Spare the rod, spoil the child, goes the age-old adage of how best to discipline children.
Our interest was piqued recenty by the introduction of AB 755, legislation to make California the nation’s first state to ban spanking of children, introduced by California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber. The bill would prohibit any physical striking of a child under age 4, with penalties that could range from required enrollment in a parenting class to a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
We see this as an unnecessary - and unwelcome - government intrusion into child rearing which is not only ill-conceived, but virtually unenforceable. Who is going to turn a parent in? Their spouse? Their children? Their neighbors? Their best friends?
We’re not talking about child abuse here, involving psychologically ill adults committing a crime by taking out their frustrations on their own children. There are already laws on the books to deal with that.
We’re talking about responsible adults, who, honoring their duty as parents, know when to apply a minimal use of physical force, as a last resort, to bring a recalitrant child into line. If you have got young children, you know there are times when such action is absolutely called for, i.e. to discipline the 3-year-old who darts into the street or the tantrum-throwing 2-year-old who just won’t quit.
Let those who never deserved a spanking when they were kids be the first to speak in favor of this bill. If you’re really being truthful, you can remember those times when you deservedly got a measured whack on the backside to teach you a lesson. Spanking, when used sparingly, can mean the difference between a disrespectful and an obedient child.
Statistics show roughly 80 percent of parents, at least occasionally, spank their children. Do we want to say 80 percent of parents are criminals? More than 20 years of research has shown that a restrained, judicious use of spanking is an effective and appropriate discipline option.
Criminalizing discipline that may be in the best interests of the child in a given circumstance is not the answer here. Though there is one thing we like about Lieber’s anti-spanking bill: the part about parenting classes. Maybe we ought to make such classes mandatory to take for everyone in high school or college informing them of all the options - including spanking - available to them. Let’s teach them how, and when, to use appropriate discipline on children. That’s something we could all benefit from.