Thursday, October 25, 2012

As one raised with the rod...

I grew up knowing the stick intimately.  I was a rebellious child, devious in my disobedience, and I deserved far more than my parents (read that mom) gave me.  I do not believe I was disciplined to hurt me but in view of the greater pain that my disobedience would or did cause to myself first and to others as well.  I must confess that I was not much for physical punishment with my own kids.  Oh, they might say they could remember this time or that time but, on the whole, I was not very good at spanking.  So do not read this as either defense of corporal punishment nor as the suggestion that physical punishment has no place in the modern family.  My point is that how you define pain can have radically different consequences.

Perhaps you have heard that the State of Delaware approved child welfare legislation that effectively makes not just spanking a child criminal but causing any impairment of physical condition or pain (lawyerly language for just about anything a parent might do except speak to a kid).  The language is very subtle, perhaps deliberately broad, so that it is up to the court to define what constitutes
“Physical injury” to a child shall mean any impairment of physical condition or pain.
The legislature has kindly provided a summary of the legislation at the end of the bill:
This bill establishes the offense of Child Abuse. These new statutes combine current statutes and redefine physical injury and serious physical injury to reflect the medical realities of pain and impairment suffered by children. A new section provides special protection to infants, toddlers and children who have disabilities. The statute also expands the state of mind necessary for certain offenses against children allowing for more effective prosecution of parents who subject their children to abuse by others and fail to protect their children. The bill also re-numbers the definitional section making clear that the definitions apply to all crimes in the subchapter.
Now I abhor the atrocities of physical abuse that some inflict upon their children in the name of loving discipline.  I reject the idea that any parent has the right to define physical punishment as he or she desires.  But I also believe that the intrusion of such well-intended legislation offers the opportunity for nearly any physical contact between a parent and a child in the context of discipline an impairment of physical condition or pain.  It is not an objective standard at all but allows the state to define it -- much like the rather vague definition of pornography offered by the infamous Supreme Court jurist.  He knows it when he sees it.  I would not want anyone to construe these comments as approving the physical abuse of children but I think the big brother school of government in which each and every parental decision becomes a criminal matter will be the undoing of our families and our society.  How far this will be employed is up to the prosecutor and the police and that, my friends, is the big problem here.

One playful blogger wrote of a brief conversation about this with one of his own kids:

Daughter:  What are you guys taking about?
Dad:  The State of Delaware has passed a law saying that parents can't spank their kids.
Daughter:  That's silly.
Dad:  Why?
Daughter:  Parents need to spank so their kids will behave.
Dad:  What do you think will happen if parents can't spank their kids?
Daughter:  The kids will probably end up voting for Obama. 

I am not being partisan here.  But it is highly more likely that an Obama notion of family welfare is at the root of the Delaware legislation than the parental wisdom of others in the political marketplace.


Janis Williams said...

It pains me (no pun intended) that adults - read: legislators - have such a low opinion of children's intelligence.

As you say, you understood the meaning of the spankings you received. I also grew up with spankings. They might have come at the end of a hand, belt, or even wooden spoon, but I understood they were not intended to cause me pain for pain's sake.

When will we give children a chance to be children? We make them grow up too soon (dressing like adults, early access to sexual content and stimulation). They need to understand authority. This learning of submission is a part of being a child. Instead we have adults who have never grown up in part because of these mixed signals we sent them as children.

We are ever children of our Heavenly Father as Christians, and discipline of children prepares us for an adulthood spent as His children (who will be disciplined).

Anonymous said...

I have always had issue with appealing to extreme cases to formulate laws, yet this is exactly where we are today - not just in this instance, but "all over the board." While I agree with the goodness and rightness of corporal punishment as exercised by sane, loving parents, I am afraid those days are for ever gone. And our hedonistic out-of-control society will continue to be just that, hedonistic and out-of-control. MARANATHA!

Anonymous said...

One could argue that going to bed without one's dinner could be construed as physical pain. We at times would with-hold any thing that needed electricity. Want to listen to music, tv? Nope. We had an electric stove-no cooked food. No blow get the picture. They also learned really fast to obey. Would those be considered as "impairment of physical condition"?


Anonymous said...

To quote (and adapt to the topic at hand) something I recently obtained from FB: Some legislators need a high five. In the face. With a chair.