California Assemblywoman Wants to Spank Spankers

Filed under:Mothering,Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn on January 22, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

Or, In Which I Attempt to Speak Like One o’ Them There Law-yers.

First, The Story:

This bonehead wants to legislate spanking. The law would affect only the spanking of children three and under, so it’s not quite as idiotic as it would first appear. It’s still pretty stupid.

Second, The Practicalities:

Who will be witnesses for this “crime?” Who will report it? A three-year-old’s word is unreliable, to say the least. Only the ones dumb enough to spank their kids in public, then. Or parents with an ax to grind against the spanking parent. Chew on that one for a minute. Mad at your ex? “Oh, hey, my ex spanked our son last week … ” and poof presto, a year of free custody!

What’s the law’s definition of spanking? Visible mark on the child in a certain area? Bruise of a certain depth? Traditional spanking is done on the tush, and I have to assume one reason is that though it stings, it doesn’t damage the child or leave a mark. Absent a mark, what’s the standard? How is it to be proved?

Third, The Ideology:

No big mystery here, it’s basically “It Takes a Village” vs. “Mommy and Daddy Know Best.” Guess which one I favor. Come on, guess! It’s fun.

Fourth, The Merits:

“I have to question why our society holds so tightly to physical discipline among the very young,” said Ms. Lieber, who does not have children. “We’re very addicted to violence.”

Really? I have to question why certain lawmakers hold so tightly to the idea that they can legislate out every bad behavior among the populace and why they believe a blanket standard will work on such a personal and individual thing as parental discipline. They’re very addicted to power.

Do I spank my three-year-old? No. Is he old enough to fit the punishment to the crime? Yes, despite what the article says:

Proponents of such laws argue that spanking — especially for young children, who cannot connect the punishment to the crime — is ineffective at best, and cruel at worst.

He went through a biting phase. I managed to stop it through other means. My mother, however, bit me back when I went through the same phase. Guess how many times she bit me? Come on, guess! I’ll tell you this: I never bit her (or anybody else) again. Three-year-olds and older two-year-olds are quite developed enough to connect punishment to crime, especially when it’s laid out carefully to them and properly reinforced. Which brings me to my last merit argument, widely believed but brought to us in this instance by a commenter at Patterico’s:

If you’re trying to instill discipline, how does acting in an undisciplined manner yourself, out of frustration, help?

Actually, acting out of frustration generally doesn’t help. But it doesn’t follow that all spanking is “acting out of frustration.” If you start by establishing that such-and-such a behavior is forbidden, with notice of exactly what will happen if the behavior is repeated, you preclude acting out of frustration or without discipline.

Closing argument: Though I nominally agree that three and under is too young for spanking, it doesn’t follow that such spanking is automatically tantamount to child abuse. There’s enough real abuse going on that the California Assembly would be daft to pile this one onto their child protection department’s almost assuredly overloaded back.

Cross-posted at Electric Venom.

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