The Whooping Law

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Marsha Long
English 155
Peggy Thomsen, PhD
15 February 2011
“The whooping law”
"I wish that all fathers of households stand forth and practice their role.  They will use the rod and not permit their children to go astray.  Firmness is needed in your world that is filled with laxity, permissiveness, and degradation. "Your children have been misled by many who shall answer to the Father.  As teachers they have failed in their role.  Therefore, as parents you must succeed in yours." - St. Joseph, March 18, 1973. Is spanking an effective means of discipline for kids, or does it merely teach them to be violent? Fewer topics have generated so much emotion as whether to spank or not. First, what does the law say? Is it illegal to spank your kids? The answer is no-but parents who spank must be very careful to avoid running afoul of the law. California law defines child abuse to include any case in which a child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, failure to thrive, burns, fractures, etc. and the condition is not justifiably explained or the circumstances indicate that the condition was not accidental. For purposes of the child abuse law, parental discipline through spanking may not be justifiable if the child is bruised or otherwise injured. Thus, spanking is not illegal, but injuring a child is. Apart from the legalities, is spanking a good idea? Does it work? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 90 percent of U.S. parents spank, and about 59 percent of pediatricians in a 1992 survey said they support the practice. According to the academy, effective discipline has three key components: first, a loving, supportive relationship between parent and child; second, use of positive reinforcement when children behave well; and third, use of punishment when children misbehave. Many parents these days are fearful of using spanking as punishment, either because of the law or because they fear it teaches violence to their kids. Some professional organizations of physicians and psychologists have suggested that spanking is detrimental and leads to family violence and child abuse. They have suggested that spanking teaches physically aggressive behavior which the child will imitate. But does the research support these assertions? According to the National Institute for Healthcare Research, more than 80 percent of the professional publications attacking spanking were reviews and commentaries, rather than quantitative research. When analyzing the small portion of quantitative studies that included spanking, more than 90 percent of these studies lumped together mild forms of spanking with severe forms of physical abuse without discussing why they did so. Thus, the professional organizations which advocated outlawing spanking evidently made their decisions without the benefit of the facts. Mild spanking and severe child abuse is not the same thing. While spanking is not illegal, bruising or otherwise injuring a child is. What about mild spanking as a corrective measure? Is it a good idea? Spanking works best when coupled with other disciplinary measures, such as "time out." Research regarding behavior modification of children ages 2 to 6 found that spanking a child two times on either the rear or thigh helped improve compliance with "time out" for misbehavior. These children were more likely to remain in their room after acting up if a potential spank followed if they left before the time was up. Furthermore, pairing reasoning with a spanking in the toddler years delayed misbehavior longer than did either reasoning or spanking alone. Reasoning linked with a spank was also more effective compared with other discipline methods. Talking with the child about what behavior is expected and why-with the potential of a follow-up spank-worked best. Now, I am an advocate of spanking my children as punishment for major transgressions. That doesn’t mean I beat my kids, nor does it mean I’m a crazed...
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