The Law Regarding Physical Child Discipline
Written By: Dan Stanley | Posted: Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
The controversy over the application of the rod to the backside of a child for purposes of correction is generally increasing in America. At least that is my observation. How thankful I am, and we ought to be, that every state in America at present protects the parent's right to so raise their children. Many who do apply the rod no doubt discipline in such a manner due to how they were raised or find it a matter of necessity due to observation and common sense. Others do so based on their adherence to Biblical teaching regarding the use of the rod. "He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." Proverbs 13:24
Regardless of the reason, state laws recognize this and speak to this issue in a workable and understandable manner in general. Take Wisconsin, the state in which I live. The Wisconsin Statute on this (939.45) addresses such child discipline under what is called "privilege." It states as follows regarding parents disciplining their children physically:
"When the actor's conduct is reasonable discipline of a child by a person responsible for the child's welfare. Reasonable discipline may involve only such force as a reasonable person believes is necessary. It is never reasonable discipline to use force which is intended to cause great bodily harm or death or creates an unreasonable risk of great bodily harm or death."
Read this carefully and it fleshes out what is not reasonable discipline. It is not reasonable to apply the rod in a way that causes or might cause great bodily harm or death. One can pursue what "great bodily harm" is. LAAW International has sufficient definitions for this which make it quite clear when the line in crossed.
If a person reads further down in the law regarding child discipline, the law then talks about what must be overcome by the state to prove the child was disciplined erroneously:
"To overcome the privilege of parental discipline in sub. (5), the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that only one of the following is not met: 1) the use of force must be reasonably necessary; 2) the amount and nature of the force used must be reasonable; and 3) the force used must not be known to cause, or create a substantial risk of, great bodily harm or death. Whether a reasonable person would have believed the amount of force used was necessary and not excessive must be determined from the standpoint of the defendant at the time of the defendant's acts. The standard is what a person of ordinary intelligence and prudence would have believed in the defendant's position under the circumstances that existed at the time of the alleged offense. State v. Kimberly B. 2005 WI App 115, 283 Wis. 2d 731, 699 N.W.2d 641, 04-1424."
This part of the law appears broader. The state must prove the discipline was not reasonably necessary. In other words, if the discipline occurred because the parent had a headache, that is not reasonable versus the child was running out into the street.
Or the state must prove the amount of force was not reasonable. In other words, two or three strikes with a rod for a minor infraction and eight or ten for a major infraction can fit reasonable. Unreasonable can be twenty five strikes over spilling the milk - or using a club is different than a rod or paddle or spoon.
Or the state must also prove the discipline of the child would cause or did cause great bodily harm or death.
The conclusion of the parent who is concerned, among other reasons, regarding today's disregard for Christian thinking as well as the State's intrusion into the home in various ways, is whether they might find themselves in a confrontation with the State due to disciplining their child.
What needs to be understood is the use of the rod for a Christian in particular does not violate our present law for which we are thankful. Yet what needs also to be understood is the State has among its employees those who view things different and charge people accordingly, disrupting sound families due to their faulty ideology or over-zealousness to oppose true abuse that does occur.
One of the lines of demarcation that is being attempted in various ways by the State is to assume if there is bruising on the child due to physical discipline, abuse has occurred or there is reason to believe it has. The law does not say this regarding child discipline nor does the Bible (the Christian's authority in this regard) say this. In fact, the Bible states emphatically that the "blueness of the wound cleanse the inward part." Proverbs 20:30. The same Hebrew word for "blueness" is used in Isaiah 1:6 which translates it "bruises." The Bible does not necessitate bruising, but it does not discourage it. The Lord, in His wisdom, recognized the breadth necessary in disciplining a child due to several variants such as age, size, infraction, stubbornness and the child being recalcitrant versus submissive.
This attempt to align child abuse with bruising will result in parents withdrawing from physical discipline due to not wanting to lose their children. It will "take the teeth" out of physical discipline. Why so? Because proper use of the rod based on the various infractions leaves the parent not knowing whether bruises will occur or not. This along with a child's susceptibility or lack thereof to bruising leaves too many unknowns. Added to that is the fact that some in authority simply oppose physical discipline of any kind, and their ideology influences their conclusions regarding what is and what is not abuse.
Why is there this present day opposition to proper child discipline? The reasons vary but lack balance at best and are plainly destructive at worst. Fundamentally, though, it reveals a lack of true understanding of the sinful and rebellious nature of children and the need to teach them the fear of the Lord along with a proper regard for justice which saves them from destroying themselves. In fact, the Bible teaches plainly that to not apply the rod is to reveal hatred towards our children. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son." Proverbs 13:24. I should add that even the person who is not a Christian realizes the need for children to be so chastened in order to preserve and train up their children.
Yet because of all this, the parent must now be aware of the trouble that can come into their lives as a result of properly disciplining their child. They must realize if the proper use of the rod results in blueness of the wound, their child and themselves as well as their home can be thrown into turmoil. The state has and will intrude into a sound home in the name of child abuse, leaving no stone unturned, resulting in months if not years of anguish and separation and wrongly so.
Therefore, the wise parent exercising prudence as well as their Biblical convictions must not allow their children to be put in positions that expose them to people who will bring the State into their lives. This was not true when I was a child. Over the past approximately twenty five years, though, this has all changed. Let every parent be aware that sincere physical discipline according to the Bible by a parent in no way guarantees them safety and understanding. Not at all. Rather "a prudent man foresees the evil and hideth himself; but the simple pass on and are punished." Proverbs 22:3. A word to the wise is sufficient.
Dan Stanley is an owner and contributing editor of the Eau Claire Journal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.