Figuratively being a nanny state wasn't enough

That's one small step for a family, one giant leap for the nanny state. On July 5, the House of Lords voted in an intrusive, shifty standard concerning "smacking" (we here in America say "spanking"). Where once was "reasonable chastisement" is now "one which is foolishly specific, and just as likely to be abused."

The good news is that the other option for them was a complete ban on spanking, which they rejected. Even the complete ban had some supporters. "I think we should avoid a lot of weasel words like `smacking' and `tapping on the leg' ? hitting is hitting," said child-rearing expert Salman Rushdie, who is smarter than you. Further, "[n]obody suggests that a man should hit a woman to bring her into line as long as he doesn't really hurt her. The same thing is true about her children." Actually, Sal, children don't yet have reasoning faculties, and grown women do. It doesn't do any good to take the car keys away from your young child.

The bill is apparently a response to a case of child abuse resulting in death, but I admit that I haven't been fully briefed on that one. Would any of our British readers care to comment? I do know that an editorial in the Telegraph said

It is significant that both the Lester amendment [which passed] and the proposed smacking ban were attached to a Bill intended to tackle a quite different issue: the criminal neglect and local authority incompetence that led to the death of Victoria Climbi?.

If I know government action, that's no surprise.

For some small measure of reassurance to our readers, the Guardian reports that "[a]n unlikely alliance of lawyers, childcare professionals and politicians last night joined forces to condemn as unworkable plans to jail parents who administer anything stronger than a light smack to their children."

They apparently see, as this Catallarchist sees, that government attempts to dictate the specific terms of human relationships are never isolated. Make no mistake, this represents only the first step in broadening state power at the expense of parental power.

We can only hope that the unworkability and unreasonableness of the plan are made clear when some well-meaning and non-abusive Labor voter becomes a criminal for decidedly non-criminal activity.

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Hitting children is as wrong

Hitting children is as wrong as hitting anyone else. Using force on those weaker than you is repugnant.

Accepting that it is a

Accepting that it is a person's duty to discipline his children, is there another way to discipline children younger than the age of reason?

I don't know, Randall, what

I don't know, Randall, what kind of "discipline" do you think a child too young to speak needs? If you're referring to something like slapping a child's hands if they try to stick a fork in an outlet, my answer is you should be slapping *yourself* for letting the child get near an unprotected outlet or a metal fork, let alone both at the same time. The child certainly does not deserve to be punished for *your* failure to keep it safe.

Parents can't monitor their

Parents can't monitor their kids at all times, so they can't always prevent them from being in situtations where, for instance, they'll beat up their little brothers, or knock lamps over on purpose, or some other unruly kid thing to do.

Tell me something else--why

Tell me something else--why is it that the smallest, weakest, most powerless members of our society are the *only ones* that people almost universally think it's okay to hit? Doesn't that seem more than a little fucked up to anyone but me?

bq. for instance, they?ll

bq. for instance, they?ll beat up their little brothers

Gee, I wonder where they could have *possibly* learned that hitting is a good way to get what you want from those smaller and weaker than you?

bq. knock lamps over on purpose

I never broke my parents' stuff on purpose when I was a kid. Did you? Do you really think this is typical behavior?

People seem to assume that children are little monsters, rather than small, inexperienced people. Children, in general, want nothing more than to learn how to do what grownups do and please their parents. But what kids mostly get from adults from the moment they're born is lies and force. No wonder they sometimes freak out.

It's hard for us to remember sometimes, maybe because we don't want to, how hard things can be when you're a kid. Nobody listens to you, nobody considers your feelings, you often have to ask permission to get your most basic needs (eating, drinking, going to the bathroom), someone else is constantly telling you what to do, when you can do it and how it must be done. Federal prisoners have more freedom that schoolchildren do, within their respective institutions.

It's not ok to damage the

It's not ok to damage the smallest, weakest, most powerless members of society. A little swat never did anyone permanent damage, and I think in many cases did long-run good. I submit myself as anecdotal evidence.

bq. A little swat never did

bq. A little swat never did anyone *permanent* damage, and I think in many cases did long-run good. (emphasis added)

Oh, is it only *permanent* damage that counts? That's an interesting theory of justice. If hitting kids is so great, why do you feel the need to euphemize it as "a little swat"? If it hurts, then it's force. If it doesn't hurt, then what's the point?

bq. I submit myself as anecdotal evidence.

Everybody does. I submit that people hit thier kids because it's *easier* than talking to them. Why work for understanding when all you really want is compliance?

Hit your kids* all you think necessary, Randall. You need not even trouble yourself with wondering if any behavioral problems they show might be a *result* of force being used on them.

In order to convince me that hitting children is acceptable, you will first have to convince me that hitting adults is acceptable.

Furthermore, I believe that any argument you give as to why it is good to hit children can be easily turned into an argument for imposing government on adults.

p. * I know you have no kids; I'm referring to your hypothetical future children.

I believe that any argument

I believe that any argument you give as to why it is good to hit children can be easily turned into an argument for imposing government on adults.

I don't think this is the case. Children are not fully developed, and it is their parents' duty to guide them. (Whether spanking should make up part of this guidance is still being debated.) On the other hand, adults are rational autonomous moral agents, i.e. already developed, and they no longer need their natural parents or any surrogate state parents to guide them. By the time people are considered adults, they are expected to be able to guide themselves. Any argument deriving government authority from parental rights is faulty, as it relies on a parent-young child relationship between the government and its adult citizens.

In order to convince me that hitting children is acceptable, you will first have to convince me that hitting adults is acceptable.

Hitting adults is clearly not acceptable, as it is a violation of their rights. Children are not fully rationally and morally autonomous, and hence don't have the kinds of rights that adults have. No one argues that they do. They are in a separate moral class, and can be treated differently, morally speaking. This is not to say that you can kill them on a whim (i.e. that they have zero rights) but that they have not yet grown into the full enjoyment of rights.

You need not even trouble yourself with wondering if any behavioral problems they show might be a result/b> of force being used on them.

Children, like everyone else, have ~50% of their characters built into them. The point of discipline is to get them to contain the anti-social part, not to eliminate it. When it comes out later in life, it's not the fault of the discipline. Abuse could certainly be a factor in lator behavioral problems, but simple discipline is not the problem.

I submit that people hit thier kids because it?s easier than talking to them. Why work for understanding when all you really want is compliance?

When a child is too young to reason with, all you want is compliance. You make a child understand when he is properly mentally developed. Is it a coincidence that children learn religion before philosophy? Religion tells them "don't do this because Jesus would disapprove," and they later learn "don't do it because it's wrong." They aren't--and can't be--expected to understand ethical complexities when they are very young.

Oh, is it only permanent damage that counts? That?s an interesting theory of justice. If hitting kids is so great, why do you feel the need to euphemize it as ?a little swat?? If it hurts, then it?s force. If it doesn?t hurt, then what?s the point?

I euphemize to distinguish between discipline and abuse. Beating a child past the age of reason or excessively is abuse. "A little swat" cannot be mistaken for a drunken fit.

Also, force is not categorically bad. Aggressive force can be considered categorically bad.

bq. On the other hand,

bq. On the other hand, adults are rational autonomous moral agents, i.e. already developed, and they no longer need their natural parents or any surrogate state parents to guide them.

But that exactly what all Statist arguments boil down to--that adults cannot be trusted to make the correct decisions, so the State must discipline them to guide them to the correct decisions.

bq. Children are not fully rationally and morally autonomous, and hence don?t have the kinds of rights that adults have.

Why is the right not to be hit not one of them? We are, again, talking about the *smallest*, *weakest*, most *powerless* members of our society. If anything, should they not have *extra* protection from coercion? Retarded people are not fully rational or morally autonomous--should the people who care for them (in halfway-houses, etc) be free to "discipline" them with "a little swat"?

bq. Children, like everyone else, have ~50% of their characters built into them.

That is an unsupported assertion. The interaction of nature and nurture are far from well understood, and nobody really has any idea how much of our personalities come from our genes, how much from the environment, and how much from the interaction of the two.

bq. When a child is too young to reason with, all you want is compliance.

Conveniently, most adults equate "too young to reason with" with "not doing what I say". You obviously cannot talk to a pre-verbal child, but even after children know how to speak and understand, everything they say is discounted or ignored by adults who only care about obedience. Most people coerce their children essentially 24 hours a day for their own convenience.

bq. Religion tells them ?don?t do this because Jesus would disapprove,? and they later learn ?don?t do it because it?s wrong.?

I also find religion repugnant, so you're not getting anywhere with that argument. You don't teach people how to reason by telling them what to think. You don't teach them *anything* by lying to them, except that you're a liar. You don't teach them to be free by forcing them to obey.

bq. I euphemize to distinguish between discipline and abuse. Beating a child past the age of reason or excessively is abuse. ?A little swat? cannot be mistaken for a drunken fit.

I doubt you would find this this distinction impressive if it were you receiving "a little swat" from, say, one of your professors. This is called "special pleading.":http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/special-pleading.html

Rather than "special

Rather than "special pleading" in this case there are "relevant differences" (same link as above) between a child and an adult.

I also find religion repugnant, so you?re not getting anywhere with that argument. You don?t teach people how to reason by telling them what to think. You don?t teach them anything by lying to them, except that you?re a liar. You don?t teach them to be free by forcing them to obey.

It might be wrong, but it does have its social utility, and there is a long-established tradition of teaching simple ethics to children via religion for a reason. As another anecdote, I was taught religious principles at a young age, and I think my moral reasoning capabilities have not suffered for it.

Conveniently, most adults equate ?too young to reason with? with ?not doing what I say?. You obviously cannot talk to a pre-verbal child, but even after children know how to speak and understand, everything they say is discounted or ignored by adults who only care about obedience. Most people coerce their children essentially 24 hours a day for their own convenience.

This seems rather like an unsupported assertion to me. I contend that most parents do want their children to mature and not just acquiesce, which this bitter-sounding quote does not imply. Humanity is in bad shape if this is the collective diagnosis of parentdom.

We are, again, talking about the smallest, weakest, most powerless members of our society. If anything, should they not have extra protection from coercion? Retarded people are not fully rational or morally autonomous?should the people who care for them (in halfway-houses, etc) be free to ?discipline? them with ?a little swat??

This implies that you are wrong not to let them run wild in public, as long as they aren't specifically harming anyone. When parents coerce children, it is from benevolence and duty, and it's not the same kind of case as when the state coerces people. Children can't look after themselves. The statist argument says that adults are children who can't look after themselves; if this is not what it means (and why it's wrong) then what's so bad about it?

But that exactly what all Statist arguments boil down to?that adults cannot be trusted to make the correct decisions, so the State must discipline them to guide them to the correct decisions.

And that is exactly incorrect, as I said above. There is a fundamental distinction between adults and children, which the statist argument you mention does not recognize. That's why it is obviously faulty.

Qiwi, I thank God I still

Qiwi, I thank God I still live in a country where people like you can't force me to raise my children your way.

bq. Rather than ?special

bq. Rather than ?special pleading? in this case there are ?relevant differences? (same link as above) between a child and an adult.

The key word here is "relevant". Do children have a different capacity than adults to feel pain and humiliation? If not, then why is it okay to hit children and not adults? Why is it okay to hit children but not retarded adults?

bq. It might be wrong, but it does have its social utility, and there is a long-established tradition of teaching simple ethics to children via religion for a reason. As another anecdote, I was taught religious principles at a young age, and I think my moral reasoning capabilities have not suffered for it.

So your argument is: it's good because people have done it for a long time, and anyway, you eventually figured out that it's bullshit, so no harm done? Maybe that's good enough for you.

bq. Qiwi, I thank God I still live in a country where people like you can?t force me to raise my children your way.

Sean, I've never advocated forcing *anyone* to do *anything*. Yes, that's charming, thank GOD you can hit children. It is wrong to hit children for the same reason it is wrong to hit anyone else.

Well, Charles, it's as

Well, Charles, it's as simple as this: I don't think you should do anything to your child that you wouldn't do to your best friend. I'm assuming, for argument's sake that you love your best friend, and would not, for example, hit, confine, force-feed, deliberately publically humiliate, steal from or invade the privacy of that person.

I basically agree with "these people":http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/node/view/48.html.

Children are little people who need our help. It's hard enough learning how to be a person without having the most important people in your life hurt you on purpose, even though they may think they are helping you.

After reading a lot about "TCS":http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/node/view/48.html, and spending some time with some kids who have a relatively non-coercive home-life (homeschooled, of course), I am really starting to think there are some pretty obvious causal links between how kids "act out" and how much they are coerced.

Okay, kids are loud. They have a lot of energy, they're not half dead like us. :) I'm loud sometimes too. Camper Van Beethoven is *very* loud.

You think kids are contrarian? Always want to say "No!" Well, what do they hear all the time?

Stubborn. Kids are stubborn, yeah. There couldn't possibly be any *valid* reason they don't want to do that thing that you insist they do. When they ask why, they're often told "Because I said so." Would that answer motivate you? Would your boss, or spouse ever say that to you? I'm going to go out on a limb here: if they do, they're a dick.

I think schools are a pathological environment. There was a time when school was a little more sane--it generally consisted of a mixed-age group where kids got attention from adults and kids older than them. They also spent more time around adults because they often worked as soon as they were able. Don't get me wrong, I don't think kids should be sent to work--but they should be allowed to work if they want to! I think the hidden, dirty reason why adults don't want to see kids working is because they don't want to see a kid doing their job--better! At any rate, I think most children need to spend *much* more time around adults than they do. How are kids supposed to learn how to be adults if they hardly spend any time with adults, and when they do, it's mostly getting ordered around?

I'm just sayin'--that way's been tried, for a long time, and we get these sullen, dumb kids out of it. I'm going to try something different.

What about imprisonment

What about imprisonment (aka, "go to your room!"), Qiwi? It takes force to restrain someone who doesn't want to stay in his or her room if they don't want to.

I don't ever intend on physically striking my children, should I have any. I can't make than intention an absolute because I have only the slightest idea of how difficult it is to raise children and I can't be sure I'll retain my composure and reason in the face of loud, screeching, and stubborn contrarianism.

But what kids mostly get

But what kids mostly get from adults from the moment they?re born is lies and force.

You do have a good point there, Qiwi. Adults seem to derive a perverse pleasure from lying to children. For example: Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the storks that bring babies, and so forth.

In seriousness, I find it abusive.

It's kind of insulting how

It's kind of insulting how far-fetched the Santa Claus story is--he visits every home on earth in one night? And it's a little scary, too--Santa can see everyone, all the time? I prefer "Mommy and Daddy love you and we bought you some presents because we think you'll really enjoy them."

So your argument is: it?s

So your argument is: it?s good because people have done it for a long time, and anyway, you eventually figured out that it?s bullshit, so no harm done? Maybe that?s good enough for you.

I'm saying that at worst the practice causes no real harm. I probably won't tell my kids about Santa Claus, but I don't think my parents' characters suffered too bad for telling me about Santa Claus. And neither did mine.

The key word here is ?relevant?. Do children have a different capacity than adults to feel pain and humiliation? If not, then why is it okay to hit children and not adults? Why is it okay to hit children but not retarded adults?

The key part here is reason. Adults have it, and can listen to it. Kids don't, and develop it slowly. Retarded children are all different, and need different treatments, but it may be permissible to spank one beyond the age at which you would stop spanking a normal child. However, he too will probably outgrow spankings, and if he doesn't, they weren't doing any good anyway.

Basically, though it's off-topic re: the original post, my point is that children are not simply small adults. They slowly grow into adults, and along the way, and especially at the beginning of the process, treating them like adults is not the most appropriate way to handle them.

...I don?t think my parents?

...I don?t think my parents? characters suffered too bad for telling me about Santa Claus.

I consider repeatedly lying to children for no reason other than amusement or tradition to be a serious character flaw.

I never said children were

I never said children were small adults. They are small people who need our help, and they don't deserve to be hit.

Yes, the sum total of my controversal stance here is "It is wrong to hit children." Tomorrow I'll be coming out against skinning kittens alive. :)

So, Qiwi, what would you

So, Qiwi, what would you consider an appropriate reaction towards a friend who, while a guest in your house, pulled on your drapes until they broke, clogged up your toilet with an entire roll of TP, refused to clean up messes they made, colored on your walls after specifically being asked not to, and needed constant supervision to prevent him from injuring himself.

I would ask him to leave, and consider myself quite justified in using force to evict him. I imagine my kids would prefer the occasional time out, and very rare smack, to that fate.

You're not going to like my

You're not going to like my answer, Andy. My answer is that, since the child does not know better, all of those events are *your* fault, or the fault of whatever adult was supposed to be monitoring the child at the time.

You and Randall (and most other people) insist that young children are not moral agents and therefore do not have rights--if that is so, then likewise they cannot be held responsible for their actions.

Were you somehow unaware that children need constant supervision? If you leave the child unsupervised and they do something unadvised, it was your error to leave them unsupervised. The child does not deserve to be punished for your error.

Sorry, Andy Steadman, when I

Sorry, Andy Steadman, when I first wrote the comment I read fast and thought you were Andy Duncan. I have no knowldge of you claiming that children are not moral agents, so sorry to put words in your mouth.

About clogging the toilet with paper. Do you believe that the child was *trying* to clog the toilet, or that it was an error born of ignorance? Many people have been in to position of accidentally clogging the toilet while at a friend's house. If your friend clogged your toilet by accident, would you slap them? Would you even kick them out of the house? And how did the kid get the opportunity to send a whole roll of TP down the crapper without someone noticing? One of my cats will eat an entire roll of toilet paper given an opportunity, so I deny him the opportunity by keeping the bathroom door closed.

As for drawing on the walls, fer crissake, walls can be painted. You could buy butcher paper and cover the walls the child seems to be attracted to, and then the drawings could be preserved, and no crayon gets on the walls. Maybe just providing a big easel with paper would attract the child away from the walls--do you really think the child is trying to distress you by drawing on the walls, or is it more likely that (s)he *just want to draw*?

Fragile curtains that the kid pulls down? Keep it out of that room, or take down the curtains and use something more sturdy until the kid is older. Did the kid pull down the curtains trying to hang or swing from them? Then provide something the kid can safely hang/swing from.

I don't say that children

I don't say that children have no rights, just that they don't have the full set of adult rights. You're not allowed to shoot them.

bq. I don?t say that

bq. I don?t say that children have no rights, just that they don?t have the full set of adult rights. You?re not allowed to shoot them.

What if you just shoot to wound? With a Dillinger? If you're not allowed to hurt them a lot, why are you allowed to hurt them a little? You still haven't given a single reason why it is acceptible to hit children. All of the meaningful distinctions between children and adults point toward their needing *extra* protection from coercion.

Qiwi, how does any of this

Qiwi, how does any of this justify state intervention? Do you really think making it illegal to hit children is going to affect truly abusive parents at all? I can guarantee you the primary purpose of this law will be to generate an excuse at the drop of a hat to be able to take someone's kids away. For example, someone doesn't want to follow a state-approved curriculum to home school their kids. The state can't take them away for *that*, but they can take them away because the parent also spanks their kids occasionally to keep them out of trouble.

bq. Qiwi, how does any of

bq. Qiwi, how does any of this justify state intervention?

Please indicate where I've called for State intervention. You won't be able to, because I have *never* called for State intervention into *anything*, *ever*. *Nothing* justifies State intervention, or the State itself for that matter.

I don't give a shit about "legal" or "illegal", I care about right and wrong, and hitting children is wrong for the same reason hitting adults is wrong.

BTW, the State can *already*

BTW, the State can *already* take your children away for any reason, or no reason, just as they can pretty much arbitrarily fuck you over in almost any other way you can imagine.

All of the meaningful

All of the meaningful distinctions between children and adults point toward their needing extra protection from coercion.

No, they point to their needing coercion from time to time when they can't learn otherwise. They need to learn to be adults, and buying them everything they want to prevent them from tearing up what they already have does not seem like the best way to facilitate the process.

If the premise of parenthood/guardianship has any validity, then parents are allowed to behave as if their children don't have adult rights.

The criterion of lasting damage is a pretty good one. Maiming a kid is out. Swatting a kid is ok.

You wouldn't deny that retaliation for a crime against an adult is valid, even though you also wouldn't say you get to shoot someone for a minor offense. Likewise one can maintain that kids can be swatted but not wounded.

bq. No, they point to their

bq. No, they point to their needing coercion from time to time when they can?t learn otherwise.

Says you. I do not believe that coercion has some magical effect of making children understand things they otherwise can't. Why do you?

bq. They need to learn to be adults, and buying them everything they want to prevent them from tearing up what they already have does not seem like the best way to facilitate the process.

Your "false dichotomy":http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?FalseDichotomy is showing. Would you care to argue against something I've actually suggested?

bq. The criterion of lasting damage is a pretty good one.

I prefer the criterion of bodily integrity.

bq. You wouldn?t deny that retaliation for a crime against an adult is valid

That depends on what you mean by "retaliation". If someone punches me in the nose, I want them to pay my medical bills, not the opportunity to puch them in turn.

bq. Likewise one can maintain that kids can be swatted but not wounded.

One can, but that doesn't make one's position consistant or correct.

Force doesn't make a child

Force doesn't make a child understand why he shouldn't do something, only that he shouldn't do something. He later grows into understanding why; in the meantime, when he still shouldn't do it, he doesn't.

Regarding false dichotomies, I am only contrasting the two methods that have been suggested here. There certainly are others.

Your example of an assault case to my minor offense case is one where the extent of the claim you have on his property is clear; in other cases, the extent is not so clear, but you wouldn't deny that there's no claim.

My better judgement tells me

My better judgement tells me not to get involved in this discussion, but I will ignore it. Discussions about how to rear offspring (and particularly hypothetical offspring) can often become heated.

I have two sons, 12 and almost 14. I understand my relationship with them as very different from my relationships with other humans (which fall into the categories of sovereign adults and other people's children). My goal is to raise them into healthy, happy, independent adults. We never pretended Santa Claus was real--there was plenty of fun and interesting stuff to do in the real world. Instead of sheltering them, which seems to be the traditional wisdom, my wife and I would do our best to tell them the truth about whatever they were interested in. They can handle firearms and automobiles, they know how to do business with people, they have seen animals die and being born, and they know about everything I ever did in my life that I considered a mistake.

If they misbehaved, they were smacked, but we used the following structure: first time, ask nicely; second time, speak sternly; third time, smack. This put barriers in the parents' way to prevent them from hitting in anger, and gave the kids a sporting chance to avoid physical punishment, if they so chose.

We tried the time-out thing a few times, but this seemed much crueler and counter-productive. Isolating and ignoring a child seemed like psychological torture that they had to deal with for hours afterwards as they became stuck in a stubborn cycle of justifying their actions to themselves. A sharp sting caught their attention, focused their minds, and then was over. This was more true for the older son than the younger, so I won't be surprised if other parents (especially of girls) tell me that they had different experiences with the effectiveness of time outs.

I'm happy with the way both boys are turning out. The oldest is more ready for the rights of adulthood today than many 25 year olds I meet. The younger still has some lessons about housecleaning chores to internalize, but is on schedule to be ready for adulthood in the next year or two.

bq. I am only contrasting

bq. I am only contrasting the two methods that have been suggested here.

Oh really? Who suggested: "buying them everything they want to prevent them from tearing up what they already have"

As for drawing on the walls,

As for drawing on the walls, fer crissake, walls can be painted. You could buy butcher paper and cover the walls the child seems to be attracted to, and then the drawings could be preserved, and no crayon gets on the walls. Maybe just providing a big easel with paper would attract the child away from the walls?do you really think the child is trying to distress you by drawing on the walls, or is it more likely that (s)he just want to draw?

Fragile curtains that the kid pulls down? Keep it out of that room, or take down the curtains and use something more sturdy until the kid is older. Did the kid pull down the curtains trying to hang or swing from them? Then provide something the kid can safely hang/swing from.