We’ll concede that a legislative proposal to allow spanking powerful enough to leave red marks or even bruises might be well intended, but the idea ought to be swatted away.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat, would allow corporal punishment of “up to 10 forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child.” The child could be in day care or even in high school.
Rep. Finney’s bill also would permit parents to authorize others — including school officials — to spank their children. Additionally, her proposal would allow “reasonable physical force” to restrain a child being spanked and acknowledges that “redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result.”
Rep. Finney, who said her proposal is an attempt to better define corporal punishment, told the Wich-ita Eagle that her bill does not allow “hitting, punching, beating, because that is still considered abuse.”
Kansas law already allows spanking that does not leave marks on a child. Rep. Finney thinks more intense spanking is sometimes necessary to cope with defiant children who refuse to obey their parents or school personnel.
As a lot of parents and school personnel know, defiant children exist. And it is an understatement to say that getting such children to mind — or even communicating with them — is a challenge.
But spanking them is not the answer. Neither is de-fining acceptable corporal punishment by setting a maximum number of swats on a clothed buttocks or insisting that it be done with an open hand.
Certainly, spanking children hard enough to leave a bruise and spanking students in school ought to be rejected. Such corporal punishment shouldn’t be allowed for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that a parent or teacher moved to consider physical punishment might well be angry enough to exercise poor judgment.
A well-timed swat on the rear can send a useful message to a child and be an effective way to get his attention. But relying on corporal punishment does little except instill fear and resentment in a child.
Physical punishment is less likely to redirect the child’s behavior in a positive way than it is to teach him that using force is an acceptable way to get people to do what you want them to do.
That is not what we ought to be teaching our children.