Massachusetts parents can use 'reasonable force' to discipline children, court rules

The Supreme Judicial Court today reversed the assault-and-battery conviction of a Brockton man arrested after spanking his three-year-old daughter in view of two police detectives.

The court noted that corporal punishment "as an integral aspect of parental autonomy" remains widely accepted in American society and so in the absence of specific laws on the subject, "we must guard against the imposition of criminal sanctions for the use of parenting techniques still widely regarded as permissible and warranted."

Spanking, the court concluded, is OK - as long as it doesn't go too far:

We hold that a parent or guardian may not be subjected to criminal liability for the use of force against a minor child under the care and supervision of the parent or guardian, provided that (1) the force used against the minor child is reasonable; (2) the force is reasonably related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor, including the prevention or punishment of the minor's misconduct; and (3) the force used neither causes, nor creates a substantial risk of causing, physical harm (beyond fleeting pain or minor, transient marks), gross degradation, or severe mental distress.

By requiring that the force be reasonable and reasonably related to a legitimate purpose, this approach effectively balances respect for parental decisions regarding the care and upbringing of minor children with the Commonwealth's compelling interest in protecting children against abuse. By additionally specifying certain types of force that are invariably unreasonable, this approach clarifies the meaning of the reasonableness standard and provides guidance to courts and parents.

The court added, however:

We recognize that the balance we strike with the parental privilege defense may well be imperfect and that absolute equipoise between the goals of protecting the welfare of children and safeguarding the legitimate exercise of parental autonomy is likely unattainable. To the extent that that is so, the balance will tip in favor of the protection of children from abuse inflicted in the guise of discipline.

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Violent people encouraged by

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Violent people encouraged by stupid laws! You can do NO WRONG in the state of MA..

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Maybe if a few more people spanked their kids

We may have fewer Dylann Roofs.

I'be seen my friends try to "reason" with their screaming kids throwing a tantrum. I can tell you they are the most dysfunctional families I have ever seen.

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Here's the dilemma people don't get

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As the justices seemed to get, there is a difference between spanking your kid as a form of discipline, which might make him or her cry, and child abuse, which can cause physical harm in the short term and psychological harm in the long term.

I don't know if the Roofs hit their son, but I know that both my mother and grandmother were not shy about spanking my sister and I when we went too far (and yes, I do remember getting spanked when I didn't do anything but the claim was that I did) and I do not hold it against either of them. As for me, I'm trying to figure out the efficacy of spanking junior at his age. You better believe I have no issue with a quick whap on the buttocks, but I don't see myself sending him out for a switch.

That said, it's a tightrope. You want your kids to respect you, not fear you or the opposite- walking all over you.

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Thank you!

That has always been my position on spanking.

My best friend who I grew up with, was spanked as a child also. I never saw his father spank him but I did see his mother on occasion. Usually whacked across the ass with her house slippers. Enough to make him cry as a child and enough to embarrass him as a teen. Like the rest of the kids in our neighborhood, he was terrified of his father, but again, I never knew of a time when his father disciplined him.

About 15 years ago my friend got married and had his first child. His wife would not allow my friend to discipline his child with a spanking. I watched that child to grow up into a little moody a... One day (at about age 13) I witnessed his kid tell his father to go F himself over something or other. My friend was seething with anger but was more afraid of his wife.

The kid pulled the same stunt about 6 months later at a family gathering. Without missing a beat, his 72 year old grandfather whacked the kid across the side of his face. I have never seen a kid so at loss for words, turn bright red and run out of a party crying his eyes out so quick in all my life.

My friends father turned to his own kid and said you should have done that 11 years ago. I won't go into details on what followed, but I can assure you, that kid has not spoken like that since.

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Yes

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I'm not one who endorses spanking as a daily thing. However, I also work with kids, and there is a very wide range of personalities in children out there. Some kids are so eager to please, a disappointed eyebrow raise sends them to pieces. Some kids need more typical reinforcement, say a time-out, or a consequence like cleaing up their mess or skipping next week's fun time, to correct their behavior. A small minority of kids will not stop until there is an immediate, unpleasant, personal consequence that physically stops them from doing so.

These latter children, if not taught how to function properly in a group, are the ones never learn to do so, and when they reach the time in their life that they need to be thinking of the social norms/rules/mores instead of their own self-interests, fail to be able to do so and end up in serious trouble (can't hold jobs, relationships; trouble with the law.) For those kids, not spanking them is a far, far nastier punishment than having a sore tush for a few minutes.

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I've always viewed

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hitting a toddler as akin to swatting a puppy with a newspaper upon discovering their "presents" on the floor - it has no effect whatsoever on future behavior. Further, my observations have been that, if you hit a screaming toddler, they're only going to scream louder.

And, as a member of the generation whose parents generally considered spanking to be an acceptable means of punishment, I recall two things: First, your dad never spanked you (moms hardly spanked their kids) unless you did something that was truly wrong (like the time a friend of mine took a couple of plastic trucks off a WWII battle diorama, which was sitting on the teacher's desk, that one of our other classmates had built). Second, you were never spanked in a public place - hence the phrase "Wait until we get home young man."

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Good.

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Good.

When children get placed in the foster care system, it's much worse for them than a spanking.

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Great news!

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When I beat my children, I’ll be sure the pain is only “fleeting,” won’t degrade them too much and of course I’ll be sure not to leave any marks.

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The court document doesn't

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The court document doesn't say the parent was simply spanking. The dad was frustrated, yelled at the kid to shut up, and kicked the kid.

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The kicking, if it was that, came first

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And the court said it wasn't going to address that since there was no agreement as to whether he kicked his daughter like a football (police) or whether he was playing a game he'd played with her before (him and the mother).

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What are you trying to say?

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What are you trying to say? That its ok to kick your kids as long as you lie and say its a game? Sick, Adam.

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I'm not saying anything

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Read the decision: It's the justices on the state's highest court saying that they were not going to rule on the issue of what happened before the spanking because there were differing versions; I was merely pointing to that to explain why the kicking didn't play into their ruling.

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i wonder

if you're a troll or just really that stupid

i choose to believe you have a sincere and crippling inability to critically think and apply context and reason to situations :-)

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data, please?

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i don't know whether even a calm swat on the butt teaches kids to resolve problems with violence, that might makes rights, etc.

is there research on this?

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Is it the state's job to

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Is it the state's job to punish families for ineffective teaching?

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Bad Decision

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This is a nightmare for mandated reporters, such as school personnel, who are often the first folks whom kids confide in about beatings at home. Many parents, with no other tools in their toolbox except for their belts, will be empowered by this ruling. People need to learn how to discipline their kids without hitting them. It can be done and I say that as someone who came from a family that practiced corporal punishment. But, I chose not to carry on the tradition with my own three kids as I believe it is an ineffective method and a sign that the parents are using their bodies rather than their minds to control their kids. My kids grew up to be fine citizens. They were neither spoiled nor abused.

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Interesting

Does this apply to slapping people who are annoying you on the T or on the street? Or just to genetically (or legally) related creatures a fraction of your size?

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perhaps

just people you are legally responsible for

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The latter.

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The latter.

Just like you can't spoon-feed, change a diaper, bathe, kiss, or read a quiet bedtime story to random people on the T or on the street.

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