In 1993, Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie, authors of Spare the Rod (1981, Sydney: Allen & Unwin), wrote: “Our critics frequently ask us why we call smacking children a violent action. That question in itself is diagnostic of the sickness of our society. Violence is the use of force to get your own way, and that is essentially the way the Crimes Act (1962) defines an assault.” (68)
They continue: “With very young children, parents have to depend upon what [-p.70] psychologists call contingency management, that is, managing the environment so that the child is less likely to engage in activities which the parents find undesirable or which may harm the child. Children do not need to learn right from wrong by performing wrong actions – that is absurd. When a child performs the right action, long before the behaviour is under verbal control, he or she can appreciate the parental approval, warmth, and satisfaction, and the smooth movement through chains of behaviour which are undisrupted by punishment or disapproval. What the wise parent is seeking is to strengthen the capacity of the child to make the ‘right choices’ and to begin to understand the concept of right choices. Behaviour that is developed in this way is disciplined but is under the control of the developing child.
Children who are physically punished come to have a negative view of themselves as well as of the punisher. In the jargon of corrective social work, they have a poor self-image. Their sense of self is not built upon a wide range of skills and strategies or general social competence; instead they are forced to adopt a reactive either aggressive or submissive manner to overcome these limitations. Frequently, they will know exactly how to provoke an authoritarian response, since to do so precipitates a confrontation in which, even if they lose, they may feel that they either did so with honour or, at the very least, made the other person lose face by forcing them into irrational action. The only corrective to negative self-image is to bring the individual slowly back onto a gradient of success and the development of competence.” (pp.69-70)
Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington