Should Spanking Your Child Be Illegal?

Massachusetts considers a bill that would ban corporal punishment, even at home.

ByABC News via logo
November 28, 2007, 7:33 AM

Nov. 28, 2007 — -- Massachusetts lawmakers say a proposed measure that would ban parents from spanking their children, even in their own homes, is a way to protect kids from abuse. But many parents believe it's an example of government run amok.

In all 50 states, parents are legally allowed to spank their children. But in 29 states it's illegal for a teacher to practice corporal punishment, including spanking.

A Massachusetts nurse is hoping to change that and make the state the first in the nation to ban corporal punishment at home.

"I think it's ironic that domestic violence applies to everyone except the most vulnerable children," said Kathleen Wolf, who wrote the bill.

Massachusetts lawmakers will consider the bill today.

The very idea of the bill has stirred huge controversy, because many parents say the state is trying to take away what's been a tried and true method of child-rearing. As many a mom has said, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."

"We don't spank her, but I think that ought to be a parent's choice," one Massachusetts father said of the bill.

And one mother echoed the sentiments of many, saying, "I don't want the government telling me how to raise my children."

Nineteen countries have banned corporal punishment, and some child-rearing experts believe one day the United States will do so as well.

"I don't know if it's an idea whose time has come. But it's possibly one whose time is coming," said Lisa Berlin, a professor at the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy.

Wolf has children and said she has "swatted my kids a couple times."

She says she's not recommending that parents who spank their kids should face jail time, as they do in Sweden, or fines as they do elsewhere.

"I don't think the idea is to punish people. I think the idea is to give them the support that they need," Wolf said.