Where is the line drawn?

Published 12:24 am Sunday, July 20, 2014

When I was a little girl, I was pretty well behaved.

I never got into trouble at school, I followed the rules and I certainly didn’t act out in public.

It’s not that I was such a sweet angel — I just didn’t want the punishment that would accompany any of those wrongdoings.

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My parents divorced before I knew what divorce was, so basically my entire childhood was modeled around a shared custody agreement.

Somewhere in between weekends with my mother and weeks with my father, I spent a great deal of time with my grandmother.

Nanny, as I called her (and still do), practically raised me.

I am her only grandchild, so I guess it’s safe to say she spoiled me a bit. I mean, who else was she going to buy toys for?

But as sweet and generous as she was, she was old school. You minded your manners in her presence. You said, “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, ma’am,” “Please,” and Thank you.”

And you certainly didn’t talk back to her. That was probably her biggest pet peeve.

It didn’t matter if I had the best argument to defend myself, if I kept on talking back, well, let’s just say I didn’t.

I think a lot of people can relate to the psychological distress of being asked to “pick their own switch,” for punishment.

That was Nanny’s go-to and I was scared to death of having to go outside to find some skinny stick on a bush somewhere.

Just the threat of it kept me in line. As far as I can remember, I never actually had to pick my own switch.

As much as I love my grandmother, I can’t help but think now, as an adult, how horrible that sounds to me — hitting a child with a stick.

I don’t know if she would have gone through with it, but I didn’t want to test it.

Unless you skipped right over today’s front page, you know a Lawrence County couple was found guilty of child endangerment by a jury this week.

The two admitted to police and in court they used corporal punishment on their 6-year-old son, which caused severe bruising on his back and bottom.

The couple said they never meant to hurt the boy and felt remorse for the bruising, but that using a belt as a means of punishment is still OK in their eyes.

I don’t have children of my own and as a child was never hit with a blunt object, so I can’t see myself wanting to employ that method on any future children I may have.

Especially after having seen the photos of that boy’s bruises.

There is no law against corporally punishing a child, so where do you draw a line between that and abuse or even assault?

In the case of the local couple, the jury felt their punishment had indeed crossed the line, that it was excessive.

Is corporal punishment even effective?

I know plenty of people who would say it is. I know the threat of it had some impact on me when I was a child.

But there are also plenty of parents who don’t employ spanking or hitting their children with foreign objects.

More than 30 countries ban corporal punishment entirely. Sweden was the first, in 1979, to make it illegal to strike a child as a form of discipline.

But in the United States, it is allowed in the home and more than half of the states still allow corporal punishment in schools.

I was a bit surprised by that, but it recalled a memory from childhood in which I can remember my kindergarten teacher’s paddle hanging in her supply closet.

I would be interested to know what the readers who are also parents think of where to draw the line when it comes to corporal punishment. Send an email or share your thoughts in the comments section of this column online.


Michelle Goodman is the news editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at michelle.goodman@irontontribune.com.