Below the belt

Child beating case crosses line between discipline and abuse

Let’s just start with this basic premise: Children are little people.

Can we all agree on that? They’re not circus animals, they’re not pets, they’re not alien life forms. They’re not even “ours.” They are people just like the rest of us.

If you agree with that, can you agree that they have the right not to be physically or sexually assaulted?

Surely everyone can accept the latter, but we’ll grant that some folks, even in 2013, will argue about the physical. Spare the rod, etc.

Increasingly, however, people are seeing physical discipline as assault – and the poorly-thought-out resort of a parent who is unaware of his or her nonviolent leverage.

In addition, the problem is that so many parents don’t know where to draw the line between a pop on the rear end and physical abuse – particularly in the heat of the moment. Parenting can be the most frustrating thing in the world.

Yet, while the line can be treacherously thin, there’s a huge difference between a spanking and abuse – the kind allegedly inflicted by a father on a son recently in Augusta.

Curtis Tyrone Darby, 39, stands charged with felony cruelty to children in the first degree, after authorities say he beat his son on the back with a belt so badly that wounds were visible from his neck to his waist. The medieval punishment was reportedly for poor school performance.

Folks, that’s not discipline, biblical or otherwise. It’s abuse of a sentient being.

Nor is it likely that it’s an effective way to instill the love of learning in a child.

It’s barbaric and wrong and wrongheaded.

And we would argue it’s just as wrong for circus animals, pets and alien life forms as it is for little people, which we all are at some point.

Physical or verbal abuse of a child – which can scar people for entire lifespans, if they even live beyond childhood – is the mark of a wholly unprepared or dismally lazy or merely troubled parent. It’s not appropriate. Period.

With the breakdown of the extended and even nuclear family, parenting role models and methods simply aren’t in evidence as much as they used to be (though many of those hand-me-down coping skills were, themselves, dysfunctional). Nonetheless, there are no excuses for assaulting children. There are plenty of alternatives available to the thinking man or woman, and a plethora of parenting experts out there to lead you to them.

It’s also amazing how little most of us are schooled in child development. With so many of us raising these precious creatures, who ultimately go on to rule the world, you would think the educational system would put more of an emphasis on explaining the mysterious lilliputians.

Still, common sense and rudimentary observation tell you much. The window between a baby’s innocent incoherence and a toddler’s ability to be reasoned with – and denied things – is open for only the briefest of moments. And there are coping skills you can take through that window with you, if you care.

Sorry, this page may be hopelessly old-fashioned in many areas, but we leave no room for antiquated notions that physical abuse is either an effective child-rearing tool or an acceptable treatment of another living being.

In most cases, it’s a crime.

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