Whack-a-Child. But Not More Than 10 Times!

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About Warren Blumenfeld

Warren J. Blumenfeld, College of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).


  1. Good questions. I think it has to be accepted as natural that adults are both physically equipped and obligated to be the leaders of children in the family structure. As a society, though, adults sacrifice a portion of their “natural” rights of parenting to the society at large, since the society sets rules to the benefit of its citizens, which includes children. And when it comes to the benefit of being protected within the society, the most vulnerable citizens (children), are especially entitled. It’s where the line between parental rights and children’s rights should be drawn that determines what rules society imposes on the subject.

    I understand why the law is being introduced, even though I don’t agree with the line the law draws. Adults look around them and see many examples of children who seem to have no proper respect for their elders, or anything else for that matter. And they assume, right or wrong, that the reason for the disrespect is lax parenting. They think back to how they learned respect, and they think a little corporal punishment might make a child own up to bad behavior. On the other hand, many modern parents believe that any corporal punishment of a child is both morally wrong and detrimental to the child’s development. The conservative side often views the total lack of corporal punishment as the reason for children’s disrespect. The liberal side often views the conservative side as causing psychological harm, and using punishment as a shortcut to more involved parenting. But of course, we as a society are moving away from the conservative and toward the liberal, and people who believe a little corporal punishment is good for a misbehaving child are afraid their rights as parents are being taken away.

    Like a lot of issues, I think perception comes into play. We can picture the worst of either side of the argument. Liberals might picture some poor kid being strapped down and violently beaten because he spilled his milk, whereas a proponent of the law might be picturing ten whacks with a paddle for the most heinous of childhood crimes, and if it happens to leave a little mark, well, we don’t need to get all litigious. Conservatives might picture a world where they can’t even raise their voice to tell their kid to be quiet because they can’t hear something important, let alone smack one on the butt for not paying attention and almost running into a busy street. Most liberals would think that such an action would not be prosecutable, but some conservatives might not like to leave that up to chance.

    My own feeling is that for a child that refuses to listen and discuss what a parent wants him to do, one who’s out of control, one who will not settle down to save himself from a greater danger–a firm smack on the butt is not unwarranted. For all other times, and after a smack on the butt, I believe in talking and reasoning with children, so they will understand why their behavior is unacceptable. And in doing so, the child can know that correcting him is one way his parents love and care for him, and he can feel respected (and not powerless) because he gets to have his say. If you can always get your child’s attention, especially in very important situations, you may never need to lay a hand on him, and that’s great. Of course, I think it’s important to remember that some children are more difficult than others, and not every parent’s situation is the same. So, I don’t know where to draw the line–10 whacks seems a little excessive to me, too.

  2. The fact that, as a society, we’d rather punish our children misdeeds instead of correct them show where the problem REALLY lies…


  1. […] Good Men Project contributor, Warren Blumenfeld, raises an important point. He says, “parents and other adults have the inherent responsibility […]

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