Thursday, June 12, 2008

Indiana Law: What are The Limits for Parent Disciplining a Child?

The Indiana Supreme Court determined the line between permissible parental discipline and criminal battery. In Sophia Willis v. State of Indiana (PDF format), the mother was arrested and convicted of a class D felony for spanking her eleven year old son with a belt.

In contrast, the Restatement provides, "A parent is privileged to apply such reasonable force or to impose such reasonable confinement upon his [or her] child as he [or she] reasonably believes to be necessary for its proper control, training, or education." Restatement of the Law (Second) Torts, § 147(1) (1965). We adopt the Restatement view. Not only is it entirely consistent with the law in this jurisdiction, but also it provides guidance on the factors that may be considered in determining the reasonableness of punishment. It reads:
In determining whether force or confinement is reasonable for the
control, training, or education of a child, the following factors are
to be considered:
(a) whether the actor is a parent;
(b) the age, sex, and physical and mental condition of the child;
(c) the nature of his offense and his apparent motive;
(d) the influence of his example upon other children of the
same family or group;
(e) whether the force or confinement is reasonably necessary
and appropriate to compel obedience to a proper command;
(f) whether it is disproportionate to the offense, unnecessarily
degrading, or likely to cause serious or permanent harm
Restatement, supra, § 150. We hasten to add that this list is not exhaustive. There may be other factors unique to a particular case that should be taken into consideration. And obviously, not all of the listed factors may be relevant or applicable in every case. But in either event they should be balanced against each other, giving appropriate weight as the circumstances dictate, in determining whether the force is reasonable.
Does this apply outside of the criminal area? I see no reason why it should not. The important thing here is the relation between offense and punishment - the question of excessiveness.

I strongly urge every Indiana parent to follow the link above and read this case.

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