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Nanny state ninnies at it again

By Scott Tibbs, January 23, 2007

Not only does the government know how to run your life better than you do, but they know how to raise your kids better than you do. So says California state assemblywoman Sally Lieber, who has introduced legislation to ban corporal punishment of children younger than 3 years old. To emphasize why this legislation is needed, Lieber turns the hyperbole dial all the way up past 11:

"I think it's pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child 3 years old or younger," Lieber said. "Is it OK to whip a 1-year-old or a 6-month-old or a newborn?"

OK, we've gone from "swat" to "beat" and then "whip". Meanwhile, I think the wisdom of God is superior to a state legislator on the Left Coast:

"He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently." - Proverbs 13:24

"Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die." - Proverbs 23:13

This is a completely unnecessary law. Child abuse is already illegal, and striking a newborn would be in that category. Giving a two-year-old a swat on the behind because he tried to run into the street when he got out of the minivan is not child abuse. This kind of "zero tolerance" legislation turns all parents into child abusers in the eyes of the Nanny State.

Some would argue that all corporal punishment is wrong and should be illegal. They argue that a child must have "security of the person" against corporal punishment. After all, we would not think of using corporal punishment in a university setting the way elementary schools have done in the past.

I simply do not believe that children have (or should have) complete, inalienable "security of the person" that can never be violated. There are all kinds of rights adults have that we do not give to children (like the right to vote or drive) because we as a society have determined that, by and large, children are not ready to handle those rights before a certain age.

Here is an example. If a child is about to touch a hot stove, the parent, if he/she is a responsible parent, must violate the child's "security of the person" by using physical force to keep the child from doing so, if the parent is physically able to prevent it. Nobody would suggest that a fourteen-month-old child just learning how to walk should not be physically restrained in that case.

While absolutist opponents of corporal punishment wish to make this a black-and-white issue where children either have "security of the person" or they don't. It is not that simple. There is a scale of when that right kicks in.

The law allows parents to use reasonable physical force in disciplining their children. That same system of laws would not allow a parent to do things that would be defined as child abuse. Children DO (and should) have "security of the person" to protect them from being abused, by parents or anyone else. There is more leeway for parents to use corporal punishment on their own child than for someone else to use physical force on an adult.

Not all parents believe in corporal punishment. There are lots of ways to discipline a child, and some methods work better with some children than others. In addition, some parents are more comfortable with some disciplinary measures than others. The difference between me and Sally Lieber is that I am not willing to, by force of government intervention, take away one option from millions of families by assuming that I know better than they do how to raise their own children.