Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Good parenting, my arse

Family First has come out in defence of a guy who plead guilty to repeatedly pushing his seven year old son to the ground, because the child didn't want to go onto the rugby field. The pushing incident went like this:

Glenn Groves, 44, of Wellington, pleaded guilty to assault in Lower Hutt District Court yesterday but will undergo an anger management course in a bid to get discharged without conviction.

In May he and his young son were at a rugby game at Lower Hutt's Fraser Park, but when the boy refused to play because he was missing part of his uniform, Groves became "extremely agitated" at his attitude, court documents show.

Groves laid a hand on his back to redirect him, but as the boy resisted he fell. He stood up three times and was pushed by his father, falling to the ground each time. After a bystander complained to police, Groves admitted pushing his son.

He told police he was "tired and determined that his son would not let the team down".

Sorry, but a grown adult repeatedly pushing over a small child, in the interests of a kids' rugby game, doesn't look like good parenting to me. It looks like physical intimidation and bullying - and if it had happened between two kids in a playground, that's how it would have been treated. The bystander who complained about Groves' behaviour clearly didn't think it was good parenting. Nor did Groves himself, who plead guilty. Groves is now undertaking an anger management course. It's to be hoped that he'll emerge a better, more confident parent, and his relationship with his son will benefit. Instead of treating him punitively, the court has attempted to support Groves to learn better parenting techniques. How is this a dire failure of the law?

I don't want to have a go at Groves here. He made a mistake and admitted it, and now he's taking steps to improve his parenting through an anger management course. We fuck up and we move on. Everyone who's got kids has experienced moments of frustration - we can sympathise with that, if not with Groves' response.

But instead of acknowledging that parenting can be hard and parents sometimes get it wrong (and I include myself in this category, although I don't smack), McCoskrie seems to feel that dodgy 'discipline' is OK by definition, so long as it's carried out by a parent who means well and usually behaves OK. McCoskrie downplays the incident by saying that Groves may have got it wrong this time, but he's a great dad. Groves might well be a good parent 99.9% of the time, but that doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to abusive behaviour from him or any other parent, whether that behaviour is an isolated incident or not - and calling someone to account for inappropriate 'discipline' doesn't equate to trashing every aspect of their parenting, as this oft-heard bullshit about 'criminalising good parents' seems to imply.

McCroskie doesn't seem to see the difference between being understanding of the fact that parents fuck up, and condoning it. I suspect a lot of pro-smackers will not feel comfortable with Groves' actions, or McCroskie's defence of them. And, quite frankly, if you can't see what's wrong with a grown man repeatedly pushing a small child to the ground, you've got a problem.


The ex-expat said...

Argh and it's not like the dad in question got thrown in jail.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how shoving a child to the ground is smacking.

Why are the smackers defending every person who hits/pushes/shoves a child?

None of the smacking cases they champion have anything to do with smacking.

I mean I don't support smacking anyway but if they're claiming that "good" parents are being arrested for SMACKING shouldn't they have some cases of parents actually smacking?

As opposed to "good" parents shoving their kids to the ground or punching their kids in the face?

Anna said...

I agree, Anon - one of the things that this whole thing makes clear is that there's really no consensus on what reasonable force in disciplining a child actually is.

Sporty said...

Thank you!I read this story and couldn't quite believe it - even though I've followed Family First's role in this debate quite closely.
The nature of their concept of good parents that is becoming more and more apparent. I might be wrong but I'd put money on the father being middle class and or pakeha.

Psycho Milt said...

McCroskie isn't in deep cover for you guys, by any chance? He seems to be doing a great job for your cause...

Nor did Groves himself, who plead guilty.

Doesn't necessarily follow. Post-S59 repeal, he doesn't have any choice but to plead guilty - that was the point of it, if you recall. Having removed his option of pleading not guilty, we have no means of establishing what he actually thinks re his guilt.

Anita said...

The amendment to s59 did not make pleading guilty compulsory. He could have plead not guilty and used any of the defences in 59(1)a-d. He could have plead not guilty and used any of the other possible defences available to assault. He could have just plead not guilty.

Hugh said...

The amendment to s59 did not make pleading guilty compulsory.

Now that would have been a law change worth protesting!

Anna said...

I thought the purpose of the repeal was to prevent an action that would normally be considered an assault from not being considered one, merely because the people involved are parent and child. Presumably, only parents whose actions fulfill the definition of assault are likely to be convicted - discipline that isn't assault shouldn't be an issue. Most pro-smackers are opposed to the idea of assaulting kids, and the remnants of section 59 continue to give a fair amount of latitude to parents. I'd be pretty uncomfortable if a jury didn't consider it an assault to repeatedly push over someone half your size, no matter the relationship between the people involved.

Psycho Milt said...

It didn't make pleading guilty compulsory, merely made pleading not guilty pointless. His lawyer would have advised very strongly against it, on the basis that it had no chance of success (facts of the case not in dispute) and would hurt him badly when it came to sentencing. As I said, this was the entire point of S59 repeal, according to Bradford