In 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