WSAZ | Charleston, West Virginia | News

Parents Debate Spanking vs. Abuse

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Domestic battery charges filed against a Kanawha County prosecuting attorney are leaving parents asking, "How far is too far?" when it comes to disciplining their children.

The McCallister family enjoyed the warm weather by playing outside, but dad Jason McCallister, said his kids know when he means business.

"I tell them the second time, and then they know if they don't do it that time, the next is the paddle," McCallister said.

According to Clinical Psychologist Dr. David Clayman, a paddle or any object could be the difference between the discipline of a child and the duty for members of law enforcement to uphold the law.

"Children will suffer if the spanking or the physical disciplining becomes abusive, and generally we see that when you use something other than your hand like a belt," Clayman said.

A case in point was illustrated Monday. Kanahwa County Prosecutor Mark Plants was charged with domestic battery after his child told police his dad whipped him with a belt, ten times, leaving marks that police have pictures of.

Although spanking is commonly accepted, Clayman says using an instrument to spank a child isn't black and white.

"In the controversy {of spanking} people say that if you're going to do it, it should never be in anger and it should never be with anything but an open flat hand, and it should never be on bare skin," Clayman said.

The Lallathin family says they use spanking only with their hand as a last resort.

"It's not something that we are for and it's not something that we're against. Every child is different, and you know as a parent what needs to be done," Elizabeth Lallathin said.

Yet, no matter the child or the circumstances, both families draw the line when the child is in danger.

"A paddling is a paddling but a beating where you leave marks and bruises and so forth is getting close to child abuse," McCallister said.

The one thing, parents and experts both agree on is to not discipline your children by reacting in anger or emotion. That's when a parent's response can cross the line from discipline to abuse.

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