California could become the first state in the nation to explicitly ban parents from spanking their kids. Assemblywoman Sally Lieber has recently introduced a bill in the state legislature that, if passed, would outlaw any parent from spanking a child from the age of three and under. The parent could be fined up to $1,000 or spend up to a year in jail.
“I think it’s pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child three years old or younger,” Lieber said in an interview with Mike Zapler of the MediaNews Sacramento Bureau.
The bill, which is still being drafted, will, according to Lieber, be written broadly, prohibiting “any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, punching, any of that.”
The bill poses at least two problems. One obvious problem is the impracticality of enforcing it. Some legislators believe that such a law calls for what they consider “nanny government.” We at The Prospector agree. The kind of Big Brother government needed to regulate such a practice is mind-boggling. California would have to become a Big Brother, or a rather large nanny, supervising the parental decisions of all its citizens. How is such monitoring possible? Will children have to turn their parents in? Most children under the age of three are incapable of reporting spanking. So will social workers be stretched as they monitor minor swats to the hand as well as actual abuse to children? Perhaps Lieber envisions the State erecting cameras in each home through which an agency can monitor all the activities of its citizens.
The problem of impracticality leads us to the second, and perhaps biggest problem with this bill: the limited rights of the State. What right does the state have to tell parents how to discipline their children, if such discipline does not cross the line into abuse? What’s next? Will the State pass a bill mandating that parents have to read a minimum of 30 minutes every night to their child? Or that parents must not raise their voices in reprimanding their child? Where do we draw the line in how much say the State has in parenting?
Since Lieber has said that the bill will be written broadly, it could, as a law, be enforced as prohibiting any kind of swat or mild physical correction to a child. Would a mom who slaps her misbehaving kid in the supermarket be labeled a criminal? Or should we expect her to let her child run crazy through the isles or throw tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants? The debate among child psychologists-many of whom believe limited spanking can be effective-still rages. For the time, the verdict is still out on whether spanking is right or wrong, and the State has no right to enforce one particular code of practices over another.
In an online Mister Poll, 96 percent of respondents said that they were spanked as a child. Eighty-nine percent of those same respondents said that they were likely to spank their own child the same way as they were spanked. When asked if other punishment would work better than spanking, 77 percent said no. These ideas may seem archaic and even brutal to some. It is true that more than 10 European countries have already passed similar spanking laws, Sweden being the first in 1979. But most Americans don’t liked being told what to do by their government, especially when if comes to individual lifestyle choices. And no one likes being told how to parent, especially by someone who doesn’t have any children of her own.
For the record, Sally Lieber does not have any children of her own. And one wonders if she has been out of the house lately. Look around and you will see a society full of kids that are out of control. These kids are desperate for attention, in an A.D.D. diagnosed atmosphere, longing for purpose and direction. How can parents provide purpose and direction? The answer most likely lies with discipline. Whether that discipline involves spanking is entirely up to you. And that’s where the decision should remain: with you, the parent.