Sunday, April 06, 2008

Anti-Smacking Bill hits California

California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber has introduced AB 2943 to outlaw spanking children up to 3 years old in California. It is identical to last year's AB 755, which drew national attention.

The bill will ban "any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, [or] punching." The penalties in the bill, which can be seen here, are fairly substantial. A few thoughts:

1) I don't believe in and do not practice physical discipline of my kids

2) The bill represents another state intrusion on the family and parenting rights, which is already a problem.

3) As with any government policy related to the family, there is the definite possibility of anti-male bias in the law's application. Bystanders, police officers, judges and juries may well see a mother who spanks as a poor, overburdened woman trying to control her out-of-control kids, while viewing a father who spanks as abusive.

Lenin perceptively said "Only weak governments need strong measures." I think it is often true that only weak parents--or parents who've been temporarily placed in a position of weakness--need "strong measures" like spanking or other forms of physical discipline. However, I do believe there can be extraordinary situations where spanking a young child is appropriate.

An example from my youth--my mother, my younger sister and I were near a crowded, busy street and my sister--probably age 3 or 4 at the time--bolted out into the street. My mother quickly got her and then spanked her--not because my mom was mad or scared (though I'm sure she was), but because she wanted to give my sister a quick and memorable lesson to prevent her from ever bolting out into the street again like that. I don't know that I would've handled it the same way, but it's certainly a defensible reaction, and hardly something worthy of government sanction.

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