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Domestic CP - June 2000

Wall Street Journal, New York, 9 June 2000


Spanking Makes a Comeback

Tired of Spoiling the Child, Parents Stop Sparing the Rod; Dr. Dobson vs. Dr. Spock

By Daniel Costello
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal


More than five decades after Dr. Spock sent corporal punishment to the woodshed, spanking is making a comeback. A growing number of parents -- many of whom were never spanked themselves -- are shunning the experts, defying disapproving friends and neighbors, and giving their kids a slap on the bottom, the hand or the leg.

Web sites popular with parents, such as and, are filled with chat-room buzz from pro-spankers. Just last year, both Okalahoma and Nevada passed laws explicitly giving parents the right to spank their children.

cartoon of spanked kidEven House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt last year admitted that he has spanked his three kids, noting that his mother disciplined him with a switch -- and he turned out fine.

So why the return to tough love? Other methods simply don't work, frustrated parents say. Sondra Thompson, a stay-at-home mother of six in Corsicana, Texas, turned to spanking after bombing with such gentler tactics as "time-outs" and stern lectures. ..... "I hear people who talk about how awful spanking is," says Ms. Thompson. "Their kids are usually maniacs."

In a recent Harris poll, nearly 70% of respondents said they think young adults and children don't have as much discipline as they need. Meanwhile, with communities everywhere struggling to explain school shootings and other teen crime, many are blaming lax parental control.


While there are no definitive studies of how many parents spank, many pediatricians, psychologists and researchers say the numbers are on the rise. Kevin Ryan, director of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character Development at Boston University, says parents are starting to reject the politically correct notion that children are too fragile to spank.

The notion took hold after World War II as Benjamin Spock, the influential paediatrician, began warning that corporal punishment can traumatize children and trigger more aggressive behavior. ..... Some critics have even equated spanking with out-and-out abuse.

Nonsense, says Judy Ussery of Savannah, Ga., who has tried -- and failed -- with everything from confiscating favorite toys to outright bribes. Although Ms. Ussery was never spanked as a child, she says her kids are a whole lot worse than she was: "I got the child my mother wished on me."

Emerging Research

While academic thinking on the subject has long been dominated by Dr. Spock's point of view, an emerging body of research suggests that spanking might not be such a bad thing after all. In one decade-long study, Diana Baumrind of the University of California-Berkeley found that parents who combined positive encouragement and a reasonable level of discipline -- including spanking -- had the best outcomes, as defined by rough measures of self-worth and personal achievement.

Robert Schwebel, a psychologist who hosts a popular parenting discussion group on, says about one-third of the people on his site openly support spanking, up considerably since the site began four years ago.


Christen Goertel, a Stamford, Conn., mother, faced the "to spank or not to spank" dilemma at a recent community picnic. Her three youngsters wouldn't sit still, a playful game of tag got out of hand .... For a moment, Mrs. Goertel says she was definitely tempted to spank the kids -- but something stopped her.

The reason: The picnic was in honor of National Spank Out Day, an antispanking program sponsored by a non-profit group. "Oh, we spank," Mrs. Goertel confesses, taking a pause from corralling her children during the picnic. "We just came to get out of the house."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia, 23 June 2000

Housewife sent to prison in caning

Stunned by verdict: Traditional Korean punishment ruled child abuse in Gwinnett County

By Milo Ippolito, Staff

Young Lee twisted and moaned then fell motionless in her chair at the defense table Thursday when a Gwinnett County judge announced her sentence.

Judge Homer Stark ordered the 42-year-old housewife to spend two years in prison for caning her teenage stepdaughter black and blue. The sentence sent Lee into an apparent seizure. An ambulance was called, and she was removed from the county courthouse in Lawrenceville on a stretcher.

The drama unfolded in a courtroom filled with more than 20 Korean immigrants who came to show support for Lee. They claim she was practicing a traditional method of child discipline.

"This was in no way parental discipline," prosecutor Nancy Dupree argued before the sentence was set. "It was a protracted, vicious beating of a teenage girl who since has been abandoned by her family and her community."

A jury in April convicted Lee of child cruelty.

Lee, the wife of a minister, beat her stepdaughter in November 1998 for wearing torn jeans and loose blouses to school. Photos displayed at trial showed dark welts and red stripes covering the girl's body.

Hae Mi Lee, now 18, was placed in state care when the bruises were discovered at school the next day. She is now living on her own and declined comment Thursday.

Young Lee has been in the county jail since her conviction, awaiting sentencing. She was led into the courtroom in a green jumpsuit. She burst into tears upon seeing her supporters.

Some of them took the witness stand, telling judge Stark that many Korean immigrants discipline their children this way and do not know it is against the law here.

"If she had lived in this country long enough and learned this system, she would never do that," said the Rev. Michael Chang, a Salvation Army pastor.

Lee stood and read a letter she had written to the judge in Korean. Between her sobs, a court interpreter translated the words into English.

"I am ashamed of myself for being in custody," she said.

Hae Mi Lee's father, Kum Young Lee, testified on behalf of his wife. They have two other children at home who want their mother, he said. The youngest was excited that he got straight A's in school but was disappointed that he could not show his mom because she was in jail, he said.

Young Lee cried loudly throughout her husband's testimony. He sat expressionless when the sentence was announced and when his wife began flailing about and then froze in an awkward position in her chair.

She was well enough to return to the county jail Thursday evening.

Copyright © 2000 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution

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Colin Farrell
Page updated: December 2000