Judges Gone Wild, Texas Style
by Dr. Dathan A. Paterno
To the Honorable Jose Longoria,
Recently, you sentenced a mother, Rosalina Gonzales, to five years probation, a fine, and parenting classes after being convicted of a felony charge. The heinous crime? Spanking her own child.
As you recall, the prosecution admitted that Ms. Gonzales did not use a belt, a switch, or anything else other than her hand. She didn’t hit her child in the face, head, chest, or anywhere but her rear end. She didn’t draw blood, break any bones, or even leave bruises—only some red marks. There was no injury.
This decision is manifestly absurd.
First, it represents an egregious judicial overreach. You should know the law: in Texas, spanking is not against the law. Your state’s Attorney General has even stated that disciplinary spanking confined to the buttocks, done with an open hand, and not resulting in injury should not be considered abusive. Ms. Gonzales evidenced self-control with all of these variables.
Before sentencing Ms. Gonzales, you chided her, “You don’t spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel. You don’t spank children. You understand?”
I understand, Judge. I understand that you clearly have an agenda—an agenda that supersedes state law. You are supposed to be confined by the limits of the law, not subject to your personal feelings and judgments. This is a perfect example of what conservatives call “legislating from the bench.” Luckily, this is what will also get you voted off the bench the next time the people speak.
Second, the government should not be in the business of telling parents how they can and cannot discipline their children. I understand that some governments have laws prohibiting spanking (although your state government does not). This is foolish. Who are you to tell parents that they cannot use a discipline tool that has historically been used with great effectiveness throughout the ages? A government that believes it can mandate parenting techniques isn’t creeping toward tyranny, but sprinting toward the finish line.
Third, I understand that governments must protect children from abuse with reasonable laws. But spanking is not abuse. I am a child psychologist with over 20 years experience. I am an expert on parenting and discipline. I know what works, what doesn’t work, what constitutes abuse, and what doesn’t. I strongly believe that controlled spanking is one of several discipline tools that can help parents establish reasonable control and maintain an appropriate hierarchy in the family. This hierarchy is absolutely essential to achieving a parent’s solemn duty: training children for adulthood.
Finally, Judge Longoria, I have one more message for you: yes we do spank children today. Many parents spank, most of whom spank safely, with self-control, and with excellent results. I have spanked each of my three children twice; each of them is supremely well-behaved, confident, self-controlled, and empathic. None struggle with aggression.
Perhaps you have fallen victim to the common pseudoscientific studies that equate all spanking with criminal assault or abuse. However, almost none of the so-called “victims” of spanking grow up to be serial killers, exhibit cruelty to animals, or wind up abusing their children. Spanking does not, despite what several progressive studies have asserted, result in learned violence or anger management problems. The truth is that the two extremes of parenting—wimpy, passive parenting on one side and rageful, abusive parenting on the other—are the true causes of most child behavior problems.
Tying parents’ hands behind their back with hyperactive, compulsive judgments constitutes the real abuse. It amounts to parent abuse, society abuse, and culture abuse.
Judge Longoria, stop punishing parents for their good faith efforts at creating respectful and obedient children or many of those children will someday be facing your fellow judges for far worse crimes.
Dr. Dathan A. Paterno
Clinical Director, Park Ridge Psychological Services
Author, Desperately Seeking Parents