Tuesday, January 23, 2007

California Proposes Law Against Spanking Young Children

Assemblywoman Sally Lieber of Mountain View has said that she is going to introduce legislation in the California Assembly to make it a crime to spank children under three years of age (hat-tip to Rantburg, Frank Pastore's radio program and PJI). Ms. Lieber believes that she is prohibiting child abuse and her comments to the press show that she does not know the difference between spanking as corporal punishment and “whipping” or “hitting.”

I can certainly understand that the legislature has a legitimate interest in preventing actual child abuse. As for actual child abuse, there are already laws outlawing it. It is not necessary to ban all spanking of young children. And there is a certain relative stage of development below which children should not be subjected to actual corporal punishment. Infants should not be spanked. But spanking is a legitimate and important part of child rearing. The state has no business interfering with legitimate corporal punishment that does not physically damage the child and is rightly considered to be morally efficacious by a large number of parents.

A gentle swat on the bottom of a child is often necessary to create a conditioned response to dangerous actions such as running toward the street, stepping in front of cars, failing to stop and come when called, or putting hands near dangerously hot or cold objects. A child between one and three cannot easily be reasoned with regarding a dangerous activity, but will understand and remember that a mild swat was obtained when he or she started to engage in that activity and was scolded by the parent. This sort of conditioning is a vital part of good parenting. In addition, there are times when children, especially between the ages of one and three, engage in deliberate defiance of parental authority. During these rare occasions, a gentle spanking is far more efficacious than other measures. In fact, many measures which are attractive to pacifist child rearers are mentally damaging by contrast to mild corporal punishment.

I suspect that a major reason for this sort of legislation is a common and erroneous understanding of moral principles. On the one hand, there are people who are not willing to accept moral restraint. These people demand the freedom to engage in activities that are destructive to themselves and to other people in society. Criminals, terrorists, or totalitarian dictators and their apologists clearly fall within this category. Some radical libertarians enter into the fringes of this category. At the opposite extreme are people who do not understand how morality works in a fallen world. In a world in which human beings engage in evil acts by choice, violence is occasionally not only necessary but good. It can be an instrumentality of resistance against evil. But the pacifists who reject all use of force seek to ban all violence of any type by any person for any reason. They do not understand that violence must be used to restrain evil. Instead they think that by banning all violence, they will succeed in preventing evil. What actually happens is that actively evil people continue to engage in violence and the pacifists hinder those that would oppose evil with good. But people who do not understand genuine morality from a Christian perspective have trouble understanding and sorting out why some violence is legitimate and other violence is wrong. If you don’t believe in good and evil, you can’t come up with a justification why it is sometimes acceptable to kill people and other times not. But through the Bible and natural law, God has revealed to us some appropriate level of force is sometimes necessary to discipline children, to restrain evildoers, and to punish those who engage in evil acts. Unwillingness to sort these things out is not moral but rather slovenly and destructive.

I believe that this anti-spanking legislation is an arch typical example of the kind of moral confusion I am discussing. But I also think that it is a violation of parental rights. Parents have a right to reasonably discipline their children. This is a fundamental right with which the state has no business interfering. It should be regarded as unconstitutional under the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. It clearly interferes with the traditional privileges of parenting.


PubliusPoster said...

I too believe that Sally Lieber's position and frame of mind is an indication of a deeper problem than this no-spanking law. It is an a departing from basic moral principles, which, from our nation's founding, have been recognized as fundamental to the survival of a free nation.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I do not agree with Dean MCCONNELL, if a child between the ages of 1 to 3 needs to be punished for an action like walking towards a moving car... it is in my opinion the parent that needs the punishment. The way I see it the parent is disciplining the child for something that is their responsibility (keeping the child safe), since the child in not yet of an age to make clear logical decisions obviously the decision making and the awareness is the full responsibility of the parent, therefore, the parent does not have the right to punish (no matter how light), a child because of their own fault.

Anonymous said...

the issue here is how far we want to allow the government into our private lives. It is already illegal to abuse a child. We can argue all the long day as to the benefits of spanking and never agree. There is no decisive proof that it is a good thing or a bad. However it is a matter for each parent to decide for themselves. I am forever amazed that it is often the same people who complain that the Patriot act is widdeling away at our rights that support these kind of invasive, big brother laws that are reminisent of communist Russia. IF there is any more basic right than to raise our children without all of this government intervention, I dont know what it is. Hillary may believe it takes a village but a village should never supplant the parents.

Professor McConnell said...

Parents cannot always control all actions of their children at all times for their entire lives. children must learn to be self governing and to choose good and avoid evil at some level and in some way even when they are two years old.

Children must also learn not to defy reasonable and just parental authority. Children learn that lesson first when they are less than three years old.

A state with no spanking of two year-olds will eventually become a state dominated by unhappy rebellious adults who expect the government to protect them from all the dangers of life, but who pay no attention to taking care of themselves or to laws designed to promote the common good unless those laws fit their own selfish ends in their own minds. (Oh dear, I have just described the democrat parties' core constituency!)

Anonymous said...

I would like to know where this slippery slope ends. MS Childless Liebers said that spanking was victimizing a child and that it lowered a child’s self esteem. WHERE DID SHE GET THAT scientific info? Did they interview 4 year olds shortly after they were spanked and the kid says” I feel violated"? Or did they interview older children and make a direct connection between self esteem and spankings? HOW? Maybe the kids who have been appropriately spanked have better self esteem in the long run because they earn to respect authority and learn limits??? What’s next...outlawing time out as it might hurt their feelings or maybe pass a law against "hate speech: towards your toddler because it lowers their self esteem? These social engineers are tyrants who want to impose their social agendas on everyone else. They are so arrogant that they believe they have the right and duty to take away others rights when they feel their social agendas need to be met. They twist the "facts" to suit their agendas and the media backs them up. They are taking us in the direction of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia who applied the village raising children model and stole the children from their parents and taught those young minds their own (the states) values and goals. The state became their parents as our government is gradually doing under the opuses of ": saving the children from brutal, ignorant and uncaring parents. the odd thing is that I have noticed is that the government does little to really save the brutalized children while focusing on gaining rights and power over the children from good homes.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Dean McConnell,

I was surprised at how unsure I become of myself when it came time to spank my daughters. In principle, I believed in spanking; in practice, I developed doubts.

I don’t think I spanked either of my daughters a total of more than ten times each. I hated doing it. I remember my parents claiming spanking me hurt them more than it hurt me. I didn’t believe them until I needed to spank my own daughters. One of the times I needed to spank was when the youngest one did walk into the street as my head was turned. She learned her lesson.

I don’t think I will ever spank either of my daughters again because they are getting too old. It is interesting how much better they listen to me now when I mention that I am considering giving them a spanking. The few times I did spank was all it took for them to know I would spank.

I agree with you, spanking is not abuse and should be preserved as a necessary tool of raising children.

Anonymous said...

If Sally Lieber was seriously interested in protecting children, she'd be against legalized abortion.

Anonymous said...

If Ms. Liebers was concerned about children shed look into the activities of some of her constituents in NAMBLA who want to lower the age of consent for children to have sex with adults. She represents the poster conssiuency for the mantra "big borhter...stay out of our bedrooms"I say Ms. Childless Liebers getout of our families and get back in your bedroom and take care of your dog or whatever and let us take care of our children.