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Domestic CP - February 2005

Corpun file 15257

Houston Chronicle, Texas, 24 February 2005

Corporal punishment, so-called 'experts' and my bill

Texas lawmaker addresses criticism regarding HB 383

By State Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr.

Creating confusion and unreasonable fears to defeat a bill is one of the oldest tactics in the Texas Legislature. But as the sponsor of HB 383, I feel compelled to shed some light on what the bill actually does.

Current Texas law provides that parents have the right to use corporal punishment to reasonably discipline their children. What's wrong with that? Nothing — except if you are looking for that provision, don't look in the Texas Family Code. Look in the Texas Penal Code. You'll find that the corporal punishment provision is in the Penal Code as a defense to child abuse. As a defense to child abuse, that's what's offensive to most parents. HB 383 would simply move the provision to the Family Code. No more, no less.

For all of those experts who are opposed to HB 383, I should also add that nothing in the bill requires a parent to use corporal punishment. These experts would have you think the bill requires corporal punishment. That is false. Permitting parents to use corporal punishment to reasonably discipline their children is not requiring it.

These so-called experts argue against corporal punishment of children as a scientifically proven menace to society. As an alternative, these experts state that children whose parents use other disciplinary methods, such as scolding, taking away toys or putting the children in time out so that they can consider the wrongfulness of their conduct show a greater understanding of the wrongfulness of their conduct. Again, neither alternative is prohibited by HB 383.

But ask these experts to explain which of these alternatives gets the attention of your 14-year-old daughter who leaves for school on Friday and returns home about the time 60 Minutes is coming on two days later. Scold her? Maybe. Take her toys away? Never. And send her to time out? You gotta be kidding.

The first time your 13-year-old son comes home with red eyes, seed holes in his shirt and smelling like marijuana, you can just talk real nice to him, take away his Nintendo and send him to his room. My only question is: What do you do the second, third and surely the fourth time this happens?

Recognizing early that bad choices lead to bad consequences is a principle better learned at home than on the streets, where there are no limits.

Just as we entrust parents with thousands of daily decisions in raising their children, the government must cautiously intrude into the methods parents use to discipline a child. Sure, the conduct of some parents sometimes begs for me to file a bill to let the government decide who can have children in the first place. But the conduct of the unreasonable should never trample the rights of the reasonable. Which brings me back to these so-called experts.

Each time I discuss corporal punishment, "experts" immediately paint a picture of child abuse and even worse, a husband hitting a wayward wife. Neither have anything at all to do with HB 383 or, for that matter, reasonably disciplining your children. At least not to those parents who work hard every day and are trying to raise their children to get an education, respect themselves and others, and grow up to be somebody. I believe that that represents the majority of parents. If spanking causes violence, I and a whole lot of my friends ought to be hardened criminals at best and mass murderers at the worst.

Parents who love their children will help them learn that bad choices can lead to bad consequences. Sometimes that means disciplining a child, which sometimes may require corporal punishment. That should be the parents' option.

I don't know of any research to prove my point, but I often wonder how much of the mess we are in is because we listened to these so-called experts.

Loving a child still means training a child in the way to go. Maybe we ought to just tell these so-called experts where to go.

Dutton, D-Houston, is in the Texas House of Representatives.

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