The biggest problem that I have with State Assemblywoman Sally Lieber's (D-Mountain View) proposal to ban parents from spanking a child under the age of 3 is that it is more government intrusion into the privacy inside our homes.
Lieber's controversial proposal would forbid, she said, "any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, punching, any of that," and subject the parent to a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine up to $1,000,
Now I am against hurting a child in any way, and deplore any parent who would beat a child. But a little swat on the behind is different, and at times an appropriate way to tell a child that what he is doing is wrong.
I can well remember when my 13-month-old son was crawling around and insisted on pulling on the cord while I was ironing. I pulled him away, put him in his playpen, where he started to scream. I got him out, and back to the cord he went three times. Did I want a hot iron falling on his head? Absolutely not. One swat convinced my son that maybe pulling on an iron cord was not a good idea. Obviously he was too young to reason with.
Having had four sons, I can think of many times when a little spank was the only way to let a child know that he was acting inappropriately. And I don't think there is anything wrong with that.
Experts in child psychology have disagreed for years whether spanking is an appropriate and effective way for a parent to discipline a child. Some say it is fine, as long as it is used sparingly and doesn't escalate into child abuse. Others say it is better to reason with a child.
Sometimes it is hard to reason with a 2-year-old.
Lieber is asking the government to act as Big Brother and make it a misdemeanor if a parent swats a child. I think that is wrong, because it clearly interferes with what is a parent's responsibility, not the government's. Next thing she will be insisting is that parents make sure their children are not obese, and fine us if they are, or demand that we read to our children each night.
There are many parents who choose to never swat their children, and I think that is great. There are others who think an occasional swat is appropriate and I think that is fine. Spanking is an issue for parents to decide not the state government.