Hyman, author of "The Case Against Spanking," said six countries, including Sweden, Norway, and Finland, have abolished the punishment. Germany is considering it. In the United States, few even know that various antispanking organizations are pushing a national "spank out" day on April 30.
Resistance to their antispanking efforts is based on tradition and religious ideolgy, advocates said. Adults who were spanked as children are more likely to spank their children. Certain interpretations of the Bible also allow for corporal punishment, and Hyman said studies show that spanking is a more common in southern states than in northern ones.
"People have really interesting reactions to the resolution," said Devries, a new father who handles public safety issues for councilman Nathan Miley, sponsor of the resolution. "It invokes guilt in some people because they spanked their kids or because they were spanked and they don't want to talk about the possibility of being messed up because of it."
Random conversations with Oakland residents seemed to bear out Devries's theory. Many people had not heard of the proposal, and more than a few of them laughed at it. Others said they abhor the idea of spanking. But most added that whatever a parent's personal views on child rearing, city government should have no say in it.

"I grew up with spankings. Their basic rule was never hit in the face, only on the behind or legs," said Jueleah Spencer, director of an Oakland preschool and the mother of two. "My children have been popped on the butt, yes, but I would never degrade them. ... I don't think government has any business getting involved unless a parent becomes abusive."
Added Rudy Hoffmann, a retired architect, "Of course you shouldn't be able to spank. It's not good parenting. On the other hand, the government shouldn't interfere so much in people's personal affairs. If we start with this, it could open up the way for prosecuting a parent because of a spanking."
As pessimistic as they are about the possibility of passage in Oakland, Riak and other no-spanking advocates plan to push similar resolutions in other cities around the country. At the same time, they said, parents must be taught alternatives to spanking and that their children can learn the necessary lessons without ever being spanked.

"There's a growing trend among civilized nations to give children the same rights as adults are accorded, and one of those rights is not to be assaulted physically," said Hyman. "It'll never pass in Oakland, but it's a very good service. The more we talk about it, the more people will discover that you really don't have to spank your children."

=A9 Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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