Child rearing: Too many cooks...

Child rearing: Too many cooks ...

Ruby Harrold-Claesson, Attorney-at-law, President of the NCHR/NKMR




Ruby Harrold-Claesson, attorney-at-law is president of The NCHR

The first paragraph of this article is the combination of the introductions to two articles that were written for the Telegraph and the Guardian. 


While the Telegraph has not replied, the Guardian has informed in an e-mail on October 31, 2006, that "it is extremely unlikely that the Guardian will publish articles that we have not commissioned."




In recent articles published in the Telegraph (17/10), "Beware of Supernanny's naughty step treatment, parents are warned", and the Guardian (19/10), "A national naughty step", Sarah Womack and Fiona Millar tell of how parenting groups have taken issue with Supernanny, the Channel 4 programme, also shown on Swedish TV, about the suitability of the naughty step - or "time out" method - to discipline children.


I have seen a few of these episodes and, at the outset, I must say that am quite surprised that Swedish TV4 dared to broadcast those programs considering their contents. The Swedish anti-smacking law forbids the use of "time out" or sending a child to its room, "room arrest".


Since Sweden is upheld as the example for other countries to follow, I'll elaborate on a few points:

The Swedish anti-smacking law reads: "Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to physical punishment or any other humiliating treatment". This law was passed in 1979 to commemorate the United Nations Year of the Child. It was passed by an overwhelming majority of MPs. Only six MPs voted against it.


Those in favour of the law claimed that they were protecting children from their abusive parents. However, the abuses to which children have been exposed since the passing of the law are in no way in proportion to the smacks that they might have had from their parents.


The greatest harm that is being done to children in Sweden today is not caused by parents who discipline, but by unnecessary state intervention into their private and family lives. Since the beginning of the 1970s, parents have been indoctrinated in the modern philosophy that children should have "free upbringing". Free upbringing came to mean freedom from upbringing. The state agencies took over and parents have been forced to abdicate from their positions of authority for their children - on pain of prison and the loss of their children to the state.


The Swedish anti-smacking law is to be found in the Parents and Guardianship Code. Being a civil law, the anti-smacking law carries no sanctions whatsoever, however there is an indirect link to the Criminal Code, because smacking is called "child abuse". A smacking parent - if reported - ends up before the police, the prosecutor, the judge in the Criminal courts, the social workers and the judge in the administrative courts. The reason for this is that the preliminary works of the law rank all physical punishment of children i. e a slap on the hand, on the cheek or on the bottom, as assault and battery. Sending children to their room is regarded as "other humiliating treatment" and even "physical punishment" because the child is physically excluded from the company of the rest of the family.


Supernanny's sending children to the naughty step - or "time out" to their room is therefore in direct violation of Swedish law. This puts children and their parents at risk.


Formerly, parents used their common sense methods to discipline their children. In Sweden, before 1979, parents were required by law to correct their children but the parents were

not to use other disciplinary methods than those that were suitable taking into consideration the child's age and other circumstances.


In 1979 came the blanket prohibition against smacking no matter what the child had done. Thousands of Swedish parents have been prosecuted since then and for fear of the punishments meted out to punishing parents, most parents have been forced to abdicate and their children have become quite out of control. The children have been indoctrinated by day-care and school staff that they are "unbeatable", to use a well-known expression from the anti-smacking lobby. Chaos reigns in the homes and in the schools.


Discipline became a despised word - a word that should not be used by parents in child rearing and neither by teachers in the schools. But since the beginning of the 1990s many leading persons in Sweden have reacted to the fact that Swedish children are wild and lacking in discipline.


In an article "Youngsters must meet a firm reaction", published in the Swedish Daily on September 5, 1993, former Justice Minister, Mrs Gun Hellsvik, and former School Minister, now Justice Minister, Mrs Beatrice Ask, asserted that Sweden needs a new family policy. They criticised the social democrats aversion towards the family and their general lack of principles was promoted as a political goal during the sixties and seventies. They wrote: "Adults have a responsibility to teach the youth what is right and wrong. Parents have a particular responsibility towards their children. ... Young persons who break rules must learn to take the consequences and expect to meet a firm reaction. The State shall in every respect facilitate parents and among others teachers to fulfil their educational tasks." (My italics)

"It is high time to let parents and the teaching staff take responsibility for the youth in our society. If we fail to do that we will fail our children!"

In 1995, Professor Jacob W. F. Sundberg, the former rapporteur to the European Commission for Human Rights, published his booklet "The Trip to Nowhere. Family Policy in the Swedish Welfare State" . Professor Sundberg describes how in the beginning of the 1970s Swedish Family Law suddenly hit a crisis. What was old was thrown overboard and the course was changed towards completely new directions. He discusses at length the case Olsson v. Sweden, where Sweden was found guilty of violating the Olssons' private and family life by taking their children into foster care.

On August 16, 2003 the Swedish columnist, Linda Skugge wrote: "We are bringing up a generation of monsters", and on July 4, 2005, the journalist Roger Lord wrote the article: "The children are embarrassing Sweden".  Despite the negative Swedish experiences, certain politicians in other countries, encouraged by the UN and UNICEF, are trying to enforce similar legislation.


Here is a real life case from my legal practice. It is that of the compulsory taking of seven siblings by the municipality of Svalöv and placing them in foster care. Their father was accused of "disturbance of peace" of his children, including "room arrest". On October 16, 2003, he was arrested and remanded in custody pending trial. The mother was not accused of any misdemeanours, yet all the children were immediately placed in foster care. On November 27, 2003, the father was completely acquitted in the criminal case. However, only last week, October 13, 2006, they lost yet another attempt to regain custody of their children.


Judging from the case above, Supernanny's teachings about the naughty step - or "time out" method - to discipline children, are dangerous for the parents and children of Sweden.


State intimidation of parents has led to lack of confidence in parenting that former generations had. In 1997, Anne Davis wrote her book "Confident Parenting" after she had had an altercation with the social services. Anne Davis made national headlines when, as a child-minder, she refused to promise that she would never smack children in her care.


The fact that children and youngsters are now totally out of control has opened a market for parenting gurus. On April 1, 2003, Swedish Radio broadcasted a program "New method helps parents regain power", in which the MST (multi systemic therapy), from USA was presented as the solution to children ruling their parents.


Since then we have had Supernanny. There are just too many cooks...



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