The recent police case of an 8-year old boy in New York, who got spanked by his father, has led some anti-helicopter parenting advocates to protest that the government is not letting parents deal with their own children as they see fit. The father, who was charged and convicted with child-endangerment, found vindication from a New York appeals court panel ruling who dismissed the case. These anti-helicopter parenting advocates can breath a sigh of relief after a court ruled that spanking is not excessive punishment, after all.
New York is one of many states confronting parents who go too far with corporal punishment. In Florida, for instance, a recent ruling outlines the single-spank policy, a policy enforcing a rule where a single spank does not qualify as domestic violence.
But anti-spanking advocates say these rulings fail to address the underlying problem with spanking. Should I spank my child should not be a question that a rational parent should be asking him or herself, the thinking goes:
“The problem with spanking is what you are doing is using a negative action and you are reinforcing that as a way in which to deal with life issues. Ideally, what you want to do is teach the child what to do instead – pro-social alternative actions that children can take, as opposed to using a negative action like spanking,” said Nava Silton, a child psychologist who thinks spanking shouldn’t be used by parents.
Others think spanking, when used strategically, can be a good route: “I stopped spanking my kids after age 8, as they were able to be reasoned with,” wrote a user calling him or herselfr crackhappy on Reddit. “At this point, every once in a long while, they will push too far and I will spank them for it. But, considering they’re all teens now, it’s not the pain but the humiliation aspect that matters. I never spanked my kids until they were 2, and even then at the young age it’s not usually about the pain but the escalation that mattered. It’s not about abuse, it’s about demonstrating levels of importance to the child.”
The debate about “Should I spank my child?” continues to rage on blogs and newsgroups – both for and against spanking. Most anti-helicopter parents are against the government’s intrusion, whether these parents believe spanking is healthy or not. It’s for the parents to decide, they say.
Despite the recent actions by the U.S.’s more liberal states, most jurisdictions allow for spanking by parents. To spank or not to spank … that is the question. In fact, 38% of U.S. States allow school teachers or principals to punish public school students by hitting them.
Corporal punishment usually comes in the form of paddling in schools, with a well established tradition in certain institutions going back centuries. The Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union reported that there are abuse in the practice because the teachers or principals who hit students often do so as a first resort. The Human Rights Watch claims the U.S. corporal allowance unfairly targets students with disabilities. As autism continues to be diagnosed and treated within the school system, the rules for spanking children will assuredly change.
Another user on Reddit called CoffeeNTrees pushed the case for spanking: “There is a very easy clear line between swatting your bratty kid, and beating the hell outta them. People without kids don’t usually understand that. The problem comes when the swat is the only form of parenting that people learn.”