If legislation passes in California, parents from The Golden State could face jail and a fine for spanking their young children. A San Francisco Bay lawmaker is introducing legislation this week (January 22nd) aimed at protecting children four years and younger.
According to reports from The Associated Press and The Mercury News, Democratic assemblywoman Sally Lieber, who is introducing this no-spank bill, said a law is needed “because spanking victimizes helpless children and breeds violence in society.”
Lieber said her proposal would make spanking, hitting, and slapping a child under four years old a misdemeanor. Adults could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Interestingly, Lieber was quoted as asking how parents could argue that it’s okay to “beat” or “whip” a child.
Her choice of wording is troubling to the moms I spoke with. After conducting a casual poll of a handful of moms from across the country, most agreed that this legislation would need a better definition of what constitutes a spanking.
As the daughter of a child-protection-services social worker, I can tell you that our states already consider beating and whipping young children child abuse that can be punishable by the law. All moms interviewed said that after trying many other discipline tactics first, occasionally resort to a “pop on the behind” to get their trying preschoolers in line. All moms agreed that they never hit their children when babies and the first spanking typically occurred when their child was around two and a half or three years of age. Is that child abuse?
After speaking with the mom of a four-year-old boy, she referred me to quite a few parenting books by psychologists and other experts who suggest a pop on the behind, when all else fails, as perfectly acceptable for disciplining an unruly child.
Another friend, who admitted spanking her two boys occasionally when they did something especially bad, admitted that her mother spanked her for bad behavior as well. She said it was affective because her mother would announce the spanking and then make her daughter wait all day for it, slowly climb the stairs at the appropriate time, and then her mother calmly spanked her bottom two times with a wooden spoon. My friend said she never forgot the dread all day and it made her think about what she did wrong all day as well.
I’m not advocating spanking. But I wanted to share these responses and examples as it seems that this legislation could call the definition of spanking into a courtroom. Is it when a parent pops a child on the bottom and sends him to his room? Or is it a beating done in anger that has lasting, emotional scars?
If this legislation is aimed at putting parents who beat or whip children mercilessly behind bars—who couldn’t agree with that? But shouldn’t it be called a child abuse bill instead?
Regardless of whether this legislation passes, what are your thoughts on spanking? Is it okay to do occasionally as a discipline tactic? Or is it always wrong? (If this is your thought, we’d love to hear your best alternative discipline tactics for young children as well!)