Banning spanking in Massachusetts?

by Walter Olson on November 28, 2007

Since 1979 nineteen countries led by Sweden have banned corporal punishment by parents of kids in the home. A bill scheduled for debate today before the Massachusetts legislature would make that state the first to join the trend. (Laurel Sweet, “Bay State’s going slap-happy”, Boston Herald, Nov. 27; “Anti-spanking bill is folly” (editorial), Nov. 28; Stephen Bainbridge, Nov. 22 (New Zealand)). Earlier: Apr. 19, 2004 (U.K.); Feb. 14 and Feb. 24, 2007 (proposal in California).

More: such laws in both Sweden and New Zealand have been softened (i.e., made more lenient toward parents) by the interpolation of reasonableness standards, per Kiwi website Big News (via QuizLaw).

{ 14 comments }

1 GeorgeH 11.28.07 at 9:41 am

If Massachusetts law makes spanking a form of child abuse, then would not Children’s Protective Services have an obligation to step in and prevent anyone with children from moving to another state where they could be spanked?

2 Skip Oliva 11.28.07 at 10:29 am

Hitting, Walter. “Spanking” and “corporal punishment” are inane euphemisms. We’re talking about whether adults have the “right” to hit defenseless children. (And hitting a child on the buttocks also qualifies as sexual abuse.)

3 Jason Barney 11.28.07 at 11:33 am

Okay, I have to jump in here and very much disagree, Skip.

I have a 3- and 2-year old, and, naturally, throughout the day they do silly or wrong things which need correction (discipline.)

Not every disciplinary action deserves spanking–there are often other measures (i.e.: ‘time outs,’ go to your room, take away a toy, etc) that are more appropriate.

But, for egregious or dangerous behavior, a swat on the rear is appropriate to illustrate to the child the inappropriate behavior.

Such should not be done out of anger, but necessity. If done angrily it can easily become abusive, and the fault of the parent.

I personally believe spanking should be on the clothed body as to not humiliate.

And, it almost sounds silly but I don’t think pain should be inflicted during the spanking. The act is more illustrative to the child than anything, the degree to which the behavior is to not be tolerated.

4 Alex 11.28.07 at 12:14 pm

I agree with Jason on this; spanking is to be avoided if possible, but there are times when there is no other way to make a child understand that behavior is inappropriate. Also, Skip, if you see spanking a child’s buttocks as sexual in nature, it says a lot more about you than the parents that have been using it as a punishment, not for any form of sexual gratification, over the centuries.

5 Heather 11.28.07 at 12:29 pm

If you spank a child who tries to crawl on the stove, you’re a child abuser and you go to jail and the state takes your children.

If you allow the child to crawl on the stove and they get burned, you’re a child neglecter and you go to jail and the state takes your children.

Why not just let the state confiscate all children after birth, to be raised in communal state facilities? Skip and the MA legislature believe you have no right to raise your own children as you see fit, why not take the next logical step here?

6 Bob Montgomery 11.28.07 at 2:00 pm

Hitting is different from spanking.

When it isn’t is when it becomes child abuse.

7 Deoxy 11.28.07 at 5:36 pm

Adults DO have the right, indeed, the OBLIGATION to “hit” defenseless children.

We refer to it as “spanking” to differentiate appropriate disciplinary action from gratuitous abuse.

If you can’t understand that there is a difference, how can you accept pople being held against their will in prison? The concept is exactly the same.

8 Joe 11.28.07 at 6:45 pm

Spanking with a quick swat of a hand is not child abuse, my parents disciplined me in this manner. However, punching, or using a belt IS child abuse, and parents (or other caregivers) who do this should be punished for this behavior.

9 MTBec 11.29.07 at 12:24 am

Perhaps some of the difficulty in clearly demarcating spanking from assault comes from inappropriate consideration of children as equivalent to ‘tiny adults’, as well as overly generous definitions of assault.

10 David Schwartz 11.29.07 at 3:49 am

I have the right to hit my children just as I have the right to shoot my television. Where you have the right to step in is when it is in fact abuse. To claim that all physical punishment of children of all ages is abuse is simply absurd.

11 Rachel Bridges 11.29.07 at 6:45 pm

I strongly disagree with this, as a child my mom would spank me and my siblings and to be honest i believe it helped us for the better. Now i am 18 but when i was 6 years old I was almost taken away from my mother when she spanked me outside of a toys-r-us, but I stood up for my mom, no one could believe it they thought I would be against her for abuse and would be glad to get rid of it, but in my opinion it is just a form of discipline and if more parents now would show some discipline to there kids we would have a better America. Kids now in this day of age are so rebellious and so spoiled it sickens me to my very core! Now don’t get me wrong there is a certain point in which it could be too much, but if its just a couple of swats on the child’s bottom I see no problem in that. But parents should be allowed to discipline their children without the Civil government interfering.

12 Jason Barney 11.29.07 at 10:19 pm

Spanking should be safe, legal and rare!

13 Antonio U. Espejo 11.30.07 at 2:17 am

here is another example of politicians and lawmakers making a ridiculous law and probably don’t have any kids of their own.

14 John 12.03.07 at 5:52 pm

As native of MA…I think this is just another example of misdirected over-legislation. The problem is that this law will do very little, if anything, to deter child abuse. At some point, if passed, this law will undoubtedly victimize some very undeserving parents.

On the other hand…it is a little surprising to hear so many people who believe that hitting your child out of love or concern is somehow more acceptable than doing so out of anger.
I’d like to see your reactions if your boss took the same point of view with you when you’ve made a mistake.

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