Monday, October 13, 2014

Spare the rod, spoil the child, and avoid child abuse charge

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 13:24.  King James Version. “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” Proverbs 23:13.  King James Version

This means, according to “Got questions?org” that the Lord uses discipline to punish sin, and parents should likewise use discipline to punish a child for his sin. “When a child does not feel the consequence of his sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment.”  However, the Bible does not say when parental discipline becomes child abuse.

The issue of parental discipline and child abuse is a constantly recurring issue.  When I lived in San Francisco, I heard the story of a consular officer’s child who was about to be belted by his father. The child exclaimed “If you hit me, I will call the police and report you for child abuse.”  “Go ahead,” retorted the father, “I am not afraid. I have diplomatic immunity. You need to be disciplined.” Recently, a football player was indicted for alleged child abuse by beating his 4-year old child with a tree branch resulting in cuts and bruises throughout his body.

Most, if not all, states allow a parent or other person responsible for the general care and supervision of a child to use force against the minor to discipline the minor. In Hawaii, for example, HRS § 703-309  provides that the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor is the parent, guardian, or other person similarly responsible for the general care and supervision of a minor, or a person acting at the request of the parent, guardian, or other responsible person.

The law provides for standards in the use of force. The force must be employed with due regard for the age and size of the minor and is reasonably related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor, including the prevention or punishment of the minor's misconduct; provided that there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the following types of force are not justifiable for purposes of this [paragraph]: throwing, kicking, burning, biting, cutting, striking with a closed fist, shaking a minor under three years of age, interfering with breathing, or threatening with a deadly weapon. Furthermore, the force used must not intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently create a risk of causing substantial bodily injury, disfigurement, extreme pain or mental distress, or neurological damage.

HRS § 350-1  provides that "Child abuse or neglect" means the acts or omissions of any person causing a child under 18 to be harmed, or to be subject to any reasonably foreseeable, substantial risk of being harmed.

Do you expect a parent to read the law before disciplining his child? Even if the parent read it, will he understand such words as “not intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently create a risk of causing substantial bodily injury” or “reasonably foreseeable, substantial risk of being harmed”?

It has been held that a parent who hit his child with a belt did not violate the statute because he did not inflict serious pain. However, a parent who spanked his child causing the child to be unable to sit while in school violated the statute because the force used was not reasonably related to protecting the child’s welfare. A parent who “slapped across the face” a child was held to have violated the statute because the parent’s conduct was not “reasonably proportional” to the child’s conduct in refusing to come to the parent when repeatedly directed to do so.

Line between parental discipline and child abuse
So where is the line drawn between parental discipline and child abuse?

There is an old romantic ballad which goes “There’s a line between love and fascination that’s hard to see on an evening such as this.” Similarly, the line between parental discipline and child abuse is hard to see whether it is in the evening or morning. Why? Because God and the legislators did not clearly specify the difference. Like beauty being in the eye of the beholder, child abuse is in the eye of the beholder.

So what should parents do? The timid will spare the rod, spoil the child, and avoid a child abuse charge. The not so timid (who loves his child) will chastise him and damn the penal consequences.


Atty. Tipon has a Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines. He specializes in immigration law and criminal defense. Office: 900 Fort Street, Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96813. Tel. (808) 225-2645. E-Mail: filamlaw@yahoo.com. Websites:  www.MilitaryandCriminalLaw.com. He is from Laoag City and Magsingal, Ilocos Sur. He served as an Immigration Officer. He is co-author of “Immigration Law Service, 1st ed.,” an 8-volume practice guide for immigration officers and lawyers. This article is a general overview of the subject matter discussed and is not intended as legal advice. No warranty is made by the writer or publisher as to its completeness or correctness at the time of publication. No attorney-client relationship is established between the writer and readers relying upon and/or acting pursuant to the contents of this article.)

No comments:

Post a Comment