Thoughts of an American Centrist

Friday, June 10, 2005

Here's a good idea, let's outlaw spanking!

As much as the party's pandering to the religious right has driven me away from the GOP, the Democrats sure are doing their best to keep me from signing up.
Should parents be allowed to spank their children? Massachusetts lawmakers will be debating that question following the filing of a bill that would ban corporal punishment in the commonwealth.

NewsCenter 5's Kelly Tuthill reported that (Democratic) state Rep. James Marzilli, Jr., of Arlington, Mass., is one of the sponsors of the bill, which prohibits everything from spanking to "hot saucing," which involves putting undiluted Tabasco sauce in a child's mouth.

In April, a Plymouth, Mass., father landed on the front page of local papers and behind bars after he used a belt to spank his son Josh, 12.

"He forgot his book. I went upstairs, I got my belt. I came downstairs. I gave him three swats on the rear end, with his pants on, like any concerned parent would do, and scared him, of course, you know. Hopefully I got the point across," Charles Enloe said.

But now, lawmakers are considering making "the willfull infliction of physical pain on children under 18," illegal.

And we wonder why people have a hard time taking Massachusetts' politics seriously. How on earth does Rep. Marzilli believe that he knows what is best for every single child in the Commonwealth? Nevermind that spanking was a universally accepted form of punishment from 30,000 BC until about, oh, 1960. The government knows what is best, and spanking is definitely not it.

I understand that plenty of people out there have deeply held beliefs that reject all forms of physical punishment. I may disagree, but I understand. What I do not understand is how some people feel that their personal style of child-rearing is the only acceptable and moral way, and that, as such, their philosophy must be universally mandated. (I have made the same argument against anti-Gay marriage activists.)

This is the first time I have ever quoted "Right Wing News:"

You know, it's every bit as obnoxious to try to ban spanking as it would be to make it mandatory for all parents to spank their children. That's because whether a parent spanks a child or not is simply none of the government's business.

Parents deserve to be given an enormous amount of latitude legally to raise their kids and, quite frankly, the idea that a widely used and very effective method of disciplining children could be ruled illegal at the whim of some bunch of liberals in Massachusetts is ridiculous to the point of being farcical.


It's all about Abuse
While it is my view that, if passed, this bill will be a grave abuse of majority power, the measure's supporters are claiming that this is all about preventing another kind of abuse: child abuse. "Supporters said it's all about preventing abuse, not prosecuting parents."

OK, let's consider the abuse argument. Child abuse (and, more generally, all domestic violence) is a definite problem. The unique psychological and emotional characteristics of families afflicted by domestic violence make it a particularly difficult situation to correct. It is indeed an admirable goal to stop domestic violence before a woman is so ground underfoot that she cannot leave, or before a tragically ashamed child makes his first appearance at school wearing a black eye. Domestic violence is an affront to every fiber the American Way, and our humanity in general. The family unit is the most fundamental structure of society, and we all recoil in horror when that treasure is abused.

But is an anti-spanking law an effective tool in preventing child abuse and domestic violence? Will a man or woman prone to losing control be at all influenced by this law? After all, it is already illegal to beat your child. If parents are willing to beat their children in spite of the domestic violence statutes, what makes us think that they'd respect this anit-spanking law? (I'm definitely getting echoes of an anti-gun control argument, here.) Can we outlaw a practice that many, including myself, feel is appropriate in order to possibly prevent child abuse by the true criminals? It's grasping at straws.

I honestly don't think that this law would do anything to prevent child abuse. First of all, there's the issue of proof. The best evidence for proving child abuse is documented evidence of physical injury. Bruises, broken bones, and internal organ damage can all be documented and testified to by physicians. What about spanking, where no bruises result? Where is the proof? If a parent wants to spank his or her child in secret, it would be virtually impossible to prove, so how on earth would it be an effective deterrent? If, on the other hand, the father (or mother) does cross the line and actually injure their child, then it is no longer "just spanking," but child abuse (already illegal).

That is the key distinction: pain vs. injury. We, as a society, have an obligation to step in when a parent is injuring his child, but do we have a similar obligation to compel our citizens to be "good parents"? Obviously not. Not only would the task be impossible, but such an undertaking would be the ultimate intrusion by government into family life.


  • I think the specific spanking case mentioned is a bit out of line. But I think it is absurd to outlaw spanking across the board. I have used spanking to enforce safety issues -- don't run out in the street. Never more than two or three smacks on the butt. I have occasionally used it in other circumstances but after my son reached about 7 I phased it out entirely. I've never spanked my daughter.

    It's not about abuse -- it's about establishing enough authority to ensure that I can keep my wonderfully rebellious son from doing something dangerous.

    By Blogger M. Takhallus., at 8:32 PM  

  • I've seen my share of bogus debates, but this gets a silver medal for one of the best. Spanking is NOT in the realm of government regulation, although it is close enough to abuse that government may have to do something.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 11:48 PM  

  • Wait, so Democrats are always screaming about the Republicans trying to invade my bedroom, but it's ok to invade my parenting? I don't personally spank but neither do I think it's anything that the government needs to be regulating. What's next? I can't admonish my child because it would be verbal abuse?

    By Blogger Alan Stewart Carl, at 5:51 PM  

  • I don't think this discussion could have better highlighted our respective points of view. Each one of us has different ideas about spanking, yet we all agree to each others' right to practice our own parenting style.

    I agree, Alan. If we want the government to stay out of our bedrooms, we should expect them to stay out of our nurseries as well.

    By Blogger Jonathan C, at 9:59 PM  

  • I support this bill, it just makes sense. The law as it is says children can be hit as long as it doesn't cause "substantial injury" but what is causing these injuries? Hitting! Hitting is assault, and children should be protected just like adults are, they're far more vulnerable than adults and deserve at least as much legal protection. 17 countries have now banned all corporal punishment of children, 4 just in the last year! All based on research done in the US and a few other places And if you think hitting kid's buttocks is a parent's "right" then how about Googling "spank"? You'll see right away that spanking is a sexual activity for millions of adults! Adults should not involve children in sexual activities, the buttocks are a private, sexual area. Spanking fetishists get that way from childhood spankings.

    It's clear to me that all you pro-spankers never learned common courtesy, it's obvious even here that spanking doesn't work. You seem to think being rude to someone you don't know is "good manners". Rep. Marzilli, if you took a little time to get to know him, is a hard-working, polite man who has done many good things for Massachusetts. His constituents love him.

    I can think of one good purpose for spanking: you child-beaters should go get yourselves spanked. You might have to pay a prostitute for it, they do that kind of thing! And afterwards you might actually remember what it was like to be spanked when you were young, that it is painful, frightening and humiliating. And sexual.

    It's amazing that in a supposedly civilized society that slapping children's butts is so commonplace. But then, wife-beating used to be commonplace until, say, 1960. Use your heads, folks, you don't need to hit people to teach them. I've never hit a child, not mine or anyone else's. And they're smart, assertive, genuinely kind young people. Do some child-proofing for Pete's sake, and supervise your children. Talk to them. Don't risk their health and life because you're too lazy to figure out humane ways to deal with people. Spanking makes people worse, not better. Read the research.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:09 AM  

  • As far as discipline is concerned, spanking is a short-cut to nowhere. Plus, there is really no need for it. If what you're trying to do is leave an impression so that your kid doesn't do something dangerous, there is certainly more creative ways than trying to train it like a dog. Parents who spank should be told what toddlers are told when they hit: "Use your words!"

    Banning spanking is a very good idea. Even though I am not one for much government intervention, I do believe that kids need someone to protect them against parents who think that just because they're their kids they have all the rights over them and they can do whatever they please, in total disregard for the child's own rights to be a kid, explore, learn, and be his or her own self.

    I am all for protecting children's rights and safety. So, I think this bill woulod be a great step in the right direction. There are several countries that have banned spanking, so it seems that the US is way behind on this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:44 AM  

  • Anon,

    I'd just like to point out that insulting someone's standing as a person is a much more egregious breach of common courtesy than is criticizing a representative's proposed legislation as overreaching.

    While I respect your opinions on the matter, I certainly do not appreciate being accused of being a "child beater" or a pedophile. Your few valid points are completely overshadowed by your belligerent, self-righteous, and deigning tone. If you would like to continue this convorsation as a civilized debate, please limit your arguments to mere expressions of fact, and your opinions and conclusions derived from said facts instead of inflamatory statements.

    By Blogger Jonathan C, at 10:35 AM  

  • Speculating as to whether society might or might not "have an obligation" to make people into good parents is silly. Society does what is good for society. We pass laws because they make things better for all of us, not because we have some moral imperative to do so.

    In this case, banning CP of children would indeed make things better for all of us. Children are better for not being physically punished, as studies have repeatedly shown, and if they are not physically punished as children, they grow into better adults. By inducing parents to avoid CP we assure ourselves of an increasing population of better behaved, better adjusted adults as we move into the future. That's good for all of us: good for those better-adjusted adults, and better for everyone else in society who must live with them.

    And when something is good for all of us -- a "public good" -- then it is indeed something that deserves legislation. The issue here is practical, not moral, and it is indeed quite clear-cut.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:17 PM  

  • Unfortunately, the facts on the very website you link to shows that 95% of proffessionals experienced some degree of physical punishment in their childhood. See? Facts can be spun and the hypothesis that spanking children makes them grow up to be less of a person than if they were not simply has no basis in the facts. The theory that pain is in and of itself injury is also a flawed argument. So is your claim that corporal punishment is inherently sexual. You have valid opinons, but you do not have the airtight case you think you have.

    As for "speculation," I belive that it is one of the fundamental principles of society that we do not infringe on individual liberties unless there is an overwhelming social necessity. Since there is clearly a difference of opinion on this matter, then the government has no place regulating parental practice.

    By Blogger Jonathan C, at 8:58 PM  

  • OK Jonathan, here's "Intro to Spanking" - observe these websites closely:

    Did you read that article, Jonathan? "Porn fighters break ring of kid-spanking fetishists".

    Now take the test, there's just one question: Is spanking sexual? Bingo! You get an "A"! Now on to "Spanking 101". It's a field trip, you'll be going to a prostitute and paying her to spank you. Don't worry, she's used to this, and if you ask she'll tell you she smacks more republican "spankos" than democrats! OK, she has her money, now pull down your pants, underwear next, lean way over. Feel exposed? Humiliated? Now for a "good" spanking - BAM! Feel the sting! Your blood rushes to your genitals! Your heart races! BAM! BAM! BAAM! Oh the pain! Oh the pleasure! BAM! BAM! BAAM! A little red, huh? Maybe a bruise or two? An erection you say? BAM! BAM! BAAM!

    Get it now, Jonathan? Willing to admit the truth?

    But why pay someone when you can have your own victim, easy, at home? Experience the thrill vicariously, just remember the magic word "discipline"! That word will open doors to unimaginable pleasure! Now convince yourself your daughter needs "discipline" - ignore those well-meaning folks who try to get you to stop smacking your kids! Those wimps who say "discipline" means to teach! You think people can do what they want in their own homes, how about marital rape, and incest? Hey you can still spank as much as you want, tell the government to buzz off! Tell your daughter to take off her panties, tell her to bend over, way over, take a good look and smack her with your big hairy hand! Do it again if you feel like it! She's starting to cry? Smack her for her "bad attitude"! And remember, "Dr" James Dobson says spanking is a great purifier, the quickest route to an "attitude adjustment"!

    You really missed the boat on the research, Jonathan. Try again. We'll give you another chance. Over 100 research studies have shown many emotional, social, and learning problems from spanking. The more hitting, the worse the outcome. Here's the link again:

    We can agree on one thing, Jonathan. We shouldn't infringe on individual liberties. People under 18 should not have their liberties infringed upon, because hitting their bodies is a gross infringement upon their right to live their lives free of unnecessary pain, humiliation, fear, and unwanted sexual stimulation. There needs to be a law.

    Now keep your hands off kid's butts, Jonathan. You're up to no good.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:04 AM  

  • Wow, you're a sicko. Did you know that?

    By Blogger Jonathan C, at 7:43 AM  

  • Jonathan you need some serious help, and you shouldn't call people names. Being spanked didn't teach you manners did it? Now who's a nicer person, someone who whacks little kid's butts, or someone who wouldn't stoop to such cruel and perverted behavior and who treats children like they're human beings? Can you pass this test? But then, the research shows that adults who were spanked as children have lower IQs and learning problems.

    Miss Manners says "Whamming someone smaller than oneself in order to teach that person civilized behavior is not within Miss Manners' concept of propriety, much less logic."

    Jesus says children are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and adults should not offend little children or they deserve to be drowned. Maybe you should follow Jesus' advice and cut off your hands because they have sinned.

    Keep your mitts off little people's butts and get a life.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:13 PM  

  • Hi. I'm a 12 years old girl from Mexico. We're doing at school a research (or how's the word?) about corporal punishment on the world and I fell here while searching "spanking" in google. I just would like to tell that no matter what bible, old methods or easy ways have ruled this topic years ago, spanking hurts. It hurts not in the way most of parents think it does "it stings his/her butt and he/she will stop the behaviour to help it next time", no, that's not what I mean. It hurts inside; I say it because I lived it. My parents used to spank me, with a "justification", they weren't beating me to a point to injure me seriously, at least not my body, but that "justified" spanking made me hate and fear them to a point many adults seem to have forgotten already from when they were kids. Luckily for me, they got help and they stopped hurting me, which taught me we all can make mistakes but we can fix them as well. I will never spank my children if I ever have any. I think there are more loving and smart ways which fit better the parental purpose: loving, teaching and protecting. I don't know if to make a law against it will help, but I'd like people who are reading this to sit a while and consider the other point of view, from a child who has experienced and suffered it, and who knows it is not the correct way. Love your children, that’s the most important, and teach them in a way which will not hurt them more than it will help them. But over all, don’t become a monster, that will only be making world a worse place to live. Just as a last comment. I am a disciplined and responsible girl, much more now than when my parents spanked me. I am not doing wrong things; I don’t smoke, drink or use drugs. I am not rude, I am a good student, I have many friends and I can actually tell my parents I love them and get it back. And I need no smacks to know what’s right and what’s wrong. My siblings are growing in a completely different reality than I was when I was their age. And I am happy for it. I wish all children on the world to have the chance of a better future, and a safe present full of love, not pain and fear. Thank you.

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    By Anonymous joel, at 9:39 PM  

  • I got home tonight, and my wife informed of of this. After being completely incredulous, I started laughing.

    Put simply, are you kidding me?

    NOBODY has the right to tell me how to raise my kids. Unless my child is being physically abused, NOBODY has that right. And physical abuse is FAR different than a swat on the butt for something the child has done wrong.

    I was spanked as a child. And looking back, I deserved every single instance of it. Being spanked as a child taught me restraint. It taught me to think before I did something that may not have been right, or kosher. It taught me a lot of things... and it didn't make me a violent person (quite the opposite actually), or teach me to hate my parents, or any other nonsense. Did it hurt? You bet! It's supposed to.

    This ridiculous bill isn't any different than the issues about gun rights... where people honestly believe that taking guns away from the civilian population will curb or lower gun crimes. Do these legislators really believe that they will be curbing child abuse with this ridiculous law? People abusing children are already breaking the law NOW. They aren't going to stop with this... all this does is (like so many other liberal laws lately) cause us normal law abiding citizens to suddenly be faced with criminal charges for something we should have the right to do in our own households. We as adults know the difference between right and wrong, abuse and punishment... this bill proves that legislators honestly believe that we, as adults, can't make that distinction ourselves... and so thereby need to be forced by law. I find that insulting in the extreme.

    People who don't agree that spanking is a good way to parent are free to feel that way, and raise their kids that way. But those same people have NO RIGHT to FORCE that belief on me or anyone else.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:44 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 AM  

  • A spanking law is not frivolous or anything to make light of. For the first time in American history, our society is starting to think of children as actual human beings. A country that allows people who are short in stature, who have undeveloped brains and bones and thin skin to be hit by people that are twice their size is very disturbing. What kind of adult hits a little person? How low can you go?

    Do we need laws to protect children from malicious parents? You bet. Children are to be raised in love and peace and if a parent can't provide that kind of environment for their children, then they should not be raising children.

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