Your Right to Spank Your Kids Upheld in Court -- But There's a Catch

disciplineThe biggest news about new rights for American families last week was obviously the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality. But there was another story slipping between the cracks of coverage, and this one doesn't have quite as happy of an ending. The highest court in the state of Massachusetts reversed a prior ruling so that now, parents in the state are guaranteed the right to "reasonably spank" their children.


Earlier, a state trial judge in the case Commonwealth v. Dorvil had ruled that parents were not entitled to spank their children in public, regardless of the circumstances. But late last week, the high court overturned that ruling, saying that parents had the common-law right to strike their children as long as three conditions were met:

  1. The use of force was "reasonable";
  2. The use of force was related to the child's welfare; and
  3. The use of force left no permanent or lasting injury.

There's a lot to wonder here about why the only legally protected form of violence that can be initiated against another human being is violence against children. But the big question I have after reading the court's ruling is: Who gets to decide what varieties of a child's "welfare" is being protected by a spanking?

More from The Stir: 12 Scientific Facts About Spanking Your Kids

For example, and looking back to last week's Supreme Court decision: Many people think any sort of non-heterosexual attraction is immoral. Is it all right to spank your son in the great state of Massachusetts if he tells you he has a crush on another boy? If you believe your daughter's place is in the home, is it all right to spank her if she keeps playing with her brother's trucks -- or if you catch her holding hands with a boy in front of the middle school?

If you believe that these children are going to hell if they continue with these behaviors, then I'm sure it seems logical to hit them if you think that will save them from eternal damnation. I just don't agree that you should legally be able to (or that spanking is going to do anything effective to deter them from being who they are).

And it doesn't end with gender roles or same-sex attractions. Should a child be spanked for forgetting her lunch, or failing a spelling quiz? Is a hand on her backside going to smack the "i before e" rule into her head better than a little patience would? Is she going to remember her lunch next time and how to take personal responsibility, or is she going to remember the sting of your hand? A lot of people have very different ideas of what constitutes the safeguarding of a child than I do. To me, I suppose, not hitting a child seems like the best way to protect his or her well-being. But then, my daughter plays with a lot of trucks, so what do I know?

Do you believe in parents' right to spank their children?

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