“I Turned Out Just Fine” Part I- Spanking IS Assault.

Posted on January 3, 2014. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Children, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Religion, Social Justice |

Spanking children is assault.
It’s not “technically not assault” or “similar to assault“- it is assault.

Image credit: HA! Designs/Creative Commons

Image credit: HA! Designs/Creative Commons

If you physically discipline your child in a way that would be legally assault if you did it to me or any other adult- then you have assaulted your child.

This is not “poisoning the well” for a discussion of spanking.  This is a plain definition of what it is.  In many jurisdictions spanking doesn’t meet the legal definition of assault- but it fulfills every characteristic of “assault” that we would apply to the agreed use of the word.  The only thing that changes “reasonable discipline” to “assault” is the relationship of the victim to his/her attacker and not being old enough to have a reasonable right to personal security.
I’ll say that again: Our society has a magical age at which you have a reasonable right to personal security.

Before you reach this magical age, you still have- in most every jurisdiction in the Western world- this right unless your attacker happens to be your parent.  If it is a teacher?  Assault.  If it is a coach?  Assault.  The parent of a friend? Assault.

If I say to you “My child spoke back to me so I bent them over my knee and smacked their ass with an open hand”- that statement is totally fine, legally permissible and called “spanking”
If I change “My child” to “My wife”, or “My employee”- it is assault.
If I change “My child” to “My prisoner” (if I were a jail guard), or “My student” (if I were a teacher), or “My perpetrator” (if I were a police officer)- it is assault.

For crying out loud….if I change “My” to “Your”- it is bloody well assault.

What is it about being a parent that allows you to be justified in doing something that is assault if you do it to anybody else?  What is it about the legal definition of “parent” that absolves you of wrongdoing if you spank YOUR child, as opposed to SOMEBODY ELSE’S child?

Most of my posts are long, well researched and thoroughly argued cases for a view I hold.  This time, I would like to give people the opportunity to argue why I am wrong and our culture is right on this issue before I write my follow up post.  I will follow this up with a post on why I think spanking is counterproductive, potentially harmful, unreasonable and should be outlawed.  For the time being, I want to defend solely my position that whether it is a useful tool, whether it is helpful, whether “good” parents are “strict” parents- spanking is assault for anybody but parents spanking underage children, and consequently that there is nothing magical about “parents” that absolves them from this definition.

Links to follow up posts will be added to this article as necessary, and I have a possible “guest post” from a blogger who disagrees.
Feel free to post arguments for or against here or on my Facebook.

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51 Responses to ““I Turned Out Just Fine” Part I- Spanking IS Assault.”

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There you go. Telling people how to raise up their kids without violence.

God is a punisher. And punishing Gods beat their children, which, in turn, inspires his followers to rock some ass with a paddle.

Seriously, though, corporal punishment is unnecessary, unless it’s in the bedroom with one’s spouse. Then it’s open season on them buns …

BS. Spanking is not ‘assault’. If done so with proper restraint, it helps set (quite clearly) the relationship of inappropriate action and subsequent punishment. It’s that relationship displayed by my parents that keeps people like me from ringing the neck of some people in this world.

A couple of months ago a driver didn’t like that I didn’t speed past a line of cars doing the speed limit so he could get in front of them. He proceeded to follow me into the parking lot of the hardware store I was going to. Well, he didn’t expect someone of my build to get out of my car and he changed his mind about getting out of his truck. I could have easily decided to run at him and would have easily got to this head and neck before he could have reversed to pull away. And once I did I could have easily caused him serious harm. But I didn’t. Not only because I’m not the lowlife piece of garbage he is, but because my brain said to me “It’s not worth going to jail”.

If being spanked for eating/drinking/taking/breaking something when I was a child is what causes me to restrain myself, I say ‘Thank you, Mom!’. And if it’s part of what causes me to not be one of life’s soft, spineless lumps, I say ‘Thank you!’ yet again.

It sounds like you have strong internal impulses towards violence. Studies show that raising children with spankings makes this outcome more likely. You’re noticing your restraint, but not noticing that there are people who wouldn’t have wanted to ring his neck in the first place.

I can relate. I don’t think spankings served us well.

A couple of things Karl.
First, do you think that the person who followed and threatened you was spanked? I bet he was. People who learn that intimidation and fear are the cure for perceived bad behaviour are people who were taught that intimidation and fear are the cure to bad behaviour. In other words, they were intimidated and learned that that is a reasonable way to enact punishment on others.
Second, do you really think that you have self control because you were spanked? It it possible that you learned self control because your parents did a good job of teaching you self control when they were not spanking you? Was that the only kind of parenting you got- at the end of an open hand? It strikes me as odd that you would attribute self control to fear and intimidation- do you not do bad things because you are afraid of arbitrary consequences or because they are wrong?
Personally I don’t charge people in parking lots because I believe it is wrong to assault other people, not because I’m worried about jail. Are you saying you would have beat the tar out of this guy if you knew that nobody else would find out?

You can receive the same results without spanking which also enforces the idea that violence is not the answer because violence was not used on them. Discipline does not equal just spankings. My daughter’s teachers are always complimenting us on how well behaved she is and she was never spanked.

Where to start?

I was ‘whipped’ when I misbehaved as a child. Not spanked, ‘whipped’. Sometimes it was for bad behaviour, like damaging a neighbour’s property. Sometimes it was for failing to live up to expectations, like bringing home a bad report card. My Father would take off his belt, fold it in half and hold me by the neck across a chair or bed while he wailed away with his belt until he was exhausted. By today’s standards I know this would qualify as severe abuse in anybody’s opinion but back then (1960’s) it might have been considered a bit extreme but not uncommon. I know this because kids traded stories. Also because, in the summer time, when bedroom windows were open, you always knew when someone was getting a whuppin’.

I know that he felt obliged to do this. It was his ‘God-given responsibility’ and, as much as it hurt him to do so, he had no choice but to carry out his disciplinary duties, just as his father had done with him. That’s what he often told us and I believed him at the time. What was the alternative? I couldn’t believe he actually enjoyed inflicting such suffering. There had to be some real, valid justification that I would (hopefully) come to understand in due time. I remember the confusing and conflicting thoughts I used to have about whether or not I would be able to face my responsibilities when I became a parent.

But as I got older I gradually became less accepting of the core truths that my Dad embraced so unquestioningly. The more I thought about it the more I realized that nobody deserved to be beat like that. There was no logic to inflicting that kind of pain no matter what the infraction. One time I got a beating because he couldn’t hear the TV over the racket we were making playing in the bedroom upstairs. He’d been yelling at us to keep it down but we couldn’t hear him. I’ll never forget the shock and feeling of unfairness I felt when he came through the door, belt in hand, and furiously taught us “a lesson we wouldn’t soon forget!” I went through stages of hating him, fearing him and pitying him. Eventually I felt a lot of guilt because I found it very difficult to visit him or provide support when he needed it as his health gradually declined. He didn’t teach me right from wrong, he taught me “don’t get caught”. I learned to cover my tracks, hide the evidence, shift the blame, lie, deny, feign ignorance, do anything to avoid a whuppin’.

It was my mother (mostly) who taught me to put myself in other people’s shoes; to consider how I would like to be treated before I did something that would affect somebody else. When children are small they are naturally selfish and tend to be quite inconsiderate of others. Still, when a parent or teacher explains the concept of treating others as you would like to be treated, it has an intuitive, logical truth to it. The more you think about it the more incontrovertibly obvious it becomes that we can’t expect others to follow rules of fairness and decency that we choose not to follow ourselves. If might makes right there will always be someone (or some group) who is mightier than me. I resolved that I would never strike my children because I wanted them to understand that we all need to do what is right simply because it is right, not because of a threat of force or violence.

I’m ashamed to say that I have not been completely successful in keeping my resolution. There were times, when my kids were small, that I smacked a hand or paddled a bum. There is no excuse for those occasions. I realized, after the fact, that I had acted out of frustration and anger. I think I may have identified with my Dad at those times and felt their acts of defiance or insubordination justified some form of punishment… or was I just being a bully using force to get my way?

I know that kids need to learn that acts and decisions have consequences. But there are plenty of unpleasant or undesirable consequences that don’t involve physical violence. Aside from the aforementioned open-handed spankings, I’m happy to say that my kids never got ‘the belt’ or ‘the wooden spoon’. They weren’t little angels and they certainly didn’t comply with our wishes or follow our commands unquestioningly. As frustrating as that might have been at the time I’m extremely proud of them today and I’m very happy to say that we are all really good friends. My daughter is 32 and lives out of town but visits often. My sons are 30 and 27, both married and live here in North Bay and we look forward to seeing each other at least once a week. My kids are the joy of my life these days.

I still feel guilty that I was never really able to get close to my Dad, but it saddens me even more that he passed away in 1997 without ever knowing the friendship that I share with my wonderful kids. I don’t think he ever knew what he was missing.

George, thank you for starting this conversation.

And thank you for sharing your personal story.
There are follow up posts planned where I will share my own experiences, but I appreciate people opening up and telling their own stories- especially people who are my friends.

Do you have your own children?

Yes. I have five children, aged 2 years to 14 years.
Three boys and two girls.

Though I don’t think this is a prerequisite for realizing spanking is wrong.

Experience, definitely, adds credibility to one’s opinion. But, as I mentioned, experiences may vary. I have 3 kids. They are so different that I cannot even apply my experience with one of my own kids to the other.

I agree that each of my children is different from the next- and that we parent them according to their unique challenges, skills, and needs.
I don’t think any of them deserve or need to be hit.

Police using a gun is also an assault. Is it always wrong?

If they used their guns in this context it would be an assault, it would be wrong and they should be jailed. Imagine a world where police use their guns as a punishment, you’ve committed a crime and they pull out a gun and shoot you, that’s a serious assault. They’re only supposed to use guns to protect themselves or others.

I agree. My point is that these situations cannot be generalized. There are sitations when police shooting a suspect is justified. In a way, your reply confirms my point that general statements to this effect are not appropriate.

Is there an instance you can give me where spanking a child is a reasonable use of force that prevents imminent harm to others or yourself?

Thank you for stating this. I have never been able to understand why it is ok to hit a defenseless child, but a crime called assault to hit an adult capable of defending themselves.

I myself is not an advocate of corporal punishment for children. It does send a wrong message that problems can be resolved by violence. Yet, I do not think that generalizations work here. If you are lucky to have respectful and obedient children, do not assume that your parenting style would work with all children and for all parents. I don’t think, it’s possible to say with absolute confidence that spanking is always wrong. Most definitely, it’s not always right. Perhaps, it can be avoided in many cases. But I would not completely take it out of parental aresnal.

Rather than discussing if spanking is right or wrong “in general”, it’s better to discuss a specific situation.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say if it works or not. There are no two identical children. There are no two identical families in identical situations. Even statistical research is rarely meaningful. A research may find that it does not work in 90% cases. OK. But it means that in 10% cases it works.

It’s also a question, to what extent the state should intrude into family affairs. You had a great post about your experience with domestic violence and you seem to be a supporter of homosexual marriages. As long as children are not injured, I’d refrain from legislating parenting styles.

“As long as children are not injured, I’d refrain from legislating parenting styles.”
Regardless of your position on this topic I’m sure you can agree that that is a badly thought out sentence. We already do legislate against that, if you found out that some parent was beating their child in a way that wouldn’t leave injuries I’m sure you’d consider it abuse. Abusive people actually do this, they try to hurt someone without leaving marks, it’s sick.

I would love to have a discussion about the times it is wise and reasonable to hit your child. I am listening if you have examples.
This first post was meant to merely defend my position that spanking is assault, but rest assured that this is not my last post on the matter.

This discussion involves a lot more than just the attitude towards spanking. What’s your philosophy about the balance between authority and democracy in the family? How do you react to open disrespect and defiance from a teenage kid? Would you prefer to use physical force yourself to teach the kid respect for authority or do you prefer the police to get the message through so that you can pat yourself on the back for being a “humane” parent?

I’ve seen kids as young as few months starting to test parent’s authority. How do you reason with a 1-year old who decides to play with an electrical outlet? Will you wait for “natural consequencies” (electric shock) to occur or would you inflict a far milder physical pain by smacking the kid on the rear to enforce the sense of danger?

Your analogies with employees do not work. You cannot “fire” your kid who does not do his job, shows disrespect or neglects safety rules, and “hire” another one who would. Kid’s don’t reason like adults.

It is telling that you imply there is a real unimagined dichotomy between spanking a teenager and having the police “get the message across”. Do you believe that dichotomy exists? That either every parent spanks their unruly teenager or that teenager is going to get arrested?

I hope you are not advocating spanking children “as young as a few months” old. I cannot understate the degree to which I consider that grievous assault and child abuse. There is no appropriate amount of force that one can give to correct a child “as young as a few months” old. None.
Do you think that the only tools a parent has with a one year old is either electrocution or spanking? Are you unable to come up with a more appropriate solution? Is that the child’s failing, or yours?
So you claim that my analogies with employers don’t work- does this mean I can assume that my examples with jail guards, teachers, police officers, and wives are totally agreeable then? So you agree with me, but I went a step too far with an employer/employee comparison?

First of all, I am not here to defend spanking. I totally admit that using physical violence constitutes a failure of all other methods. So, I’m hear to learn, not to argue with you.
All dichotomies are imagined. I’d rather speak of possibilities. There are situations in life when it’s OK or even necessary to question authority. There are also situations when we have to submit to authority. If a child gets into habit of questioning authority for selfish reasons, he may have problems as an adult – in college, at work, or, as I mentioned, with police. Let me know if you find a flaw in this reasoning so far.
I believe, a parent should have an authority to make the child to do certain things – homework, chores, being polite, respectful of others, etc. Yes, it’s best to teach it by example. But this doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the children do question authority, just for the heck of it. Testing the limits is a normal human behavior, especially for young people. I think, it’s reasonable for a parent to use physical force or a threat to use force to exercise authority, as the last measure, much like a policeman uses physical force to enforce his authority. My point is that it is better to teach the child to submit to a parent’s authority, even if it takes physical force, than to develop a nasty habit of questioning every authority which may hurt the child in the future.
Ironically, perhaps, parents who are undisciplined and tend to show contempt for authority themselves, have the need to enforce their own authority more often. So, I believe, it is a sign of the parent’s failure. Unfortunately, often this realisation comes too late.
I think, it is not correct to classify all spanking as assault. A smack on the rear of a child, even a few months old, does not seem to hurt the child physically or emotionally – just an unpleasant physical and emotional experience, much like any other type of punishment. I don’t think it can be called “hitting”, “beating” or “assault”. A loving parent should know the limit. At least for me, this procedure is, perhaps, as stressful as for my son. He seems to recover from it quite fast, whereas, my whole day may be ruined.
I think, children are capable to abuse their parents emotionally even more than parents abuse them. They learn the art of emotional manipulation often too early (guess from whom).
I don’t think your analogies with teachers, jail guards, etc. are reasonable either because parent-child relationship is different from husband-wife, teacher-student, or guard-inmate relationship in scope, responsibilities, authority, and many other aspects.

I think that in instances involving physical safety, such as a mobile but not yet fully verbal child persistently trying to investigate the hot stove, a slap on the hand might reinforce the parent’s seriousness to a child who cannot yet understand an explanation of why it’s dangerous.

Anything beyond that–sorry, no, hitting does not teach respect. It teaches fear. You teach respect by demonstrating it, and by using discipline methods that advance that message.

I was a licensed daycare provider and as such it is illegal to hit a child in daycare. You have to learn to discipline children without spanking them. The children in my daycare were all well behaved for me without me ever having to hit them. There are plenty of different ways to discipline a child without ever hitting them.

But it also strikes me that people completely miss that positive reinforcements works way better than negative.

And if I am not going to to hit a daycare child, why in the world would I ever hit my daughter. BTW you are also not allowed to spank or hit your own child while there are daycare kids in your home.

Also to keep a 1 year old from playing with electrical sockets there are these things that you can use that cover with the electrical socket so you don’t to worry about your one year old playing with the electrical socket. Prevention is your biggest tool to keep your child safe, not spanking. Do you honestly think if you cant explain to your child why he shouldn’t play with the electrical socket, he understands the reason you are hitting him?

When my son was 2 years old, it took him about 5 seconds to open safety latches and other “safety devices”. I am not a fan of spanking. I agree that I may be lacking some skills. How kids react to adults depends very much on the personality of the child and the adult.

I was spanked as a child. As a result, I now suffer from a very serious mental illness that modern children do not have.
They call it “respect for others.”
For heavens sake, don’t punish your children!

You appear to be cured, congrats. Just look at how little respect you have for modern children, you make this BS blanket statement about all of them and try to portray them in a negative light.

I respect my boss- and he has never once spanked me.
I respected my teachers- and with the exception of one in elementary school, none have ever struck me.
I respect my friends- none of whom have assaulted me.

You can teach your children respect without striking them. In fact, unless you conflate “respect” with “fear”- I imagine that it is easier to get a child’s respect through this neat thing I call “parenting”.
You should try it sometime.

Fair enough, let’s play this game.

If my “child” refuses to eat their dinner, yet I force them to sit there and eat it anyways, you could claim imprisonment and assault. After all, if I do this to my “wife” or my “employee”, this would be imprisonment.

If my “child” wants to run around the grocery store, and I grab their arm and make them walk with me, this is a form assault. After all, if I did this to my “wife” or did this to my “employee”, it would be assault.

If my “child” was dirty, and I cleaned their bottom while they screamed “no”, this is sexual assault. After all, if I did this to my “wife” or my “employee” while they told me to stop, I could be tried and convicted as a sexual predator.

Abusing children is wrong. There is an arguable difference between abuse and physical discipline. Parents have rights to raise their children to a point where mentally and physically, they are ready to enter the world as an adult. Part of living in a society with so many different ideas and people, is to learn to accept that others are different.

My father spanked me as a child. He hated doing it, and it was used only as a frustrated, last resort to stop some stubborn, selfish, out-of-control behavior. If he had been arrested for assault, I would have grown up with a single parent, and perhaps without the lessons he taught me that I, and society now values.

When a child turns out emotionally and physically harmed from an abusive family, spanking likely isn’t the only problem. The problem stems from a lack of love and understanding for their fellow children. Even where a parent fails, if a community is outwardly loving, compassionate, and caring, there is always a place to turn to for the abused. We can heal where others harm.

Finding ways to tell other people what they should, or shouldn’t do has become the norm. We are all better off finding the love within ourselves needed to forgive, accept, and encourage others to move together on the path of peace.

– The Liberty Disciple

This is a fantastic reply, with which I agree wholeheartedly.

grabbing an arm to prevent running out into traffic is not abuse

slippery slope and word games

there are clear and definable lines to not cross

You’ve given 3 examples where intervention might be required – not eating, not dealing with hygiene, and running amok. I will accept at least that there is some threshold beyond which these things cannot be allowed, and where some kind of physical intervention such as restraint may be required by the relevant authority – parents in this case. This is also true to some extent of adults, but the relevant authority is the state.

If an adult is showing an inability to clean, feed, and restrain themselves from running amok in public, they are likely going to end up in some kind of state custody – committed or imprisoned, where this care and restraint will be provided more forcefully if required. None of this would be considered wrongful imprisonment or sexual assault.

Adults are understood by default to be capable and responsible for their own care and restraint, and children are not. So yes, even without imprisonment or commitment it is understood the caretaker of a child is dealing with someone who cannot yet be responsible for themselves, and has latitude to be responsible for them.

But there is no context in which we consider it ok for an authority to correct an adults behavior by hitting them. Restraint is not hitting for the purpose of punishment, and neither are these other things.

[I don’t want to tangent too much off of spanking, but I actually think that needing to get physical already represents a kind of failure, a resort to “ultimately you must do as I say because I am larger than you and willing to use force.” This doesn’t teach the child why it is important to bathe or motivate them to bathe, and may even cause them to associate bathing (and you) with a traumatic experience. I’m not saying there is never a time for it, but the resort to force is clearly not preferrable as a means of managing anything, much less children.]

Here’s the thing, though. The studies are clear that spanking is ineffective and detrimental. If it is our goal to caretake because we are capable and responsible and the child is not, how can we ignore those results? The lattitude to do what is best or necessary is granted without hesitation, but spanking does not seem to be either.

This “studies are clear” is often misleading and meaningless without discussing specifics. Who was studied? How? How many children, families? Ineffective in what situations? The big question always is “is this applicable to my own child and my own particular family in my particular situation?”

I thank you for the well thought out reply.

I disagree that these examples are relevant to a discussion of spanking.
First, I personally do not force my children to sit at a table till they finish their dinner- but I wouldn’t fault a parent who did this within reasonable limits. My children are served dinner, and they have the option to eat it or not. They are not allowed anything else to eat if they choose not to eat their meal. I find hunger is a pretty good teaching tool regarding the consequences of choosing not to eat. I have never found “forcing” my kids to eat necessary.
My kids have acted out in a grocery store. I would not blame a parent for using reasonable force to restrain a child if absolutely necessary- because that physical force might be required to remove the child from the situation. I cannot think of an example where spanking is necessary or achieves a similar goal. Again, personally my wife and I take the tack of removing the child from the store and one of us sits in the car with the child until the other finishes the shopping. I have actually left a store without buying anything when I was shopping alone with my child in order to remove them from the situation. You might surprised how well “you are not welcome here” works to teach your kids that if they misbehave- they won’t be welcome places.
I honestly have never experienced my child refusing to have their bottom cleaned. If I did, and I felt that their choice would cause harm to them or others- I might use a reasonable amount of force to clean them up.

What we haven’t discussed is whether there is a time when striking a child is a reasonable use of force given their transgression. I am open to your input on when I should stop trying to use real consequences and reason with my children and when I should start creating synthetic consequences and intimidation to show them the err of their ways.
The goal of parenting, for me, is teaching your children to make good choices because those choices are good choices- not because they ought to fear not bending to my will.

My mom spanked me because that was the only way she knew how to discipline me and my brothers. Her grandparents spanked her so thank is what she did. Spanking is used not because it works better but because it is what was used by our parents. We tell ourselves well I turned out OK so it must not do any damage. I know because I used to defend it, right up until I held my daughter in my arms and knew I never wanted to make my daughter fear me in the way I feared my mom.

There are always non-violent ways to achieve the results that you need and to teach your children respect without violence. How can you possible think that it is that effective to teach a child not to hit by hitting them. You are not teaching your child to respect authority, you are teaching them to fear authority.

Once I stopped defending my moms choice of discipline, I could see the negative effects spankings had on me. Granted my mom may have gone a little over board with her spankings. There were many times that it hurt to sit down for days after a spanking. It also made me afraid to open up and talk to my mom because she often misunderstood what I was trying to say, labeling it as being disrespectful. It was better for me just not to say anything. Mom now has even admitted that if she had known a different way to discipline me she would have done it. Now we have resources to teach us different ways of discipline to achieve the same results. So why do you insist so much on your right to hit your child when you don’t have to. It is just the easiest way, because you don’t have to take the effort to learn something else.

Kids that receive no discipline are disrespectful, but kids the receive alternative discipline are not. It is not an either you spank or you don’t issue. It is an issue of finding a different way to teach your child the tools they need.

all that teaches is how to make situations and relationships worse

it’s not problem solving, it’s not resolving the situation

and enforces the children are property or possessions

nice to see you back in the blogosphere!

I agree. Spanking is abuse. There is enough evidence out there for parents who do not have the restraint to use it as a “tool”, and who don’t know when to stop. It is for making children afraid and intimidated. Or, for making spouses fearful and intimidated. There are enough court cases of children who have been beaten to death by being “spanked” by their parents. Was this appropriate discipline for whatever small household infraction they had broken? The case in CA of the girl and her sister who were adopted into a christian family who believed in the “spare the rod, spoil the child” philosophy. They tortured these two girls. They finally beat the older girl to death by spanking and hitting. The younger one ended up in the hospital with multiple broken bones, bruises, head injuries and traumatic injuries. I don’t think there is anything in the world that these two had done that would have deserved this kind of punishment. I think that they just had the incredibly bad luck to be adopted into a sadistic, sick family.

I grew up in a family who believed in spanking, whipping, and other forms of corporal punishment. My brother was tortured by my mom and my stepdad on a fairly regular basis. They would beat him until he convulsed. That would be the only thing that would slow them down, and that was only because he would become unresponsive while he was seizing. They had no idea how dangerous it was when he did this, and never ever took him to a doctor for it. They thought he was faking.

There are many, many other ways of disciplining children that do no involve abusing them, and that are just as effective. You can raise children with integrity, honesty, love and respect, without making them “soft”.

And, Mr. Thacker, I hope you’re seeking help for your rage issues. It took me many years to recognise and deal with my rage. It is still there, but I recognise it, and I know how to live with it now. I have found ways to creatively let it out that don’t involve violence to myself or others. I am very creative, and that’s an outlet for my anger. I also have some very good friends who have supported me and helped me through much of the process.

It is my opinion that using force or physical violence to impose compliance is really just a form of laziness; a shortcut for convenience’ sake. In our heart-of-hearts I believe we all realize that inflicting pain (or the threat thereof) is something we decide to do subconsciously, against our better judgement, and justify, after the fact, in order to preserve our self-image of a caring, responsible parent.

We are all masters at justifying our actions to maintain our self-image as decent, caring human beings. But when you stop and really think about specific incidents and how you handled them, can you honestly say that you had no other viable choice? Do you really insist that there was no other possible action you could have followed that might have taken a bit more effort on your part but might have ended in less distress and a better understanding of what is or isn’t acceptable behaviour and why?

I find that people are very good at relating anecdotes about dire situations where split-second, decisive actions are required to save a life or prevent a serious mishap. In reality, however, it is extremely rare that smacking or spanking a child was a result of a crisis-provoked, split-second decision. Honestly, if you think about your interactions as a child with your parents and as a parent with your children, how many occasions required instant, unquestioning, blind obedience to avert disaster, and on how many occasions did “BECAUSE I BLOODY SAID SO” seem like the real cause of escalation?

It’s natural for all of us to look for, or latch onto, explanations that ‘justify’ our past actions or beliefs; that uphold our image of our parents or ourselves as good people. It’s unnatural, and incredibly difficult, for us to critically examine our reasons for accepting things that might not really ‘feel right’ about our past behaviour or that of our loved ones. I think it is well worth the effort, though.

Hmmmm. As primates our hardwired behaviour when things don’t go the way we would like is to scream and slap. I was spanked and I didn’t turn out fine. Never the less I don’t think that the slapping is the problem. I think that the contingencies, the intensity and the lack of skills on the part of those who are doing the slapping is a bigger issue. Beating a child is a very obvious way to harm them and it leaves evidence. A single slap on the butt is not nearly as traumatizing as the parent who socially isolates a child in the name of timing out, or who reinforces rude or dangerous behaviour by reasoning with a child who doesn’t have the language skills to understand the discussion. Those traumas don’t leave visible bruises, but they do impact the way that a child grows up. Attacking “spanking” as though removing that from our culture will automatically result in a better result for the up coming generation misses the point that being humane isn’t simple; being humane means not only not slapping but also being aware when other forms of intervention cause harm.

I have as a parent completely removed spanking as an option because I believe that reason dictates that it is a form of assault and because it is neither effective nor worthwhile in the long term.
The point of this post is to reinforce the message that spanking is an assault-and if it makes one or two parents take pause and consider this fact before spanking their child then it was well worth the effort. I have seen evidence in the last few days that this might have been accomplished.

I have much to say about your comments, and I have to tell you they were among the most well thought out I have had thus far. Many of your points I intend to cover in my two follow up posts-but I agree with you that other parenting strategies are potentially worse than spanking. Parenting is hard work- and parents ought to do their best to master what is surely the most important job they will ever have.
Though I don’t think it follows that spanking is acceptable because some other options are worse- and this is what I get from your comment- I think you have made some worthwhile points that are worth addressing in the follow up posts.
Thank you.

Will the author please clearly define their impression, vision, or idea of the act of spanking? What does it look like to you, were you spanked as a child, have you seen any of your friends spank their children, etc? Before a well-thought-out response can be given, I believe a better understanding of the author’s position is necessary. We can all flippantly chime in with one side or another, but it would be done blindly without knowing this key piece of information. Additionally, on what basis, or moral ground do you assert spanking as being wrong: your own or someone else’s? Thank you for considering these questions.

[…] Anti-spanking advocates make no distinction between a swat on the rear end, and a beating.  Well, verbally they make the distinction, but not in any practical terms – hence the term assault.  ”If you physically discipline your child in a way that would be legally assault if you did it to me or any other adult- then you have assaulted your child.” they say.  This of course omits certain realities:  1)  You have certain authority over your children by virtue of being their parent that you have over no stranger. And, 2) children at which age spanking is appropriate do not have the ability to reason beyond nodding and repeating back to you what you want them to say. […]

I have gently struck my children a few times and regret each of those. Fortunately they were gentle but even that was wrong.

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[…] few lines show the manipulative tactics used by many abusers against their victims (and yes, if you hit your kids, you are assaulting them and it is […]

‘A new study based on real-time audio recordings of parents practicing corporal punishment discovered that spanking was far more common than parents admit, that children were hit for trivial misdeeds and that children then misbehaved within 10 minutes of being punished.’


Also http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211103958.htm

“When you spank a child you change who they are.”

[…] few lines show the manipulative tactics used by many abusers against their victims (and yes, if you hit your kids, you are assaulting them and it is […]

Yeah society also has a “magical age” when children gain physical autonomy… Just as with spanking parents can pull down their child’s pants while the child is yelling “no, no” whereas that would be a criminal act with an adult. Kids just don’t have the same rights as adults. For good reason.

[…] way to argue about child abuse, and it needs to stop. Now, I do think some people get it (this guy gets it, and I’m sure there are others), but most […]

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