Saturday, February 03, 2007

Can spanking really be made a crime?

I must admit, I've been a blog slacker lately. Honestly, 2 weeks and no posts! Shame on me... On the other hand, in the last 2 weeks I've accomplished quite a bit outside of the blog world (coincidence? I think not...) The good news is that my house is cleaner and more organized than it's been in many many months. My kids have had lots and lots of 'mommy time,' and I've managed to get my 'mompreneur' business idea rolling. Yippee! But I'm back. I missed blogging - really, I did. It may be a somewhat dysfunctional excuse for community, but that's okay.

Since I've been 'away,' a bill has been put forward in California to outlaw spanking. The idea behind the bill is nice - curb child abuse by making it illegal to ever hit a child. And for the sake of our children, perhaps child abuse laws should be re-evaluated and social workers be given a little more resources to do their jobs. However, banning corporal punishment isn't the answer.

My position on spanking... as a last resort, when other means of correction have been exhausted, a child who is able to discern right from wrong in a given situation may need something as harsh as a spanking to teach and correct behavior. I'm well aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics and virtually every psychologist on the planet advise against it. But let's face it, as parents we have to teach our children right from wrong. We have to teach them to avoid things that are harmful to themselves or others. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd ever need to spank the Bean. But I was wrong. I've only officially spanked her once. But she has gotten a mild pop on the well-diapered rear twice. And it killed me to do it! I've been told by moms with older kids that the key to avoiding spanking is being creative with discipline. Perhaps I'm not creative enough. Please, share your creative discipline tips with me. For the sake of wisdom and for my kids' wellbeing.

If you are going to spank, I think the following is pretty well accepted as guidelines: Don't spank out of anger or emotion. Examine the child's motives for their behavior. Examine your own role in your child's behavior (if your kid is hungry and you skipped naps today, you can't expect him to be an angel). Use loving words and assure your unconditional love for the child before and after spanking. Be more liberal with hugs and cuddles than you are with spanking. Vary your discipline techniques - there's more to discipline than time outs and spanking.

Let's go back to that bill in California. What would happen if the bill was passed? Potentially, neighbors, store clerks, etc. would start reporting well-meaning parents for any possible infringement of the law, adding enormous work loads for already overworked social workers and police officers. Spanking, already a taboo topic among all but very close friends, would become even more taboo, leaving many parents without the much needed counsel and wisdom of friends. Would that really help the situation? Honestly, the parents who fret and worry about whether or not it's okay to spank are worlds different than the parents who abuse their children without batting an eye. Changing the law will not hinder them in the least. It would only deepen the stigma we feel when our children's behavior is dangerous enough to necessitate some sort of discipline that will get their attention.

Here's a link to a news story about the bill, and one to NPR's radio coverage of it. All Things Considered had commentary from a woman who was a meditative Eastern Orthodox Christian, saying that though she has spanked her son once and won't apologize for it, she is inherently against spanking. She claimed that anyone who believes in seeking God should be focused on the inner life - the life of the spirit - and that spanking is the opposite of this and teaches our kids the opposite. While I won't call her a meditative fruitcake, I do think her theology is a bit skewed. God isn't concerned only with the spiritual side of life - He's very much involved with, sovereign over, and concerned about our physical lives. He deeply loves our children, perhaps more than we as parents do. And just as He chastens His followers and requires us to feel the consequences of our actions, He expects us as parents to do the same for our children. The Bible actually says "Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death." (Proverbs 23: 13-14, NLT) The rod mentioned throughout Proverbs is the same as the one mentioned in the oft-quoted Psalm 23 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ... Your rod and your staff, they comfort me..." The idea behind it is that we are comforted by knowing that God is just and He is in control. His rod is a symbol of authority, and knowing that the authority you're under is consistent, just, and loving is incredibly freeing and comforting. And so it is for our children. We must discipline, and that discipline must be fitting and appropriate to both the situation and the child.

Again, I'll restate my plea from above. Moms and dads, share some ideas of creative discipline you use. Anything goes, as long as it doesn't involve inflicting physical pain. Tell me what you do, and what offenses merit it.

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