I meant to blog about this when it first came out but have been busy the last couple days.Â There is a bill being introduced into the state legislator making it illegal to spank children.Â I have a lot to say about this but first, the link to the article, and links to associated opinion pieces:
This issue upsets me in so many ways I don’t even know where to start.Â The best I can do is list the various complaints and then try to break it down from there:
- Privacy and freedom:Â Who is the state to say how I raise my children?
- The legislation is backwards: if anything, spanking is more valuable for younger children, and should be outlawed for older children.
- The apologetic ness of the response: “I’ve only spanked my child 4 times in my life and it was a very, very, very important reason.”
- Physical interventionÂ is a necessary tool for parents.
I guess I’ll start with #3.Â I was going to put caveats in this post about when I think it is appropriate to spank but after thinking about the matter, I now refuse to.Â I’ll decide for myself when I think it is necessary and I’ll give my readers the same respect that they can decide for themselves.Â The over-arching issue is not whether or when we spank but that we love our children and raise them lovingly.Â There is nothing about a spanking, even fairly frequent spanking, that precludes that.
Along those lines: spankings and beatings are NOT the same thing.Â A spanking is something that at worst leaves a broad red mark for less than an hour on even the most sensitive butt-white (excuse the pun) skin.Â A beating is something that might result in bruises.Â So let’s put aside any implication that a spanking is beating or abusing a child.Â It’s just not the same thing in even the remotest sense.
Which I guess leads me to #2.Â A big part about what bothers me about the legislation is that it’s all backwards.Â It says you can’t spank kids under a certain age (in this case 4).Â However, if you think about it, spanking is something that only is relevant for young kids.Â If you’re going to make legislation, it should say you can’t spank kids OVER a certain age, say something like 7, although 10 would give plenty of room for parental judgment.
For those of you who don’t have kids, the younger a kid is, the less they listen to you.Â At some point, they’re so young they couldn’t understand your words if they wanted to.Â At these young ages you only have one disciplinary tool: physical force.Â (Which means I guess I’m getting into point #4.)Â Most of the time this force is nothing more than stopping the child from doing whatÂ he/she intends.Â But as they get more obstinate in doing what you don’t want them to, you have to step up the amount of force that you use to prevent them.
See, here’s the problem with the “no spanking” crowd.Â What do you do when a child doesn’t respond to you “asking them”?Â Asking them again, is laughable.Â What if a kid won’t doÂ a “timeout”?Â Giving them another timeout is yet again laughable.Â Kids are young, not stupid.Â If they realize there is a limit to the punishments they receive, theyâ€™ll find a way abuse that.Â It’s an important lesson for children to learn at a young age that the worse thing you do, the worse the punishment is.Â The more warnings and punishments you ignore, the worse the punishments will get.Â Not allÂ wrongs are equal and kids need to learn that early because it is just as true for adults as kids.
As such, it’s very appropriate for parents to start with “don’t do that”, then step up to the “timeout” then toÂ “physically stopping” the to “physically stopping with some minor pain” then to “punishment w/ pain (of which spanking is one option)”.Â Does a parent have to use moderation to know when to step things up to the next level?Â Yes.Â Are there parents who show bad judgment? Yes.Â In fact, stepping things up too quickly can harm the parentâ€™s ability to differentiate between the minor wrongs and the major wrongs.Â But none of this precludes the use of force/pain even on a fairly regular basis if the child is not obeying their parents.
I use pain in discipline much more often than my wife does.Â Usually, since my boys are both toddlers, that most often means squeezing their arms or legs harder than is necessary when I’m physically trying to get them to do what I want.Â I’ve often noticed the boys laughing when my wife is trying to get them to do what she wants.Â They think she’s playing with them while, in reality, she’s getting frustrated.Â All it takes is a quick squeeze for them to realize that this isn’t a game and they need to sit still while I change their diaper.
And you know what, my kids love me just as much as they love their mom.
To bring #2 to a close, as my children get older, I’ll have other tools to use besides force/pain.Â I can reason with them, lecture them, ground them and punish them in ways that doesn’t require me to physically spank them.Â But while my kids are young, I don’t have those tools available to me yet.Â To take spanking away is to delay my ability to discipline my kids until they are old enough to be too used to getting their way without consequences.
Finally, Iâ€™ll wrap up with #1: Pope Benedict has often spoken of the dictatorship of relativism.Â The idea is that we reach a point where we pretend that “everything is acceptable” but in reality we haveÂ a dictatorship that refuses to let you believe/do anything but what is “in vogue”.Â While this proposed legislation is minor in the big picture, it is symptomatic of the dictatorship of relativism.Â The mindset that creates this says: “Children have to decide for themselves what is right and wrong; therefore anyone who spanks their children is a very bad person.”Â Itâ€™s the same mindset that says: “Those archaic ‘religionists’ want to enforce laws on us that take away our freedoms to do whatever we want and we enlightened people are smart enough to know that their archaic ways are so barbaric as to be illegal.”
Thankfully there are enough people who have lived the practical life of raising children to know how stupid this legislation is.Â However, we must be wary of the mindset that spawned this legislation and fight it with all of our collective might.