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.)


Calling All Teens: Please Share Your Story

If you’re a parent of teens, how many times have you heard your kids say that you don’t understand them? If you’re a teen, how many times have you said those words yourself?

It may sound like a teenage cliché, but perhaps there is some truth to it. Teens and adults – particularly adults of my age, who are 20 or 30 years older than them – inhabit different worlds. I am concerned about things like job security, paying the bills and whether my kids are being bullied at school. When I was a teen I cared about fitting in and the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend when everyone else did.

I have heard adults refer to the concerns of teens as “petty” in the grand scheme of things. I understand what they’re getting at – after all, from my perspective, not having a boyfriend pales in comparison to the idea of not having enough money to feed your kids. But to a teen, those concerns are very real and very valid. Why should they worry about the same stuff we do when we’re 40 or 50 years old? They are kids, discovering life, and navigating those years with the backdrop of the hormonal changes of adolescence can be very daunting.

Do I understand teens?

It would be so easy for me to say that I remember what it was like to be a teen, so yes, I understand. But the truth is, I understand what it was like to be a teen 30 years ago, in the 1980’s. The world and its challenges have changed so much since then. Are teens today concerned about the same things I was back then? Do they go through the same stuff and have the same difficulties?

Maybe. But I don’t really know.

So teens, here’s what I want to do. For a period of one week, I want to give my blog over to you. I invite you to submit guest posts about whatever you want to share. Do you have some aspirations for the future? Some fears about the future? Going through a rough patch in your life? Is there something you wish your parents and other adults knew about you?

Some guidelines:

  • There are no length restrictions on posts. It can be as short or as long as you like. I don’t believe in curtailing people’s self-expression.
  • I cannot accept posts that promote hatred based on race, gender, sexual preference, country of origin, or anything like that.
  • I will accept posts containing profanity as long as you’re swearing to make a point, instead of swearing just for the sake of it. Sometimes the only way to really get a point across is by emphatic use of the F word. I may replace some letters of profanities with special characters.
  • Anonymous submissions are welcome. I would like to know your real name, just to satisfy myself that you’re really a teen and not an adult looking to cause trouble. But if you want the post published under a pseudonym, I will totally respect that.
  • Photographs are encouraged. If you submit a picture, please be sure that it’s one you’re allowed to use. I don’t want to inadvertently breach copyright.
  • If you have a personal blog that you would like to link to, feel free to include that in your post.
  • Include a blurb about yourself. Your name (if you’re willing to share it), your age, your location, your interests – anything you want the world to know about you.

Posts can be submitted either as an attachment or in the body of an email, and sent to They will be scheduled for the last week of October, and I will let you know when your post is going to run.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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