Reasonable Is Subject to Interpretation
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What is corporal punishment? Well, that would be things like spanking, switching, paddling on your children. A lot of people have a lot of different thoughts about it and whether or not it’s something that’s right to do.
And I’m not really here to talk about the moral side of it. That’s kind of for you to decide. It’s a value judgment on how you want to parent your child. What I want to talk to you about is the legal side of it. What are the legal implications of using corporal punishment?
Well, first of all, Oklahoma law does allow it under Title 21. It specifically says that spanking, switching, paddling, and strapping, which would be like a belt are not per se criminal. So, it’s not illegal to use corporal punishment as long as it’s reasonable.
Now, here’s where you… This is the kind of sticky part. Reasonable is subject to interpretation. What one person thinks is reasonable, another person does not. And that same thing can go for judges and social workers, district attorneys, and other people that could potentially have power over your life.
So, if you do decide to use corporal punishment and a child, some things to definitely avoid, you don’t want to ever strike in anger or do something where you could actually injure the child, or leave any kind of a mark on the skin because that’s usually considered unreasonable, and that goes from simple corporal punishment to abuse.
If you are involved in any kind of a situation where you’re no longer on good terms with the children’s mother, this is a conversation to have with her, to the extent that you’re able to, as to what discipline is going to be. And if you’re a joint custodian, you definitely need to have this conversation.
If one parent really objects to corporate punishment, that is something to at least keep in mind and be cautious about if you’re going to use corporal punishment, because it could cause you a problem.
Also, if you remarry, or if you have a significant other, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever, I would strongly suggest not allowing them to use corporal punishment on your child because an awful lot of parents, might be okay with you giving the kid a swat on the butt if they’re really out of line, but chances are they’re not going to like the new girlfriend doing it, or the new wife doing it because they’re going to be like, “That’s my child. You don’t get to put your hands on him.” And mama bear can get real defensive that way.
This isn’t to say that your new relationships shouldn’t have the right to discipline your child on some level if there’s a problem, especially if they live in the same household as you, but I would strongly caution against the use of any kind of corporal punishment by somebody that it’s not an illegal biological parent.
Usually the way reasonable is going to be defined though, is if it leaves a mark, it’s probably not reasonable. If you hit them in the face, that’s generally not seen as reasonable. If you hit them anywhere sensitive, and you guys know what I’m talking about. That’s not okay.
And I think, generally speaking, think about it carefully if you’re going to do that and be reasonable. And obviously, you shouldn’t do that kind of thing out of anger. If you’re mad at your kid, it’s probably better to cool off first, and then figure out what to do about it. Obviously keep the age of the child in mind as well, because that’s a factor.
Again, it’s not illegal per se, but these are all things you should think about if you’re thinking you’re going to use corporal punishment. Also, keep in mind why you’re using corporal punishment. It’s one thing if you catch your seven-year-old playing in the street, on a busy street, and you’ve told them three or four times not to do that, and it’s dangerous, and they’re doing it. That’s one thing. If you smack the kid for every little infraction, that’s something else entirely, and again, it all goes into what’s reasonable.