Thursday, January 25, 2007

Consider yourself spanked

California seems to be at the forefront of every nanny-state movement, and, therefore, is also at the forefront of taxpayer burden and state deficits. They just can’t get enough of telling the everyman in their midst how he should spend his money, his energies and his life. This week, they’re at it again, just about hitting bottom about hitting bottoms.

What’s going on is a legislative move to make it illegal to spank your toddler. Call it the Touch No Child’s Behind Act. State Assemblywoman Sally J. Lieber, of Mountain View, CA, has proposed that penalties be assessed for an adult who swats the posterior of a naughty bratling, to the tune of as much as one year in prison. Lesser punishment might include mandatory child-rearing classes (at least, they call it lesser. I’ve voluntarily been to a couple of state-sponsored classes, and I’d have -- in retrospect -- happily exchanged them for a few weeks in Hannibal Lecter’s cell).

I have raised no children of my own. As a rule, I’m not overly fond of kids, in fact. If I had my druthers, everybody under the age of 25 would be sent to another planet until he or she could prove ready for adult company and adult conversation (although, all the young’uns that I know personally have managed to persuade me that they are worthy of being excepted). Therefore, I am the perfect person to decide how you should raise your children, right? I -- and others who think similarly -- will make the rules for all families. Those of us who don’t care for kids (in either sense of the term) are the perfect experts on how best to rear the darling tykes. Isn’t that how it works?

Well, that’s how this State of California Assemblywoman seems to think. But worse than just having a single person or a small committee with no experience in child rearing and no true vested interest in helping specific children to excel, she is planning to have the great impersonal state practice further child rearing by a scribble of the pen, as it were. The law books and the public records care not one whit about the future of a single small child.

Let me say here, I’m not the biggest fan of spankings. I received enough of them, myself, to make me think twice about the effect on the brain of a thump to the rump. If it had so little effect upon me, in my formative years, I have a hard time imagining how useful it would be on a less tetchy tot. Anatomically, I don’t see any direct connection between the seat of one’s pants and the seat of knowledge. But then, I don’t know everything there is to know about the way a child’s mind works when addressed by a palm across the back of a diaper. I can confidently say, though, that the Pampers cushioned me from harm, and I still cried, because... well, because I’d been naughty and I’d been spanked. But I continued to have many, many, many naughty moments, for years afterward. That sort of behavioral modification seems to have been somewhat lacking, at least in my case.

Nevertheless, to make this small act of disciplining children a matter for the state, complete with court hearings and prison time... where the heck is the logic in it? Are there not already laws against child abuse? If a parent or guardian applies excessive force of hand to child, there are many laws to address the problem. I doubt they would need anything further on the books. As in so many cases of “bold, decisive, innovative legislation,” they simply need to enforce the laws they have.

And, if this thing comes to pass, what will be next? Does the bar continue to get lowered, to criminalize speaking harshly, or making the kiddies eat broccoli before they can have dessert? Will the parents be sent to “re-education camps” if their babies are forced into the bath and then put to bed against their will at night? What about footie pajamas and bunny-eared hooded sweatshirts? What will the law be on those implements of humiliation and torture?

When do --or when did -- parents stop having the right to actually parent, and become strictly followers of state policy on the breeding and handling of state property?

Worth reading: "Cat Lady" Sally Lieber Offers Child-Rearing Tips

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