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
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
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?
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
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
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
RELATED VIDEO CLIP
This 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.
HERE IS THE CLIP:
IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.
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