Spanking Debate Heats Up

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How far is too far when it comes to disciplining a child, and should the government have a say in legislating parenting?

Some Brazos Valley residents think no.

"People don't want to be told what to do at any point in time," said Greg Burtin. "I think that would be a tough thing to enforce."

"Goodness gracious, that's not something the government needs to be in," said Scott Carr. "They've got wars and taxes health care to deal with."

An anti-spanking bill is expected to be introduced in California sometime next week, and is likely to generate much debate on the subject.

Local child psychologist Dr. William Rae of the Texas A&M Counseling and Assessment Clinic weighed in on the effects of spanking a child as a means of discipline.

"I think for the most part we don't believe spanking is a very good way to manage a child's behavior," said Rae. "The main thing is it can have some negative consequences for the child's growth and development."

One of those negative consequences, Rae says, is teaching children to solve problems through violence.

However, another local psychologist, Dr. Frances Kimbrough, says the occasional swat can be used as a last resort, and says there is a difference between that form of discipline and abuse.

"If you discipline a child -- maybe one pop or something like that -- and it's not just furiously done, that's not abuse," said Kimbrough.

But both psychologists agree that parents can use alternate means of parenting that doesn't involve spanking.

"I think spanking is the easy way," said Rae, "and it's true that the research shows you get some immediate short term compliance, but in the long run it can have a lot of negatives."