California will soon debate whether to make spanking a child of less than 4 years of age a crime punishable by prison time. A bill in the state assembly intends to take the decision for disciplining their children out of the hands of parents, and the Governator says he may well sign it:
California parents could face jail and a fine for spanking their young children under legislation a state lawmaker has promised to introduce next week.
Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Lieber said such a law is needed because spanking victimizes helpless children and breeds violence in society.
“I think it’s pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child,” Lieber said. “Is it OK to whip a 1-year-old or a 6-month-old or a newborn?”
Lieber said her proposal would make spanking, hitting and slapping a child under 4 years old a misdemeanor. Adults could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
I’m a bit of an agnostic on spanking. My parents spanked me from time to time, open handed on the seat of my pants, and I hardly consider myself abused. I’m not certain it’s the most successful strategy for disciplining children in most circumstances, though. My son and daughter-in-law use subtraction and time-outs instead, withholding play time or toys when the Little Admiral misbehaves — of course, now I’m speaking rhetorically, because my granddaughter never misbehaves. (Yeah, I know, I’m a sucker.)
However, I don’t believe that spanking as normally defines constitutes child abuse. If it did, we’d apply the existing abuse laws in cases of spanking. This seems more to me like a hobby horse of some legislators and an opportunity to force their views regarding parenting on the citizens of California. The Los Angeles Times reports that many Californians think the same:
Assemblywoman Sally Lieber hit a nerve when she mused publicly this week about making it illegal for parents to strike children younger than 4.
The Bay Area Democrat hasn’t introduced a bill yet, but critical calls and e-mails — including some personal attacks — have flooded her offices since her local newspaper wrote about her intention.
Unbowed, Lieber said she would introduce a bill next week to make California the first state to make the hitting of a toddler or baby a crime. Language was still being drafted, but Lieber was considering making a violation a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail.
On an ironic note, Lieber is catching some flack for not having any children herself. This echoes the comments made by Barbara Boxer to Condolezza Rice, but in this case it has more application, since Lieber intends on regulating parental choices.
Regardless, this appears to be an unnecessary intrusion on the rights of parents. Parents have spanked children, open-handed and on the rear, for millenia and we’ve managed to survive it. I appreciate that many people do not agree with this strategy, and I’m not sure I’d use it, either. (MY son was too old for that when I married his mother.) However, just as I would not require parents to spank, I would also not bar them from using a method I do not consider abusive, certainly not with the enforcement of the government.
I’m interested in what CQ readers think about spanking. Vote in the poll below, and be sure to add your comments in the thread.