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Domestic CP - October 2007

Corpun file 19723


South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, 9 October 2007

A trip to the woodshed holds a lesson for all parents

By Ralph De La Cruz
Lifestyle Columnist

Raising kids can be a complicated dance.

You've got one person trying to manipulate, coerce, threaten and otherwise guide another person into doing what the first person wants but the second may not.

So, I feel for Loscar Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is a 30-year-old Coral Gables resident and the father of an 8-year-old who's been having problems with his grades in school.

Rodriguez, who told reporters his son had lied to him and his teacher, wanted to set his boy straight about school. So he whipped his little bottom.

The next day, the boy had trouble sitting down in class. Police were called. Rodriguez admitted he had administered the whipping, which left welts.

Rodriguez was arrested. And on Thursday he had a bond hearing. The judge seemed unimpressed with the charges.

"If you hit him with a buckle or with a baseball bat or something like that to cause injuries, but a welt from a belt?" said Judge Fred Seraphin. "It's supposed to leave a mark so you remember."

Which shows how splintered we are on corporal punishment -- the spanking, paddling or whipping of a child.

A welt is enough to draw charges from prosecutors, yet little interest from a judge.

On one hand, we still have some who believe in the old don't-spare-the-rod morals. A view colored by how we were raised and disciplined, what's culturally acceptable to each of us.

On the other hand are the views of educators and child development specialists, increasingly in agreement: hitting, particularly with an object, is not a good thing.

"We don't promote that kind of behavior [spanking, paddling or whipping]," said Maggie Dante, with the Children's Services Council of Palm Beach. She runs a center that hosts 2,000 parenting classes a year in three languages.

"But we also try to understand that on a cultural level, particularly in the African-American, Hispanic and Haitian communities, some people feel they have to be very strong disciplining their child. What we try to teach them is that discipline doesn't have to involve striking their child."

Seraphin, incidentally, is the first Haitian-American County Court judge in Miami-Dade. Dante is a Cuban-American.

So, I asked her, was she spanked as a child?

Dante laughed.


But she doesn't spank her 11-year-old son.

"The key to discipline is being consistent," she said. "We negotiate a lot. The one thing that's not negotiable is safety."

I've written before that, in our home, we don't hit. First, it doesn't make sense. If you hit a child, why shouldn't it be OK for that child to hit other people? Second, in a moment of frustration and anger, it's too easy to lose control. And third, I don't believe it works. Otherwise, no child would ever be spanked more than once.

Too often, spanking isn't so much about the kids. But rather, a parent dealing with their feelings of frustration, anger or embarrassment.

Hey, I've felt it. Many times. But, in my case, pride pulls me back. I imagine myself sharp enough to figure out some way to get my kids to do what needs to be done. Hitting would be a sign of weakness.

"They're going to test your limits," Dante said. "That's their job."

And our job as parents is to know how to maintain our composure in the face of that childish irrationality and limit-testing. To stay clear-headed and consistent.

Loscar Rodriguez, a single parent seeing his young child struggling, chose a belt.

His arrest may seem severe to some, but should instead be a lesson to all.

If you're going to do the parenting dance, you need to learn how to step back.

Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Accused fatherThis 10-minute news report from WFOR South Florida (28 October 2007) gives more details of the case mentioned in the above article. The man accused of abuse for spanking his 8-year-old son with a belt is interviewed along with his lawyer. The father explains his relationship with his boy and the reasons for disciplining him in that way. They discuss what appears to be a complete absence of consensus as to what is acceptable when it comes to parental CP, and the lack of legal clarity. It is noticeable that nearly everyone involved seems to have a Spanish name, so maybe there is an unstated ethnic faultline here.


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