Is spanking a child the same as beating that child?

California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber seems to think it is.

“I think it’s pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child,” Lieber said. “Is it OK to whip a 1-year-old or a 6-month-old or a newborn?” — California lawmaker seeks ban on spanking. Y! News, via AP.

I find the logic in that statement suspect when used to support a spanking ban. To beat is to “strike repeatedly.” To spank is to “strike especially on the buttocks with the open hand.” Therefore, to Sally, the words “beat” and “spank” mean the same thing because they both mean “to strike.” And as a result, we need to ban spanking because we want to ban beating and whipping a small child.

I disagree with Sally’s plan and believe the current laws are sufficient to provide parents flexibility to discipline their children and the State ability to protect children. According to the AP article, current California law permits spanking by parents unless the degree of force is excessive or not appropriate for the child’s age.

When I think of beating, I think of a child being hit multiple times with force that would hurt an adult. That’s much different than the tap on the butt I consider to be a spanking. It is probably reasonable to say that beating and/or whipping a small child is likely to violate the current law. Likewise, it is probably reasonable say that an excessively strong or long spanking episode would qualify as a beating and violate the current law.

I don’t have children yet, but I’ve seen young children who don’t respond to an alternative measure, such as time-out or the naughty box (a toy goes in the box). Should a parent not be able to give a slap on the butt in those situations? I don’t think so.

Sally is my elected representative so I’m likely to contact her once the bill is public so I can directly quibble over semantics with her.

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