5 Years Probation Isn't Enough for Spanking Child


spankingIn Corpus Christi, Texas last week, a mother was sentenced to five years probation and a $50 fine, and made to take parenting classes because she chose to spank her 2-year-old daughter. Some are outraged that her parental authority is being challenged, but I'm not convinced that was enough of a punishment.

While she didn't leave the child bruised or use any kind of object like a belt or yardstick, she did hit the child hard enough to leave red marks on her bottom. That's too hard. The girl's paternal grandmother noticed the marks and took her to the hospital where authorities were called.

I don't agree fully with the judge's reason for the ruling. He told Gonzalez, "You don't spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked but that was a different world. You don't spank children -- you understand?"

While I personally don't believe in spanking children, and never have spanked my own, I also don't think the law should take that discipline technique away from parents. While plenty of experts believe the damage from any form of corporal punishment can be severe, there are others that say it can be effective when used correctly. Until there's a definitive answer, the decision to spank or not needs to be left up to parents, not judges ... unless it goes too far.

In this case -- or any case in which visible marks are made on a child's skin that last long enough to make it to a hospital -- that is not spanking, that's not discipline; it's abuse. If someone hit his wife hard enough to leave a red mark, it would be criminal, plain and simple. And it should be punished when it happens to children too, perhaps more severely than with just probation. The parenting classes she's being forced to take are a good addition.

Hopefully this ruling will send a strong enough message to this mom and all the other parents out there that if they chose spanking as a discipline technique, they need to use it with caution and care, not in the heat of a moment of anger. There's is a line between abuse and spanking, and if you're going to go anywhere near it, you need to be prepared not to cross it -- ever.

Do you think five years of probation was enough for this woman caught "spanking" her child?

Image via Ben Husmann/Flickr

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Marj Pike Hatzell

That's not spanking. And while I do not spank my children, hitting your child with anything other than your hand, and hard enough to leave marks, is BEATING YOUR CHILD. And again, I don't spank but that is NOT spanking. Big difference there.

kjbug... kjbugsmom1517

This is rediculous. Spanking a child is sometimes the only effective alternative. Kids r insanely spoiled anymore and we wonder why they r running amuk.. Its because we as parents get in trouble for disciplining our kids.

nonmember avatar Anon

Are you kidding me - a temporary red mark on the kid's butt? Yes she hit harder than she should have, but have you never made a MISTAKE? I personally think it was more than enough that her relative took the kid to the hospital and got the authorities involved. I could even see parenting classes, maybe, but not a criminal sentence. ... It's idiotic to compare punishment options for adults and kids. Almost anything you could do to consequence an adult would be illegal if done to your kid. A parent has to have a few effective tools. For some kids, spanking is the most effective discipline for certain situations. The judge was obviously biased against parents who use this legal method, and acted on his/her emotions and ignorance.

nonmember avatar Brianna

Hop off the judgement wagon for a second and consider the possibility that the child may have been doing something extremely dangerous and the mom had a panic moment and spanked her a little too hard. And if it's just red marks and not bruises then it could just be that the kid has sensitive skin. If I poke myself any harder than a light caress I leave a red mark for a few hours. And kjbugsmom is right, kids are too spoiled these days. They can use a good hard tap now and then.

Jaime Hinderliter Faneuf

Anyone notice it was the mother in law (or ex for that matter), that took the child in?  I wonder if anyone took in to consideration the revenge factor.  I DO spank my children and I am very proud to say that I have 3 amazing children.  Discipline is used when it is necessary, not as a means torture the child.  Anything more than that I am not ok with.  But for only a red mark to be left when the child was spanked??  I would think that the legal system would have better things to do then make a vengeful grandmother happy.  Aren't there children being abused in foster systems and little brother being murdered by their big brothers??  This punishment is a joke!

zandh... zandhmom2

My BIL beat me sister so bad that she ended up in the hospital and had to get a cat scan done on her b/c he beat her so bad on her head and he got NO punishment at all!  She had to get a restaining order and even then he still harassed her at their own home and her work and she called the police over and over about it...they still didn't/won't do anything to him.  That to me is considered a beating. A child who is spanked is not a beaten. 

Richard Wexler

Part one of two:

I would hope even those against all spanking would acknowledge that there are worse things one can do to children – and high on that list is taking the children from parents and consigning them to foster care. Even removal to another relative, as in this case, is a severe emotional blow. Young children may believe they have done something terribly wrong and now they are being punished. How’s *that* for sending the wrong message?

So it’s no wonder that two massive studies involving more than 15,000 typical cases found that children left in their own homes fared better even than comparably-maltreated children placed in foster care. Details are on our website here: http://bit.ly/9MXDP9

That doesn’t mean no child ever should be removed from the home. But it does mean the threshold should be a lot higher than it apparently was in this case. And it should be a lot higher than it is for the thousands of poor families who lose their children when family poverty is confused with neglect, as described in this New York Times essay on the issue of turning child rearing preferences into law and then imposing that law on poor people: http://bit.ly/hWf2yQ

Richard Wexler
Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

Richard Wexler

Part two of two:

 Of course Texas CPS is almost certain to say there were other reasons for taking the children. But their track record, as seen in this post from our Child Welfare Blog, does not inspire one to take them at their word: http://bit.ly/iIv2yX

 While it is true that  "If someone hit his wife hard enough to leave a red mark, it would be criminal, plain and simple" if someone confined his wife to one room of the house for any length of time he chose, and forbid her to leave, that too would be criminal.  So by that standard, we'd have to ban "time out," too.  Though I'm personally opposed to spanking, banning it by law, even in a case like this one, based on what is known now, in the name of a foolish consistency is likely to have worse results for children.

 The other issue, of course, is the judge making up his own law and imposing it on someone who almost certainly couldn't afford a good lawyer to fight back.  Spanking is legal in Texas.  Those who disagree should be working to persuade their legislators to change the law, not acting as vigilantes from the bench.

 Richard Wexler

Executive Director

National Coalition for Child Protection Reform


nonmember avatar HoogieFutz

Hmmm. "Paternal Grandmother" ... I think that says it all.

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