There is a new ruling out today that is relevant to the interesting piece written by Kimberly Dienes this weekend on child punishments. The New York appellate court has ruled that a Long Island father is not guilty of neglect for spanking his eight-year-old son for swearing. This issue is coming before the courts with greater frequency as spanking becomes less common in society and child abuse laws become more strict.
The incident occurred at a party when the boy swore and the father responded on the spot. According to County social services officials, the father used an open hand and then used a belt on the boy’s buttocks, legs and arms after they got home. A Suffolk County Family Court judge found the man in neglect, but the Appellate Division “did not constitute excessive corporal punishment” and that there was insufficient evidence to support the charge.
The court found that parents can spank as a punishment. The use of the belt is an important element here. As I mentioned earlier, I was in a spanking household growing up in Chicago but it was rare and my father never used anything but his hand. He would only give a few good spanks and then consider the point made. It was only for heinous offenses of one type or another. We have not disavowed spanking with my kids but I have never felt the need. Thankfully electronics give parents the ultimate punishment. My kids would prefer a spanking that “no screens” as a punishment. There have been times that I have come close but I have never seen the need. However, I do not rule it out.
These cases represent a collision point between expanding child welfare laws and inherent parental control over the rearing of their children. It is becoming the subject of formal legislation. It is a difficult line in some cases but, like other cases that we have discussed, this case comes down in favor of parental rights.