POINT / COUNTERPOINT: Should spanking children be illegal?

Yes, spanking should be illegal!

By Theresa-Anne Clark Harter

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n wake of the Liberal party promising to fully uphold the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), spanking one’s child will become illegal, and rightfully so.

In a society which claims to value peace, we must recognize the ramifications of using violence to solve problems in our homes. If peaceful existence with our fellow humans is the goal, then violence, in all its forms, is something we should discourage our children from partaking in, and parents must lead by example. The idea that hitting a child to discipline them doesn’t promote using violence is naïve.

Parents most often spank when they’re angry, effectively teaching their children that hitting when you’re mad is acceptable behaviour. Contrary to the popular rhetoric among corporeal punishment supporters, ‘spanking’ is just socially acceptable ‘hitting.’ To lump spanking and hitting together makes supporters of spanking uncomfortable. Most prefer to see spanking as something other than hitting, exempt from that label.

Beyond the semantics, spanking is not effective and may have consequences exactly the opposite of what is intended. Many reputable organizations have spoken out against spanking, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, stating “corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects.” In fact, more and more modern studies show that the use of corporal punishment on children can result in the slowing of mental development, as well as creating more violent behaviour in the child.

Currently, section 43 of the Canadian criminal code states that spanking cannot manifest as a reaction to feelings of frustration, loss of temper, or abusive personality. In a perfect world, this would be a fair and just rule. However, in reality, most parents are just as unwittingly flawed as the rest of us humans, and wouldn’t hit unless provoked by very commonplace, understandable emotions like ‘frustration’ or ‘loss of temper.’

Nobody hits when they’re happy. Many households have realized this already, and spanking has become less popular. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission states, “corporal punishment is a relic of a discredited past.”

Though many religious groups and other supporters of physical discipline believe that the government has no place telling parents how to discipline their children, the line between discipline and abuse is gray. To avoid abuse and the negative ramifications that spanking influences on children, the government is right to act.

With the increase in credible evidence towards the detrimental effects of spanking, it is a government’s duty to rectify the situation. With education and promotion, alternative methods of discipline that do no harm to the child, could become more widely practiced. When it comes to children’s safety and development, government intervention is undoubtedly warranted. Spanking should be illegal. There is no time or place to hit a child.

No, it shouldn’t be!

By Yemi Ajayi

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ccording to recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the federal Liberals have agreed to “repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code that permits parents and teachers to use reasonable force to correct the behaviour of youngsters in their care.” While any attempt to reduce violence is commendable, this particular issue is not black and white.

Corporal punishment is a polarizing subject. On one hand, there are people who cannot imagine a world where spanking children is okay, and on the other, there are those who understand the benefits. I fall into the latter category. We have to understand that there is no mathematical equation for raising children successfully; human beings are too diverse for that.

If you take into account the cultural diversity within Canada alone, it is somewhat arrogant to assume that all children will respond to the same disciplinary tactics in the same way.

I was raised in a country where corporal punishment was praised. Although my parents used it sparingly and with tact, I did experience corporal punishment in school as the default strategy for discipline. Therefore, I instinctively understood the difference between being disciplined and being abused.

There is a fine line between the two. In my household, I was always aware of why I was being spanked. My parents made it clear that corporal punishment was reserved for extreme misconduct. I believe that the current spanking laws accommodate those grey areas between discipline and abuse. For example, present spanking laws prohibit straps, paddles, and other implements, blows to the head, and any corporal punishment of children under the age of two. Parents that disregard these limits should be held accountable for their actions.

Discipline should be subjective because different children have different personalities. They will respond differently to the same things. There are children that do not need to be spanked in order to understand that an action is wrong, and there are also children that do need to be spanked in order to understand the message.

It may be seen as politically incorrect to claim that spanking is good for certain children, but I think it’s true. Applying the same disciplinary tactics to all children across the board is misguided, and it should be up to the parent to know what works for their child and what doesn’t The government should only interfere if the well being of a child is threatened.

Abuse and violence are very important issues. However, associating all forms of corporal punishment with abuse and violence is an overreaction. If the goal of discipline is to mould children into well adjusted human beings, why restrict the methods by which parents can achieve it?