Hit the Message Home

Imagine this: you get a call from your child’s teacher that he has stolen from another child at school, with concrete evidence. You bring this up with your child, but he completely denies the accusation. You have tried hard to teach your child the virtues of honesty, and will not stand for this blatant wrongdoing. How do you proceed to discipline your child?

Depending on your culture and childhood environment, your answer might be to send him to the corner for a time out, to take away his television privileges, or perhaps to give him a few good smacks on the bum to send the message home. The last of these options is perhaps the most controversial. To some, it may seem unnecessarily brutal, whereas to others, it is a perfectly standard practice. Although banned in about 40 other countries worldwide such as Sweden, currently in Canada, spanking is a legally acceptable form of discipline. (1)

Section 43 in Canada’s Criminal Code decrees that:

“Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”

This ideology has stood strong since 1892, and although appealed once in 2004, was ruled to be constitutional with minor dissent. Indeed there is no lack of anecdotal evidence and even scientific research supporting the effectiveness of spanking as an effective disciplinary tool. However, other studies indicate that it might be no better than any other form of discipline such as timeouts. (1)

More importantly, studies point to noticeable detrimental effects of spanking on the development of children. Author Murray Strauss compiled more than 100 studies ranging a span of four decades and drew several conclusions about the pitfalls of spanking in his new book “The Primordial Violence”. These include slowed mental development, lower performance in school, decreased interpersonal connections, and higher risks of crime including violence towards future family members. (2)

So while it is tempting to default to disciplining your child with physical force, one must consider the long term consequences of this choice. These studies shed knowledge on one side of the controversy, and though they seem substantial, many would argue against them in light of personal success stories.

Spanking could well be one of those procedures that vary from person to person, and other factors such as emotional distance and display of affection may also play a large role in the turnout. How were you disciplined as a child, and how did that work out for you?

By Ellen He



  1.     ScienceDaily,. “Spanking Children Slows Cognitive Development And Increases Risk Of Criminal Behavior, Expert Says”. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
  2.     Straus, Murray A. The Primordial Violence. London: Routledge, 2014. Print.

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