward still feeling accepted as members of the school, having gained some fear of consequences and a clear message that they were expected not to break the relevant rule again. In the present case however, these students will be suspended or expelled and will carry a sense of unacceptability, rejection and alienation into adulthood, with predictable results.

The second news story was this case of a 14yo college boy who assaulted and seriously injured the school bus driver who had previously dared to order the boy off the bus for eating fish and chips against the bus rules. If this lad had experienced adults containing him effectively in the past, and if he believed a male bus driver might overpower him and cause him some temporary pain, it’s unlikely he would have dared to assault the driver or any adult in a position of responsibility. Instead, the driver had previously only been allowed to ‘file a report’ about the teenager’s earlier misbehaviour. Great, that taught him huh? The teenager held unrealistic beliefs about his ‘rights’, for example to break rules as he saw fit and to retaliate against an adult authority figure. Even though adults throughout his schooling had never ‘modeled violence’ towards him, he now behaved with a level of violence towards an authority figure that was almost unheard of in the bad old days when adults used physical discipline.