- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2007

California State Assembly member Sally Lieber (Mountain View Democrat) has proposed a law that would make spanking a child age 3 or younger a crime punishable by a fine and/or jail time.

“I think it’s pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child 3 years old or younger,” she says.

I agree with that. In fact, I’ll expand that to include children of any age. But of course, Ms. Lieber is using “beat” to mean any swat to a child’s rear parts, and in so doing, she is revealing a predilection for emotional hyperactivity, the province of the demagogue.

Every state in the Union prohibits the beating of children. To make the claim that a spanking constitutes child abuse is nothing short of stupid, but then, the argument over spanking has devolved into a shouting match between adherents of two equally untenable, stupid positions. On the one hand are zealots such as Ms. Lieber; on the other are zealots who do not take the time to do proper biblical study and therefore believe that spanking is a demonstration of Christian faith.

While a recent guest on “Good Morning America,” I was informed by a fellow participant in the shout fest that research shows a clear link between spanking and violent behavior.

Yes, that’s true, but the primary researcher in question, Murray A. Straus, is an ideologue who uses “science” as a front for his political agenda, which is to see spanking outlawed worldwide. Mr. Straus’ bias pollutes his research and caused his former graduate research assistant, Robert Larzelere, to break openly with him.

Mr. Larzelere, now research director at Girls and Boys Town in Nebraska, has conducted some of the most objective research into the subject. He finds no adverse effect of occasional spankings delivered by parents who cherish their children.

Another prominent and non-ideological researcher, Diana Baumrind of the University of California, finds that children who are spanked occasionally score higher on measures of adjustment than children who have never been spanked.

As for the link between spanking and aggression, one group of researchers found that the most reliable predictor of child aggression was parental permissiveness.

Since 1965, as the number of parents who spank has declined, so has child mental health. So much for Ms. Lieber’s argument, but we should not expect her to listen to reason. She is, after all, a zealot. Facts will not matter to her.

To demonstrate this, I hereby offer to debate her on neutral ground (the floor of the California State Assembly?) at my own expense. I won’t hold my breath.

Ms. Lieber probably believes herself to be a champion for children. In fact, she may be doing children a grave disservice. In a study conducted 10 years after implementation of anti-spanking laws in Sweden, Mr. Larzelere found that child abuse actually had increased. Along the same lines, Ms. Baumrind has found that parents who do not believe in spanking are more likely to explode abusively at their children than parents who believe spankings are OK.

The proposed law only targets parents who spank children age 3 or younger, but it’s a sure bet that if it passes, Ms. Lieber and her cronies will set about immediately to expand its parameters, and other states will begin to follow suit.

For anti-spanking hysterics, California is only a test case. The real intent is to insert government into the parent-child relationship and eliminate parental discretion in discipline. Ms. Lieber’s law, if passed, will put us on a slippery slope leading straight to Hillary Clinton’s collectivist “village,” where the elite few — as wryly expressed by columnist Thomas Sowell — “impose their superior wisdom and virtue on parents.”

A warning from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) seems particularly appropriate: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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