Mississippi is considering legislation that could punish parents with ten years to life in prison for spanking their children.
The bill is purported as anti-abuse legislation–specifically barring parents from whipping, striking or otherwise abusing a child–but is so vaguely written that it’s unclear just how far the law reaches. It permits “reasonable discipline,” but does not spell out exactly what is reasonable and unreasonable, meaning that the interpretation of the law will be subjective and left to individual judges. What if a judge interprets the language very broadly? What if he or she decides that forcing a child to sit in a corner is unreasonable because of the psychological distress punishment causes? It may sound ridiculous, but stranger rulings have been handed down by our judicial branch, and there really is nothing in the law to prevent such an insane ruling.
I do not support child abuse. I do, however, support discipline, and believe that parents can and must discipline their children without being abusive. Children who are properly disciplined by their parents are better equipped to grow up to become self-disciplined adults.
We will keep an eye on this situation in Mississippi and any ramifications it may have for Arkansas.