Childrearing

Spanking Is Bad Parenting, But It Shouldn’t Be Illegal

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spankingIt has been proven over and over again that spanking is an ineffective form of discipline at best, harmful to children’s mental and emotional health at worst. Now, some professionals are calling on their country to ban the practice all together. The Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, John Fletcher, has written a strongly-worded editorial asking that the Canadian government repeal the law that allows parents to use physical discipline on their children. While I’m completely against corporal punishment, I have to admit that a ban on spanking goes too far. It polices parents when it needs to be educating them.

But Fletcher’s proposal has support. For one thing, more than 30 countries prohibit corporal punishment at home. Ever since the mounting evidence of this discipline’s long-lasting effects, the momentum to end such practices has grown stronger. Fletcher refers to discipline techniques like spanking as an, “anachronistic excuse for poor parenting.”

Of course, the big jump here comes from saying something isn’t a good idea, to saying that no one should be allowed to do it. Parenting, for all the information and studies we have about the proper ways to do it, is still done by parents. We can educate them about the dangers and risks of using physical discipline. We can teach them better ways to control behavior and instill morals in children. But does anyone really have the right to step in and makes choices for the parent unless we can that the children are in grave danger?

The courts will have to decide if the damage done from corporal punishment is real and if children subjected to thinking like spanking actually need to be protected from their parents.

When you look at it a different way though, it’s easy to see Fletcher’s point. Right now, the law protects a parent’s right to use physical discipline. It clearly states that this approach is acceptable. Fletcher argues, “To have a specific code excusing parents is to suggest that assault by a parent is a normal and accepted part of bringing up children. It is not. While section 43 stands, it is a constant excuse for parents to cling to an ineffective method of child discipline when better approaches are available.”

The fact is that while physical discipline is denounced by almost all doctors, pediatricians and child psychologists, it’s still a widely practiced part of parenting. Both here in the United States and in Canada, parents still use a swat on the bottom or a yank on the arm as a way of controlling their kids. In fact, up to 70% of moms in the US have used physical discipline at least once. Are we ready to say that all of those parents were breaking the law?

It’s a tough line to walk. I really believe that spanking and physical discipline are bad for children and bad for parents. I think moms and dads should be taught better ways to deal with their kids. But do I think I parents who use a swat on the behind deserve to lose their children or pay fines? I’m not sure. Would removing the specific legislation protecting corporal punishment necessarily mean that it was illegal? I think spanking is something that governments shouldn’t take a stand on at all. No protection, no denunciation, just parents deciding what works best for their families and their kids. Then we can spend our time and energy educating parents about positive discipline, instead of punishing them for more antiquated approaches.

(Photo: David Castillo Dominici/Shutterstock)