Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Spank or Not to Spank

The answer is no. Don't spank.

The trend, throughout the US, is away from corporal punishment, even if there is no trend to outlaw it explicitly. While spanking is not clearly outlawed in Massachusetts, our case law does not clearly condone it either. And there is currently proposed legislation here that would indeed explicitly outlaw it; if the legislation is passed, Massachusetts could become the first state to prohibit parents from using corporal punishment.

I just read an interesting post on the subject in today's Massachusetts Law Updates, the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library's blog: Spanking and the Law. Although I'm not sure a law banning parents from spanking their children is necessary or even a good idea, I am sure myself that spanking itself is a bad idea. I believe parents should act as though such a law is already in effect.

I say don't spank, first of all, because as a parent I don't believe spanking is a good means of discipline, I have never used it myself, never needed it, and never would use it. (Of course, my current aversion to spanking may have something to do with the fact that my son is now old enough and big enough to spank me back...)

Second of all, I say don't spank, because I am a divorce and family law attorney. As such, my clients are by and large parents who are in the process of getting divorced, parents who are already divorced, or parents or other parental figures in divorce, guardianship or paternity disputes. Such parents in particular often have to worry about potential or ongoing disputes with other parents or other rivals in custody and visitation matters, and it's not generally a good idea to be giving your potential enemies ammunition to use against you.

But finally, and most importantly - and this is strongly related to my own personal objection to spanking - I say don't spank because there is a fine line between physical discipline and abuse. Where there are children, there are mandated reporters. In our schools and hospitals, and elsewhere, there are officials, teachers, counselors, medics, medical and psychological professionals, who are mandated to report any suspected neglect or abuse to the Department of Social Services.

Really, it's just better not to spank. There's a better way.

Massachusetts Law Updates: Spanking and the Law


Jack Payne said...

Spare the rod, spoil the child. An obsolete axiom indeed.

Davis Family said...

Wow, I think there is a definite difference between abuse and spanking. If your child is old enough and you use other means, i.e. redirection, time out, etc first and WARN them that their next bad choice will result in a pop/swat/spank (use your own words) then HOW is that bad? Children have CHOICES just like adults. We live in a world full of PEOPLE GONE WILD with attitudes of disrespect and greed. It's disgusting to me that the PC world thinks it is OK to come into my home and tell me how to discipline my child. Happily I do not live in Massachussets. I live in Texas. And my son knows right from wrong. He is NOT the child that no one wants to be around because he can't be controlled. He is VERY loved and smart and wonderful. But he also knows there are consequences for his behaviour including a possible spank. Popular opinion doesn't make it RIGHT! It never has!

Steven Ballard said...

Just for the record, I really am not in favor of the proposed law that would prohibit spanking in Massachusetts. I just believe, like Jack Payne, that "spare the rod, spoil the child" is an obsolete axiom, as he said. Spanking is not necessary for effective discipline. I also think it is advisable for parents not to spank, maybe more so if they live here in Massachusetts than if they live in Texas. Thanks for the comments.