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2/09/2007
I Enjoy a Good Spanking
Now that got your attention, didn't it?

I've been having a lively debate with friends about spanking. It all started with the news that an assemblywoman in California has proposed a law (scroll to the bottom) that would outlaw spanking a child under 4, making it a misdemeanor and levying a fine. I think that the intent behind the bill - decreasing violence in our society - is laudable, but come on! In most cases, there is truly a difference between a swat on the butt and a beating.

I don't spank and I decided early on that I never would. T, on the other hand, was always for it. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) T was spanked and recalls that it usually only happened when he really deserved it. Now, however, he looks at H&H and tells me he could never spank either of them. Plus, if we spanked our 2 year old, any temporary disciplinary benefit would be far outweighed by the long term results. He would turn around and start spanking Little H, the kids at daycare, and the cats. Probably with something heavy. I know without a doubt that the "we do not hit" lesson would go in one Big H ear and out the other as a result. This is where so many opinions diverge. Some people insist that spanking is the only way their child will listen and that a 2 year old can somehow figure out the difference between toddler hitting and parental discipline. I'm not sure that I buy that. Maybe Hollis is emotionally and developmentally far behind his peers, but I doubt it. I know the only lesson he would learn from a swat from Mommy or Daddy is that it's OK for him to swat too.

Whatever your views on spanking are, I think most of us can agree that a spank does not equal child abuse. If California really wants the community to take violence seriously, then start by funding social services so that social workers aren't doing drive by visits for slave wages. Give parents, rich and poor, the parenting tools and help they need when they're overwhelmed. Enforce the laws already on the books and then back them up with the money to support law enforcement and prosecution. Criminalizing spanking isn't the way to do it. Plus, can you imagine enforcing this law? How? Unless someone actually witnesses a spank or it leaves a serious mark (which would be child abuse anyway), how do we prove an illegal spank has occurred? I distinctly recall my quite clever and manipulative little brother threatening to call social services on my parents as a tool to get out of punishments. If my 6 year old brother could figure out how to push my parents' buttons like that, I can't even imagine what sort of ammunition the proposed law in California might give tots on the West Coast!

Let me know what you think. Is a swat on the butt a valuable parental disciplinary tool, a heinous form of violence, or something in between?

On an almost completely unrelated topic, while looking for details on the proposed California law I discovered that my malpractice insurance does not cover spanking a client. Good to know. I've been tempted in the past.

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16 Comments:

Blogger Busy Momma said...

I completely agree with you on this one. We try not spank Coop for the same reason. He's gotten taps on the hand which in turn, made him think it was ok to do to us. There's already too many problems with social workers trying to figure out what cases are serious and what are being blown out of proportion-do we really need to add that to the mix too?

Blogger ExPatSW said...

What a juicy topic for me to 'weigh in' on! My personal opinion is...never, ever spank! It only teaches a child that violent retribution is acceptable. Children, especially under fours, are not able to abstract that only parents can spank. Besides, do you really want to teach your child/children that bullying is acceptable?

On a professional level, there can be a fine line between spanking and child abuse. Too often parents spank out of anger and frustration. This can frequently lead to child abuse. As a Child Protection social worker, discerning the difference between 'reasonable discipline' and child abuse can be very, very difficult. My professional philosophy will always lean towards the protection of the child. When in doubt, assume child abuse! Parents, you may be in for a world of trouble when I have to make that call!

Use your intellect, parents! Find other, more effective methods to discipline your child.

Blogger bubandpie said...

I mentioned this issue in passing just this morning - we have never spanked, and I don't think we ever will, but this law is a particularly palpable effort to slap a completely ineffective bandaid on a real problem. Child abuse is upsetting to think about, so instead of doing something REAL to address the problem, why don't we just comfort ourselves by throwing some absurd legislation at it?

Anonymous anna said...

Spanking is not a form of discipline, but a failure of discipline.

Blogger ExPatSW said...

Well said, Anna!

Blogger Shannon said...

What about spanking Partners? Is that covered?

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Shannon - I was wondering the same thing. My firm's been known to fine partners for bad behavior, so why not add in a spanking for good measure?

Blogger Happy Working Mom said...

I'm on the other side here...we do spank our children (I know, complete minority). But, if you ask anyone that knows us (or all of the strangers that make comments to us whenever we are out), we have the best behaved children out there. There are no tantrums in restaurants or stores, we can take them anywhere we go and they BEHAVE! I have NEVER had to deal with the "melt down in the grocery store" issue. If my daughter starts acting up I give her a glare that means behave or a spanking and she changes right around. That being said, the last time I actually spanked one of my children...I can't remember. Just the threat of one is enough to make them behave. And maybe we have genius children, but our children have always known to never hit, and we've never had an issue with it. And since about 15 months they have both understand that when they got a spanking it meant that what they were doing was bad. I know I'll probably get attacked with this, but discipline, no matter what it is, is hard work. And sometimes I believe that parents take the easy way out with "time-outs". I'm definitely not saying this is the case with all parents, but I know quite a few that do the time-out thing just to get their child to stop and out of their hair. Did the child learn anything? Nope. They were doing it again an hour later. My kids equate bad behavior with spankings, and that punishment, for them, is a lot worse than a time-out.

I always swore I would NEVER spank. Then I looked at the kids around me...the kids that can't sit through a whole meal, the kids that talk back to their parents, the kids that have no respect for adults; and then I had my own kids, and I realized that I had to find the exact discipline that would mold them into productive citizens of society.

I obviously believe that abuse and spanking are two very separate issues and you canot control child abuse with laws against spanking. That's absurd!

Blogger Gunfighter said...

Put me in the no spanking category.

You can also put me in the mind your own business cataegory as regards legislating the issue.

Blogger BlogWhore said...

AHHHHHH! (screaming and pounding fist). I am soooo tired of big government. I am almost ready to join the right.... almost.

Holy cow, why don't they just name our kids for us!?!?

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Actually, Amy, I heard a report on the news not too long ago that about 50 percent of U.S. parents spank, so you're in good company. That being said, I don't think that using time outs is the easy way out. I think that you're correct that discipline is hard work. It's hard work whether you spank or use other methods. The key is consistency and not being a "lazy" parent. Even a parent who spanks is going to have behavioral problems if they don't discipline consistently.

Because about 50% of parents spank, I don't think we can say that the unruly kids we all see are a result of parents not spanking. I think it's more likely that many parents aren't consistent in their disciplinary approach.

I don't think there is any one correct way to discipline and I hope I didn't imply that. I think even very small children understand that a spanking is a result of their behavior. I just know that, developmentally speaking, a 15 month old cannot necessarily distinguish between a spanking and hitting another child for taking a toy. I'm not saying that all children who are spanked will turn around and hit others, but I know *Hollis* would!

Wherever you fall in the discipline spectrum, I think we all agree that legislating the issue is ridiculous.

Blogger CPA Mom said...

Amen, I say, Amen! Its the legislating that is the assine idea here. Spanking or not - that is a personal individual decision and this segues nicely into your judgmental post above.

We used to spank but do not any longer. Long list of reasons, long story. Maybe I need to post about it! I know I resent very much being told I'm a lazy parent, taking the "Easy Way Out" by using time-outs. This was an agonizing decision for us, one that was well thought out and talked about extensively with professionals. My children do not need to be spanked to be productive citizens.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about spanking as a whole... I just don't do it. I didn't like it when I was a child. And I have kept a promise to myself to never spank my kids and it's been kept.

I think enacting this law will hurt the non-abuser spanking parents out there. I think that they need to work on the abuse issue and go after and enforce punishments for abusers.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Oops - sorry! My "Amy" comment was directed to Happy Working Mom. Case of mistaken identity & blindness.

Blogger ewe are here said...

Good grief. Just what we all need, another silly law that will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Except by -like you said- conniving kids themselves.

Spanking isn't child abuse. A swat on the bottom isn't child abuse. Legislators need to get a grip and focus on real problems that need to be addressed.

Blogger Sitting said...

I always swore I wouldn't spank my kids. Then my two-year-old deliberately and repeatedly disobeyed me when I was already at wit's end -- and I gave her a swat. She cried. I cried. It didn't hurt her bum. It hurt her, though. Later that day, she said, "Hitting means you don't love someone." It broke my heart. And I decided that with *this* kid and *this* parent and *our* family, that form of discipline wasn't helpful.

So I'm back in the no spanking category, but I am by no means lazy about discipline. And while my child is generally very well-behaved, she has her moments. I don't expect her to be perfect all the time. THAT is unfair, spanking or not.

oh, and yeah, legislating it? Dumb. Child abuse is already illegal. And there is definitely a difference between a spanking and abuse for the vast majority of parents who spank.

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