Sunday, August 13, 2000

Police detective's book says spank kids

Author believes crimes would lessen

The Associated Press

        BEREA, Ohio — A police detective thinks that if more parents spanked their children there would be less juvenile crime.

        Robert Surgenor has published a book saying that proper child-raising requires parents to spank children who misbehave, inflicting pain without injury.

        He says children today don't respect their parents because they don't fear them. Punishments such as time-outs and grounding are fine, but when those don't work, hearing a parent pull off a belt is effective, Mr. Surgenor said.

        “Juvenile crime is exploding,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He cited FBI statistics that show domestic violence offenses committed by children increased 348 percent between 1983 and 1997 — more than double the rate of increase for adults.

        Mr. Surgenor couldn't find anyone to publish his book No Fear: A Police Officer's Perspective. So he took out a second mortgage on his house to publish it through Providence House Publishers. The Tennessee-based company specializes in regional, historical, inspirational and theological titles.

        Berea Police Chief Harry Bernhardt said the department does not take an official position on the book.

        Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Peter Sikora disagrees with Mr. Surgenor's juvenile crime statistics. He said the number of crimes committed by children is dropping nationally and locally — evidenced by a 20 percent drop in suburban juvenile crime and a 17 percent drop in Cleveland from 1998 to 1999.

        Mr. Sikora wouldn't say whether spanking played a role in children committing crimes.

        “A common characteristic of a law breaker is a lack of discipline and a lack of respect,” he told The Plain Dealer. “Do I believe that spanking is the missing ingredient? I don't believe I can make a blanket statement like that.”

        Case Western Reserve University professor Sylvia Rimm said all the research she's seen shows the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to become aggressive. Ms. Rimm is a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Case Western's medical school and is director of the Cleveland Clin ic's Westlake Family Achievement Clinic.

        Mr. Surgenor said his opinions are based on a career of seeing children who weren't spanked become lawbreakers.

        “The Bible reinforces what I say,” he said. “"The rod and reproof give wisdom but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.'

        “Society, unfortunately, has geared parents to think they can't touch their children.”

        Mr. Surgenor's eldest son, Robert Jr. says he grew up knowing his father would swat him if he didn't behave. Mr. Surgenor has five children, ages 16 to 26.

        “He taught me respect,” said 26-year-old Robert Surgenor Jr., a Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputy. “I think he made me a better person.”


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