To spank or not? Let the town vote.
It happened years ago, but Deborah Lindeman recounts the moment as if it happened yesterday. Her mother, chastising her, hit her so hard that she left a hand print on her 11-year-old's thigh. Stunned, they both cried for 25 minutes.
"We review our lives as parents with some pain, I know we all do," says Ms. Lindeman's mother, Susan Goldstein, who also has a clear memory of when her own father hit her with a belt after she had crossed a street without looking both ways. "I don't like power as a way of solving problems.... We just took it for granted."
Corporal punishment as a means of discipline has been entrenched in US culture since Colonial times. Attitudes have evolved over the years, but Thursday night the town of Brookline, a suburb of Boston, faced possibly the most radical public shift in approach to the divisive issue. Its citizens were scheduled to vote on a controversial resolution that encourages parents and caregivers to refrain from corporal punishment of children. If passed, Brookline would be the first US town with such a resolution, says Jordan Riak, founder of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education in Alamo, Calif.
"These kind of things tend to start at the local level and rise to a more global level, and I suspect that they're reaching for legislation that would make [spanking] illegal," says Julaine Appling, acting director of the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, who supports judicious spanking and worries about infringement on parental rights. "It sounds very precedent-setting to me."