Friday, January 20, 2006

Have You Spanked Your Neighbor Lately?

The horrific case of Nixmary Brown, the little 7-year old abused, tortured and ultimately killed by her parents in Brooklyn, has now received national attention. "How can this happen?" is the mantra we're hearing over and over.

Pardon me for oversimplifying, but the answer is quite simple. Until we as a nation give children the same physical protection that we apply to adults, parents will continue to interpret the word "spanking" as they see fit. If my next door neighbor pisses me off, I am not allowed to pop her in the nose. I'm not even allowed to whack her on the butt, even if she's old and wears Depends. Adults are not permitted, by law, to physically touch another adult in anger.

Why do we still allow parents to make their own (often tragically flawed) judgments about physical discipline of their children? It seems so clear to me: One human being is not allowed to strike another human being, period. Give birth to a baby, and along with the mandatory infant seat that is provided if you don't own one, is a piece of paper informing you that physical discipline of this child is punishable by law.

The element of this case that struck home with me (no pun intended) was the mother who basically threw her daughter under the bus: When the stepfather asked "who ate the yogurt?", the mother implicated the daughter knowing what was to come. This is what my childhood was like. As a mother, I cannot fathom doing anything but protecting my children like a fierce mother lion. Yet my own mother would "tattle" on me, fully aware that it was likely to result in a knuckle sandwich from my father.

What is so hard about this, folks? The word "spanking" is nothing more than a euphamism for "I've run out of options". Parenting without hitting is HARD. It requires one to think of other ways to deal with issues. It requires walking away, when what you really want to do is throttle them. But isn't that what we try to TEACH our children? "Use your words" ... "Just walk away"?... and if that's not what we're teaching our kids, it had better be. Otherwise, they may grow up and use their own judgment, just like Nixmary's parents did.

Edited to add: If anyone knows the legislative process for getting a law passed, please contact me. Also, read this.