People more aware of abuse issues

On average one Timaru parent has come to police notice every two or three weeks since so-called "anti-smacking law" came into effect, but few are prosecuted.

The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act was implemented almost seven years ago.

Senior Constable Steve Wills said many parents had modified the way they disciplined their children in that time and fears of jail time for controlling a child were unfounded.

Education and support programmes were put in place to help parents who did not understand the balance between what was acceptable and what was not.

"It is more to do with excess force when disciplining kids, over and above what a normal person would use," Wills said.

If parents had no remorse for hurting their children and did not want to learn new strategies to deal with their behaviour then they could end up in court.

Statistics supported the fact that many children who got into trouble with the law came from a background of violence, Wills said.

"Good parents are always going to be good parents. In a perfect world there would be no physical discipline used against children."

Because children always tested boundaries it was important for parents who felt they were losing control to step away, re-evaluate and seek help, Wills said.

Family Support manager Miriama Anglem said there had been no decrease in the number of families the organisation was providing support and education to in the past seven years, but people had become more aware of the issues surrounding child abuse.

The Timaru Herald