Mother given probation for spanking child

This story is sure to get some folks riled up about what parents have a right to do with their own children. A Corpus Christi mother was sentenced to five years of probation for spanking her child.

Back in December, police arrested Rosalina Gonzales for Injury to a Child, related to the spanking of her daughter, who was nearly two years old at the time. It was her daughter’s grandmother who noticed red marks on the child’s rear end, and took her to Driscoll Children’s Hospital to be checked out. Wednesday, Gonzales was in court to plead guilty to the charge after reaching an agreement with prosecutors. She’ll be on probation for five years and during that time, will have to take parenting classes, follow all CPS guidelines, and make a one-time $50 payment to the Children’s Advocacy Center.

The judge apparently had very strong parental advice for Gonzales:

“You don’t spank children today,” said Longoria, “in the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel. You don’t spank children. You understand?”

Gonzales answered, “Yes, sir.”

The story noted the two-year-old child and Gonzales’ other two children are in the care of their paternal grandmother. She is working with CPS to get them back. The reporters for the story could not get anyone to comment on the legality of spanking, but their investigation turned up this on the Texas Attorney General’s website:

“Texas law allows the use of force, but not deadly force, against a child by the child’s parent, guardian, or other person who is acting in loco parentis. Most parents do, in fact, use corporal punishment (in the form of spanking) at least occasionally, and most do not, in fact, consider it abusive. Experts disagree about the advisability of ever spanking a child. Some say that, combined with other methods of discipline, mild spanking of a small child is harmless and effective. Others claim that other methods of discipline work as well as spanking or better, and that spanking is not necessary. Many child advocates and experts in child development contend that all forms of corporal punishment, including spanking, are harmful. Most believe that spanking an infant is always inappropriate. The law does not attempt to arbitrate between the different views on the best method of disciplining a child. What we do know is that severe corporal punishment can be extremely damaging and dangerous, and this is what the law prohibits as abuse.”

The comments under the article, not surprisingly, pretty much criticized the judge and the sentence the mother received. Spanking and disciplining children have always been issues parents take personally because any criticism or questioning implies they are being judged on how they choose to raise their children.

It is troubling this child had red marks on her after she was allegedly spanked by her mother. Spanking a child to the point where there’s obvious injury is, in my opinion, a bit excessive. However, my libertarian sensibilities tells me the government has no business trying to regulate how parents discipline their children. I’m always weary when the government tries to step into the homes and bedrooms of citizens and dictate how we should live our lives.

But, I honestly don’t think spanking is about disciplining children. Spanking is more about parents or caregivers taking their anger or frustration out on that child. I’m guilty of that. I can remember spanking my nephew because he wouldn’t listen to me or he was acting out. I didn’t spank him because I wanted to discipline him; I spanked him because I was angry with him ignoring me.

I’m also troubled by the ongoing notion that some parents have about their children belonging to them and subject to their form of discipline without regard to what is considered abuse. It’s as if many parents still believe their children are their property and thus they have every right to discipline them however they please. I have a problem with that notion because that kind of thinking leads authorities to turn a blind eye towards child abuse, neglect and victimization. It’s also the same kind of thinking that led authorities to turn a blind eye towards abused spouses. It wasn’t too long ago when law enforcement and the criminal justice system viewed abused spouses (mainly women and children) as the legal, tangible property of their husbands and fathers.

And before one begins to ask: no, I don’t have any children. Furthermore, I don’t think me not having children prevents me from expressing my two cents on this matter as I was a child once and have been spanked plenty of times to have an opinion about this touchy subject.

I grew up in a family that had no qualms about picking switches to “discipline” us children. I can remember my grandmother having us pull down our pants and underwear/panties to whip us with switches to discipline us. I can remember my mother using a thick leather belt to “discipline” us, which wasn’t very frequent, but still had the same sting (no pun intended). I can remember my mother, obviously frustrated with my youngest sister, frequently “disciplining” her with that same belt. My youngest sister had behavioral problems and would frequently have temper tantrums that would cause her to literally flip anywhere, anytime. My mother, having three older children with no obvious behavioral problems, had no coping mechanisms, so she turned to the belt since that was the only way she knew how to keep unruly children in their place.

No, I didn’t grow up in what you may call an abusive household, but I did get enough spankings and whippings to understand how detrimental they can be as tools of discipline. Spanking didn’t teach me discipline; it taught me fear and shame. It taught me to fear doing anything that would be considered “acting out” (or, as I like to call it: acting like a child) would lead to a spanking or a whipping. Some of you may say that fear is a form of discipline. I bet to differ, but we are all entitled to own opinions.

How do you feel about spanking? Do parents have a right to discipline their children any way they please? Does the government have a right to dictate to parents how to discipline their children?