A court ruling last week is being seen by some parents as a victory, but it really is anything but. The state Appellate Division found that a Long Island father's spanking of an 8-year-old boy "was a reasonable use of force." This comes after a judge had determined last year that the dad had abused his son "by inflicting excessive corporal punishment."
Allegedly, the dad had spanked the child with an open hand as punishment for cursing while they were at a party in 2012. What's more, according to the court's ruling, "the father and the child returned home from the party, the father repeatedly struck the child with a belt on the buttocks, legs, and arms." If that sounds like a completely unreasonable "use of force" to you, you're not alone, but the dad denied the latter, and apparently, there was insufficient evidence to uphold that charge. But the court's decision to give the dad a pass on this spanking altogether is disconcerting in itself.
The language in itself should send chills up moms' spines: "reasonable use of force." Sounds like an oxymoron, right? How could ANY sort of force inflicted on a child be considered "reasonable"? Do we really still live in a time and place when resorting to physical violence as disciplinary action is A-OK?
Surely, there were far better ways for this father to send a strong message to his child that cursing was wrong. In fact, perhaps the punishment could have fit the crime, and the two could have used proper language to talk it out. And the child could have learned how to better express his emotions in the future. Instead, the father reacted with "force," and that's supposed to be helpful?
At least, according to this court ruling, yes. It was an acceptable "form of discipline," which, "under the circumstances presented here, did not constitute excessive corporal punishment,” the four-judge panel ruled unanimously. Some parents may cheer this decision, believing it's a win for them -- and their children, who will be better off having been exposed to this form of discipline. But others know full well that the ruling simply serves to reinforce antiquated beliefs that do no one -- parent or child -- any good whatsoever.
How do you feel about using corporal punishment to discipline your child?