Thursday, April 28, 2005

Spare the Rod - Arrest the Child...

I've seen and heard all the controversy over the five year old girl that was recently handcuffed by police while at school in Florida.

The Indigent Daughter, who is now eight years old, was raised with the knowledge that a spanking would always be the punishment for certain types of misbehavior. The misbehavior that could earn her a spanking included things like willful disobedience and hitting, kicking, shoving, or biting another person. I know what you're going to say, and I have in fact recently had to answer that question, "how can I teach her that violence is wrong by hitting her?"

The answer is that when I spank the Indigent Daughter, it is not a beating, it is not hitting, and it is not violence. First, in each of the three (possibly four) times I have had to spank the Indigent Daughter, I was not angry or frustrated, and she knew the punishment was coming (poor thing). Second, I have never told her that violence was wrong, though that is certainly how she may be interpreting the message at this point. I have always taught her that violence towards another person always has very unpleasant consequences, and one of the consequences for her is a spanking. Finally, I absolutely agree that not every parent or school principal has the temperament and discipline for corporal punishment, and I therefore do not recommend it or approve of its use for everyone.

When the Indigent Daughter was born, my eyes were opened to the truth of human nature. I have always believed that the best parents are those people that don't have children, and I can tell you that I was a much better parent before I had children. I used to ask highly intelligent and thoughtful questions when I saw a child misbehaving. You know the questions I'm talking about, "Who taught that child how to bite?" or "Where did that child learn to steal?"

Of course, it only took a few days of caring for my newborn daughter to bring the fallacy of my own backward thinking crashing down around me. I clearly remember the day I realized my cute little baby daughter was little more than a smart animal, with all the instinctive tendancies for violence and vocalizing discomfort native to every animal from the day of their birth. All my careful pre-planning for child-rearing went out the window in an instant. My task was no longer to avoid inadvertently teaching her animal-like behavior. Instead, it was now my responsibility to teach my daughter to behave like a civilized human-being. I had to teach her how not to hit, how not to bite, and how not to raise a fuss every time she was uncomfortable or frustrated. Needlessly to say, that is a much harder task.

I don't fault the police for handcuffing that five year old girl in Florida. Police officers have only a few legal tools to help them fulfill their duty to protect and serve. When faced with a subject that won't obey commands, their only options are lethal and non-lethal use of force. Any dog owner understands a dog that has not been adequately socialized and who will not obey commands should be leashed, caged, or otherwise restrained at all times. In fact, owning a dog is very much like having a perpetual toddler.

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers, but suing the Police Department or the School District is not going to do anything to help this child. Rather than a lawyer, the child's mother may need instruction in parenting; someone to show and teach her alternatives to what she may be doing now. I'm not an always blame the parent kind of guy, but I understand that some parents need help. So, rather than taxpayers absorbing the costs of the lawsuit, the liability insurance, and the cage that will eventually be the home for this child; I wonder if it would make more sense to have a "Super Nanny" type service available. Is such a thing even feasible? Do we really care enough to be bothered with such considerations?

Well, that's my rambling disconnected thought for the day. I have a little work to do... You know, indigence is not all lying on the beach soaking up the Sun and a bottle of wine. However, you can look forward to my upcoming post about North Korea.

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