Where I Stand On The Spanking Debate


When I was a child, my mother had a wooden spoon named Belinda. There was a happy face drawn on one side of Belinda, and a sad face on the other side. If my mother could tell that my behaviour was about to go downhill, she would produce Belinda like a magician, and show me the two faces.

“Do you want the happy face or the sad face?” she would ask.

The happy face meant a reward. The sad face meant a spanking. Belinda was an absolutely marvellous tool for teaching me about things like decision-making and consequences.

Sometimes I got the sad face, and therefore a spanking.  The spankings didn’t happen often, and they were never severe – just a couple of open-handed swats on the bum – but they did serve their intended purpose of discipline. Usually I was not a repeat offender of the transgressions that I was spanked for.

I turned out OK, bear absolutely no ill will towards my parents for spanking me, and I did not grow up with the belief that the only way to solve a problem is by striking out physically. I freely admit to having my fair share of issues, but for the most part I am a well-balanced individual who can problem-solve in a balanced, rational and non-violent way.

In other words, my experiences of being spanked as a child did not turn me into a raging psychopath.

The world is a very different place today. If you admit to spanking your kids, people look at you as if you’re a child abuser who should be locked up for life. Many countries have legislated strict guidelines surrounding spanking. Some places have banned it altogether.

And I cannot help wondering if governments are going too far in telling parents how to do their jobs.

There is no question that there are people who cross the line from spanking to abuse. That was the case when I was a child, and it is still the case today. Guidelines and laws that either limit or ban spanking will not change that. If someone has that kind of disposition, or if they are in a state of anger that would drive them to extremes, they’re not going to stop and say, “Damn, this is against the law, I’d better stop.”

The point I’m making is that if someone is going to be abusive, they are going to be abusive.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think there should be guidelines. If a newborn baby is being spanked, that’s a problem. If a kid is black and blue from being “spanked”, that’s a problem. If the neighbours are hearing screams or if a child is afraid of his or her parents, that’s a problem. There needs to be some definition of exactly what it is that constitutes “spanking”.

At the same time, though, parents need to be allowed to parent. The vast majority of parents are quite capable of parenting their children without wrecking them, and there are abuse laws to deal with the ones who aren’t. If the laws aren’t good enough, the solution is to change the laws to ensure that the kids are safe from abusers. The solution is not to take power away from parents who are doing a perfectly good job.

I don’t spank my own kids, but that’s not because of a moral problem with it. It’s simply because spanking is not an effective means of discipline for them. If other parents choose to spank their kids in a responsible manner, I have absolutely no issues with that.

What are your views on spanking? Were you spanked as a child, and if so, did it have any lasting impact on you?

(Photo credit: richard_north. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)


  1. Number 1 Fan says:

    My parents were firm believers on beating their children in the guise of discipline. We all three frequently had giant bruises starting at the back of our knees and ending just below our hips. Wooden spoons, hands, a sjambok (, a flip flop, you name it.
    When I became a parent I was firm in my belief that I would not treat my children in the same way. To this day I do bear ill will toward my parents for their unwillingness to consider alternative disciplinary actions – even though I know at heart they were doing what they knew to be the only way.
    Sadly, I have lost my temper with my own, I have struck a little rump out of frustration for severely bad behavior, and I saw fear in little hazel eyes. That fear, that confusion. It made me stop. And I have not raised a hand to my child in almost 2.5 years. I remember fearing my parents. I remember being too scared to tell them when bad things happened, because I didn’t want to get into trouble. When I was sexually assaulted I didn’t tell them, because I didn’t want to get into trouble. This may seem extreme – after all, where is the correlation between spanking/hitting/etc. and not trusting your parents to treat problems with logic and compassion? I learned very early on that if they were not happy or they were angry in any way, shape or form, we were going to get physical consequences.
    Ultimately they did find out about the assault, and the response was not physical, but I was left feeling very much to blame, very much at fault, and very much a broken teenager.
    I am determined that my relationship with my own child will be different. We talk, we communicate. If something goes wrong, we discuss it and we find a solution – together. This doesn’t mean that I think my methods are superior over other parents. This means that I have found what works for me, what works for my family, and what I believe will help me to raise a great little person who is confident, who is confident that there is trust, understanding, and above all – love.

  2. We were spanked as kids and it didn’t have any detrimental effect on me or my siblings. We knew if we did wrong we’d be punished; sometimes that was a spank and sometimes we got sent to our room. It’s life!

  3. Morganna says:

    Yes being spanked had huge effect on me and I will never spank my child. I know how humiliating it feels to be spanked and I don’t want her to feel that kind of humiliation.

  4. Thanks, Kirsten, I feel exactly the same way you do! As you know, I didn’t have a good relationship with my own parents and I pretty much vowed to do the exact opposite of everything they did!

    That said, there were occasions when an open hand smack on the nappy of a toddler (which makes a noise but doesn’t really hurt) is an effective deterrent. I was careful to only say “no” when I really meant it, and to pick my battles, so my kids hardly ever got smacked.

    My son is 20 and my daughter is 17. Neither of them even remembers getting smacked! We have a great relationship of mutual trust and respect. I totally believe that you must do what works for you and your family but, as the children get older (in my opinion) physical punishment should no longer be used.

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