Spanking Children is a Reality in the US
1978 ~ I was an eight-year-old playing over at a classmate’s house, when I witnessed something I have never been able to erase from my mind. We were playing tag in the front yard with some other kids, when we heard the screams from two streets over. My friend explained that Sam Jacobs was getting whipped by his father, again.
The entire upper middle-class neighborhood remained silent as the mechanical-like lashes sounded in the spaces between this young boy’s cries. Sam was only a year older, and I recall feeling shock at first, then horror, and finally hatred toward the unseen father. His form of discipline was to inflict pain on his son with a leather strap and to publicly humiliate him by carrying out the deed in broad daylight near the driveway of their home.
In the US, spanking is a very controversial issue. Some believe that the decision to spank is a private family decision, while others believe spanking is a thing of the past, even barbaric by today’s standards. The fact is, spanking is not illegal in our country, so where do we draw the line? When does corporal punishment become child abuse? What age child can you spank? How do you spank? Where do you spank? Who can you spank? There are no formal guidelines, and those who do spank say it is their decision and parental right. So, I ask again, where do you draw the line?
Spanking: a slap, especially on the buttocks, with the open hand.
-The Oxford Dictionary
Some people think of spanking as a little pop on the diaper-padded bottom of a toddler. Just a little something to get their attention. Others use a little more skin-to-skin contact and slap the bare leg or hand. For older children, you may hear about a wooden paddle, a leather belt, or a switch from the yard applied in lashes as the child leans across a chair or a bed. Sometimes, they are chased around the house. These lashes usually leave red welts or even cuts. Some parents opt for the slap in the face, a strike often given in anger. So, what is appropriate and what is not? How do you make that judgment call?
How Young is Too Young, How Old is Too Old to Spank?
If you ever hear of someone hitting an infant, it is usually in the context of a child abuse charge. Toddlers, however, seem to make the cut. I have seen plenty of parents popping the bottoms, legs, and hands of toddlers. So, what is the age requirement? Under age two, don’t spank? Two and up, fair game? Those who spank say a toddler has more of an ability to know right from wrong. Maybe we could administer a standardized test just to make sure.
And so, how old is too old? That is a tough one. There are children who are subjected to corporal punishment up to the age of 18. Once the child becomes an adult, try to spank him and you will be looking at an assault charge. You also may get punched in response, and your child is innocent by way of self-defense.
Some families stop spanking around the teen years, as they can use more effective punishments, such as limiting cell phone use, or withholding the holy car keys. Occasionally, the game changes when the pre-teen or teen has the maturity to stand up for himself and question your actions. Some may even fight back. Most of them probably just cower in fear, because that is how they have been trained.
Corporal punishment: punishment inflicted on the body, especially by beating.
-The Oxford Dictionary
Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act of 2011
There is a current federal proposal calling for corporal punishment in public schools to be banned completely in all 50 states. Until the Act is passed, parents may opt their children out of the paddling policy.
Who Is Allowed to Spank the Child?
2005 ~ I was touring a private school to see if it was a good fit for my daughter who would be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. It was a very impressive school, but I became quite confused when the kind school official began to explain the paddling process and necessary paperwork that accompanied the policy. Paddling?
I have never been so at a loss for words in my life. As my mind raced to process the concept, the administrator must have seen the disbelief in my eyes. He began to rattle off some Biblical teachings about sparing the rod. I stood up while he was mid-sentence and left the school. Of course, I had heard of paddling before, but in the 21st century?
What about spanking in other environments? Is grandma allowed to spank? What about the nanny or babysitter? Do specific contractual arrangements need to be made for that? What about your neighbor or a visiting relative? I've seen an older teenager spanking the younger sister. Is that okay if mom is busy?
It is perplexing to know that if a complete stranger spanks your child, he would be arrested for assault, but if you spank your own child, it is acceptable. We hear about these bizarre altercations in the news, such as the man who slapped the crying child in WalMart or the woman who spanked the child in the thrift store. These stories make headlines because the actions were so very wrong, and, in fact, criminal. But if it is your own child………
Texas Judge Beats Daughter with Belt
Last October, a 23-year-old woman released an extremely disturbing YouTube video of her father spanking her with a belt when she was 16 years old. The father, who is a Texas judge, not only beat his disabled daughter over and over again with a thick belt, but he verbally and emotionally abused her with threats and foul language. Ironically, this judge decides hundreds of family law cases every year, including ones about child abuse. Details here.
Are Any Children Exempt From Spanking?
2007 ~ My son was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder at age five. That means he is hyper-sensitive in the areas of all five senses. He is disturbed by loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, wet or sticky food, and is very sensitive to touch. Can you imagine the effect of spanking a child with this disorder?
Do you spank the autistic child who does not like to be touched? Do you spank a Down’s Syndrome child? Do you spank the child with anxiety disorders and phobias? Do you spank the developmentally delayed child?
Do you spank the foster child who was physically abused by his birth mother? Do you spank the child who is recovering from post-traumatic stress? Do you spank an emotionally disturbed child?
Do you spank the anorexic teen, the wheelchair-bound, the blind, the deaf? Do you spank a child with a bleeding disorder? Do you spank a child with a broken leg? Maybe he gets a break from spanking until the leg heals.
I think in most of these circumstances, a parent is not going to spank the child. Consider this, though. Any other form of discipline - loss of privilege, time-out, restrictions, extra chore assignment - would still be used. Why is the spanking form of discipline different? It is different, because it may cause the child additional physical and/or emotional damage. Think about that one.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Do we need to create a book or manual to keep up with all the dos and don'ts of spanking? It seems to be a complicated issue. Some may say that each child is different, and the parent has to make the decision. Many spankers say they don't want the government prying into their private lives and telling them how to raise their children. But, it isn't Big Brother looking over your shoulder these days. It's your neighbor, your co-worker, the lady in Walmart, your friend, your child's pediatrician, your sister, your child's teacher, maybe even your spouse. And one day, it may be your own child looking back.
Common Defenses for Spanking Children
My daddy spanked all four of us, and we all turned out okay.
That's like saying, my daddy smoked and never had any health problems, so I will smoke. -Smoking is harmful.
Spanking works, so I do it.
Spanking is the easiest and quickest form of discipline, but doesn't your child deserve your time and effort to provide the very best care?
Spanking is right, because it says so in the Bible.
The Bible does not mention spanking in the Ten Commandments or anywhere else. Proverbs 13:24 says "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." The rod is wisdom and guidance, not some kind of ancient switch! We are to lead and discipline our children, carefully.
Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 09, 2019:
Although I am against of spanking to my children, however, sometimes, I did spank my kids. But I am trying to control it.
Ashley Vailu'u from Central Texas on March 04, 2015:
I think that spanking is definitely a "quick fix". There are more effective, relationship building methods of discipline out there. I'm glad you didn't enroll your child in that school. Paddling, while still legal in some states, is completely barbaric in my opinion.
michelle on October 27, 2014:
I don't believe you should spank a kid just because, but depending on what they do HELL YES if COPS can lock them up for whatever they did wrong in the street so shall a parent beat their child when they do wrong in the home
Theresa Jonathan from Maseru, Lesotho on July 22, 2014:
I do not think there is any sound reason to spank a child. If you do are only derailing the child from learning good and bad. Children can understand you tone when you correct them. They are smart and can understand the body language too.
Sol on July 04, 2014:
God made buttocks for sitting and spankings. No one ever died from either use and civilization is at lot better off!
Anne Danes on February 19, 2014:
Hi, I'm a black mother of 2 and I have to say spanking isn't all that bad. Sure the argument of " I was spanked and I'm fine" is really weak. However, kids today are becoming more and more disrespectful. One time, I saw a 16 year old girl yelling at an old woman, about 70, for sitting in her seat. It was heartbreaking. Spanking your children won't kill them, but you need to draw the line. Child abuse is considered when you refuse to stop bad behavior,give, or provide the necessary materials needed to grow a child nice and healthy. Spanking isn't in that statement. When the open hand spanking turn to pans to the head then turn to fists to the face, then it has turned to abuse and needs to be stopped. Putting kids in time out isn't very effective because kids will develop a pattern. That pattern is "Okay, mommy puts me in time out for 30 minutes, so after 30 minutes I can play again. It's only little time, I'm not missing out on anything if I just wait a while." Kids are growing up and develop patterns slowly and will realize want you're trying to do. Spanking your children isn't a taboo or something to outlaw, it helps raise children and teach them manners at a young age vs. the age of 20.
Aquene from Charlotte, North Carolina on January 13, 2014:
Thank you for your hub! I am the product of spanking and I most certainly advocate it! Now please don't misconstrue, I don't mean beating your child half to death but there is nothing wrong with giving them a swift tap on the behind every now and then when they get out of line. If done effectively, you shouldn't have to do it very often.
Greg Taylor on December 29, 2013:
I love your comment, and I could not agree more. I am a 64 year old father of two adult children and grandfather of two beautiful very well behaved grandchildren.
Linda on November 24, 2012:
Spankings are degrading and comes from parents that at just too lazy or angry to discipline in a more loving and compassionate way. Most parents that I know that spank their kids, also appear immature themselves..some of these parents are over 30 and are still so very immature. Just such a sad day when a parent or guardian of a child is standing over a little child and whipping them. We are not even allowed to do that in prison, why on God's green earth would we do that to our children. Corporal punishment for all children should be stopped. If your child goes to a school that practices corporal punishment, take them out, place them in a program where they are more protected. If you spank your child than all I can say is SHAME ON YOU, YOU ARE A LAZY GOOD FOR NOTHING PARENT.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 12, 2012:
Now when I look back, they are learning experiences for me. As a new parent I know how much damage it can do - not just at that moment of spanking but years afterwards as well.
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on June 11, 2012:
Sorry you have those bad memories, jpcmc. Take care.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 11, 2012:
In my time it was the leather belt. from time to time i got lucky enough to get rubber slippers spanking. It was still painful but not as bad as the belt. I really don't like remembering those times. :(
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on June 05, 2012:
Hi, webclinician. Excellent point! Thanks for bringing that up about the elderly.
webclinician from Stoke on Trent on June 04, 2012:
At the end of the day, children learn what we show them. They grow up the way we lay foundation on them.
When we grow older, with an old body and a child's mind...do we need spanking then? Hopefully my children won't give me one as I trained them to use reasoning rather than violence.
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on May 22, 2012:
Hi, Shae. Welcome to HubPages! I am sure that you are a wonderful mom to your 6, wait...it will be 7 children! I used to keep the frustration in and maybe with some lack of sleep thrown in there, I would burst and yell too. I don't do it anymore, though. I think I made some time for myself and then had more patience. Still learning as I go and the kids teach us so much.
Shae on May 21, 2012:
I have truly enjoye reading this article! I myself am a yeller... I want nothing more than to learn how to keep my cool and STOP yelling at my children! That's what brought me to hubpages.com!!! Through prayer and commitment I WILL SUCCEED!! I love all my children... Ages 15months 3,9,11,15,17 & one due June 39th' I want my kids to live me and remember me as a good mom not as the mom that did nothing but yell all the time! Thanks Hub!
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on February 20, 2012:
Thanks, teaches12345! You are right. Verbal abuse leaves marks as well. That leadership bond is hard to master for some, and kids are different, but yes, it is the best way to go.
Dianna Mendez on February 05, 2012:
Interesting topic and one that many parents answer differently. As a former Child Care Director of a large center I saw many different forms of parental discipline. Some verbal reprimands were quite severe and harmed the child more than a spanking. However, I agree with you that we should remember to guide with care and lead children to positive character choices. Sometimes, if you have that respect and bond, you can talk to a child and it is enough. Great hub and voted up!
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on January 10, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by, Kelley. Fear can be a dangerous thing. Take care.
kelleyward on January 05, 2012:
I don't spank my boys because it isn't right for me. I don't think anything productive in life comes through fear. Thanks for the great hub!
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on January 03, 2012:
Thanks, Megan! It is a controversial issue, but I just wanted to put these questions out there for people to ponder.
meganlsmith3 from Texas on January 03, 2012:
I like this hub because it gives people a lot to think about. You did a great job making your point and refuting the arguments made for spanking. Very well done!
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on January 03, 2012:
Thanks for reading and commenting, Green Art. I think if more people heard your voice, or mine, and seriously looked at the psychological and emotional effect, we would all be on the same page - against spanking.
Laura Ross on January 03, 2012:
I did NOT spank my children or ever felt the need to do so. I wanted them to feel safe and not afraid in their own home like I was growing up in mine. I have a loving, caring relationship with my children and feel that would not be the case if I had spanked them.
To discipline means to teach, not slap, whip, punch, kick, or choke. The problem with spanking is it doesn't teach a child anything but shame and fear. The reason for the spanking is often forgotten after the first hit. Some spankings turn into all out beatings because the person doing the spanking has lost control. I grew up in a household where spanking was common practice along with slaps, hair pulling and verbal abuse. I felt alone, humiliated, ugly, and frightened of my own mother for many years.
Thank you for writing such an informative hub on the subject of spanking.
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on January 02, 2012:
Hi, sarahgaden. Yes, there is a very thin line there. Is hitting your child abuse? I had to go back and add a blip about the Texas family law judge whose vicious "spanking" of his teen daughter was caught on video. You never can tell what goes on behind closed doors.
sarahgaden from Massachusetts on January 02, 2012:
Interesting article. While I believe most parents who spank are not abusing their children, it does raise a lot of questions of where do you draw the line? Personally, it makes no sense to me to spank a kid when you are supposed to teach them not to hit others. Spanking, however mild, is too much like hitting for them not to get confused. We are better off with other methods like timeouts.
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on January 02, 2012:
tsarnaudova, thank you for letting us know how it is in your country. I agree that the only place you can draw the line regarding spanking is to not do it at all.
StephanieBCrosby, thank you for your comments and story how corporal punishment can go very wrong. We had a weighted vest that did help my son at times he was uncomfortable. After occupational therapy, he is doing much better. Thanks for the tip.
KevinC9998, I love what you said about Nobel Peace prize winner versus bank robber!! Growing up in the Bible belt South in the 70's, I too was spanked. I do sometimes wonder about how I may have turned out differently, but more so about how my family relationships would have been better. Thanks for the vote!
KevinC9998 on January 02, 2012:
I found this to be a very Interesting hub. I particularly like the common defense examples especially, “I was spanked and I turned out ok”. I would be inclined to use that argument myself having been spanked and subsequently growing up and having a decent job, owning a home and raising my own family. However, I began to think, how do we know we turned out ok? I mean, what if spanking truly deprived or prohibited us in some unknown manner? For all I know I may have been a Nobel Peace prize winner if I were not spanked as a child! Then again, I may have been a bank robber. Makes you wonder. Great hub and voted up, Kevin
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on January 02, 2012:
Interesting hub ChaplinSpeaks. I know I grew up with spankings and my mother did not need much of a reason. Growing up people could not understand why I was so anal about certain things. Once they found out my mom was a single mother of two daughters and military, there were no more questions. I know I will not take the route my mother did, but I also know my children need discipline.
Parents do need to know where to draw the line. My family once lived with another family, another single mother but she had three sons. The youngest was getting beat rather frequently, belt, stick, whatever was in reach basically. But one time it went so far (all because he got his new shirt a little dirty after he was told not to) that when he emerged from the room beaten, his shirt was literally beat off of his back: there was only the collar and one strip hanging from the collar. No more new shirt.
Obviously if a child has a disorder like your son, sometimes something like a heated and weighted blanket is the better route, so they feel safe and secure.
Tsvetana Kodjabasheva from Sofia, Bulgaria on January 01, 2012:
You bring quite important and complicated issue here. And it is valid not only in US. Around here spanking is also a question of discussion, whether it must remain parents' personal decision or society should make a stand about it. Personally, I find your hub dramatically important for our children and for us as parents and as humans at the same time. It is clear to me that as I can't draw the line nowhere between the young or old, little or more, when to or not to spank or who to or not to spank, I should never raise my hand against my children.
Voted up, awesome, shared.
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on January 01, 2012:
Vocalcoach recently asked a question about spanking on HubPages. I found out the hard way that when you answer a question, you only get one shot! I gave a rather short answer and wanted to go back and elaborate. BUT, you can only give one answer. Anyway, thanks for the Hub idea, vocalcoach.