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November 29 2007

Massachusetts Wants To Ban Spanking

SpankingThis has been all over the media, so I assume most of you have heard about it by now, but for those who haven’t, a nurse in Massachusetts wants to ban the spanking of children entirely, including in your home.

The theory is that spanking is as much a crime as domestic abuse and it is wrong for parents to have carte blanche to abuse their children. From the ABC News article this quote (and picture) came from:

“I think it’s ironic that domestic violence applies to everyone except the most vulnerable — children,” said Kathleen Wolf, who wrote the bill.

Look, there is a difference between “domestic violence” and swatting your kid’s behind for misbehaving. Sometimes it is the only way to get a kid’s attention, and I know it sure as heck always worked on me as a kid. Sure, there are some parents who take it too far, and those people should be punished, but if you want to swat your kids behind after you have repeatedly told them no about something, then do it.

The general sense is that the bill won’t pass, but it is just insane to me that it ever even got considered. Spanking is as old as humanity for the most part, and while I think it can be taken to excess, I think every parent has the right to make this decision for themselves.

Working in a comic book store for over 15 years, I saw my fair share of rowdy kids, and the parents who always went the “Do you want a time out?” route usually got no where with their kids, and the one’s who gave them a small swat on the butt got their attention. Again, it’s all in degrees, but to give a total ban is just stupid in my opinion.

And if this does pass somehow, what’s next? What part of your private life in your home will the regulate next? Rough housing? Watching wrestling? Where does it stop?

Oh, and by the by, according to the poll on ABC, most folks think this is stupid also.



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  • Nearly every poorly-behaved kid (without a disability or psychological problem) you see is the result of a parent who is inconsistent, weak, and immature. Parents give their kids too many choices and too much power at a young age and they think they are doing them a favor when actually they’re giving too much freedom for their level of cognitive development. Kids act out and start to carry on. The parents respond by giving in when the kids push them because its easier than standing their ground. Eventually, the kids learn that acting out gives them power and use that with increasing intensity and duration each time they want their way.

    The main problem with spanking is that it’s not necessary if you’re a good parent who is aware of the dynamic between you and your kid. Another major problem is that it’s almost never applied purely as a punitive measure but also as an emotional release by the parent. They hit their kids because they’re at the end of their tether or too lazy to provide the structure that would have prevented the inappropriate behavior leading up to the problem. If the parent cut off the bad behavior using psychological conditioning techniques, the kids would never get out of hand. Spanking is a substitute for good parenting, not a part of it.

    And it’s not a matter of whether or not you’re scarred by having been spanked. I was spanked, too, but it was almost always because my parents were too mad, frustrated, or tired to deal with limit-testing which I constantly did (and often got away with which is why I kept doing it). There are always multiple ways to get a task done and the same applies to controlling your kids. Spanking is the crude, lazy and stupid way to discipline kids. It works and it won’t kill them but it’s not necessary and it won’t help your kids grow up with the best possible psychological grounding.

    The parental structure that is missing when spanking is the default discipline has a long-term effect and will likely affect the kid’s attitude toward others in the future in subtle but important ways. In particular, it will reduce your patience with others and teach you that being mad rather than dealing rationally with people is “normal” behavior. It increases the chance you’ll lash out and be angry but feel it’s justified because you were lashed out at. It also deprives you of an opportunity to be role-modeled good parenting skills. It’s like being taught short-cuts to a half-assed result rather than the proper way to the best result.

    That being said, the law shouldn’t be a part of this. Rather than put time and energy into laws to regulate spanking and private disciplinary actions, those who are interested in protecting children should educate people on how to handle their children without resorting to hitting them.