Discipline the parents’ domain

Published 10:49 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

According to Title 13, Chapter 12, Article 5 of the Code of Alabama, it shall be unlawful for anyone that, “Promotes, engages in, or is employed at a wrestling match” and this activity shall be a Class B felony.

What that amounts to is a little unknown law in our state that actually forbids one from wrestling a bear.

I’ve often thought to myself of the day I may receive the call to go to a location and arrest someone that wrestles bears and only hope that he or she is cooperative.

We have laws on the books that govern our actions and at times protect us from our own cleverness. In contrast to this law is another law as it pertains to parents. It is also found in Title 13 of the Code of Alabama. This law reads, “A parent, guardian or other person responsible for the care and supervision of a minor…may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the minor…when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of the minor…”

Although this law has little to do with wrestling a bear, it is similar in what I’m trying to convey. As I grew up, my grandmother would often say, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Of course as a child, I disagreed, but as a father, I now know what my grandmother meant.

When the start of the new school year approaches, our children will have to readjust to the daily routine of getting out of bed, getting dressed, brushing their teeth and getting to school on time.

It is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to be dispatched to a home because a parent’s 10-year-old child is refusing to get out of bed and go to school. When we get there, the mom or dad will ask us to make the child get up and get dressed. I’m not saying that there is not a place for law enforcement in this child’s life, but unfortunately, this defiance is a sign that law enforcement will be more and more present as he or she gets older.

If he or she is this defiant now, and can’t be controlled by the parent, odds are society — otherwise known as law enforcement — will control him when he is an adult.

The fact of the matter is law enforcement has less authority to “make” the child do something than the parents.

The parents hold all the cards and the state of Alabama has provided parents with the legal blessing to use physical force to discipline a child.

Certainly, one must know that any discipline used that is intended to injure or neglect a child or otherwise cause mental harm through harassment or willful torture is unlawful and there are strict guidelines and punishment to prohibit this type of behavior.

But just as I mentioned earlier, I have no intention to wrestle someone that wrestles bears for a hobby. Coming into a home and wrestling someone else’s child is also not particularly high on my list. Parents have great freedom in the ways in which we raise our children and we are fortunate that physical discipline is one of the methods we can use if needed.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.