San Jose Mercury News , January 27, 1999

Letter to Editor: "Oakland debates 'no spank zone,'"

I applaud Jordan Riak's efforts to educate the public about spanking and alternative methods of discipline (``Oakland debates `no spank zone,' '' Page 1B, Jan. 25).

While spanking is not, by any means, always ``child abuse,'' it is an ineffective and dangerous disciplinary tool. If a parent's main tool is spanking a misbehaving child, what is left to the parent when the child continues to misbehave? To spank more, or harder? Escalating physical violence is a danger inherent in corporal punishment, and while some people do have the patience and self-discipline to use spanking without mis-using it, anyone who has ever been driven to distraction by a 4-year-old with an attitude knows how angry a parent can get. To make parents stop for a second and think about alternatives to swatting can only help to prevent actions they would later regret.

The assertion by the Family Research Council that parents who don't spank are ``left with nagging, begging, belittling and yelling'' is absolutely false. Alternatives include modeling acceptable behavior, reasoning, rewarding good behavior, timeouts, loss of privileges, and using natural consequences to poor choices. There is a wealth of resources for parents seeking alternatives to spanking, including parenting classes offered by local school districts, books, magazines and web sites.

Government already ``interferes'' in the family by requiring parents to educate their children, provide for them, vaccinate them, and myriad other rules and regulations which protect children's basic human rights. Further interference by promoting effective and non-violent discipline, without penalty, violates no one's rights and may help to promote healthier family relationships.

Heather Murdock, San Jose

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