Proper Spanking is Not Abuse

Those who oppose corporal punishment will often describe spanking as “violence carried out by a bigger stronger person against a younger weaker person.” Having captured most of the battleground by this broad-sweeping definition, the rest of the spanking debate is seized easily by calling for the end of all abuse. The bulk of their writing energy is spent persuading governments and social workers to be more aggressive to stop the wide-spread child abuse occurring within the family.

Many people have a preconceived notion that physical discipline is harmful because most literature that opposes spanking is not only methodologically flawed, but also emotionally charged. This can be dangerous because playing on emotions makes it easier to influence people, especially when the subject is as moving as our children.

For instance, Dr. Straus [a prominent anti-spanking activist] tirelessly manipulates his readers just by using the word “hitting” instead of “spanking.” He never uses this tactic when his research links harmful effects to grounding, privilege removal, or allowance removal. Dr. Straus never refers to grounding as “imprisonment” or withholding allowance as “robbing.” Indeed, he doesn’t seem to mention at all that his research indicates such punishments are more harmful than spanking.”1

However, proper spanking is not abuse, nor is it violence. By not giving the due attention to this important point, a grave error is made.

It is erroneous logic to define spanking as the violent act of a “bigger strong person against a younger weaker person.” It leaves one important factor out of the equation: authority. Apply such faulty logic to the definition of the use of force by police officers and you will arrive at the same wrong conclusion. Police officers should surrender their billy clubs, judges must close their prisons, and soldiers must park their tanks. These agents fit the same description — someone bigger and stronger exercising physical force against someone smaller and weaker — so by the same logic, they are abusive.

Such a definition fails to acknowledge the presence of rightful authority and compelling interest. Policemen have rightful authority to carry guns to protect the citizens. They do not do it because they are bigger and stronger.

Likewise, parents have authority to spank their children to correct their wrongdoing. They do not do it because they are bigger and stronger. Parents are given authority by God, as well as the responsibility, to train their children to do good to others and to punish wrongdoing. Parental authority is established in natural law, the laws of most civilized nations, and in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children have the right to parents that will care for their needs, without unnecessary intervention from governments.

Proper chastisement is judicious, authoritative, and corrective. It is the effective result of God-given parental authority being exercised to investigate, judge, and punish wrongdoing in the proper jurisdiction of this authority, which is the family. Proper parental authority will teach children to recognize and obey policemen and all other authority. And proper state authority will support the decisions and actions of good parents.

What about the cases of true abuse? What if parents are abusive and the children need protection? Yes, sadly, there are cases of parental violence and child abuse, especially as undisciplined children become more unruly and tax the patience of their parents. The government then has the appalling and difficult task of protecting the children from the abusive parents.

A similar problem occurs for police when they come under scrutiny. With the popularity of cheap video cameras, the police have been under increasing surveillance and the public has seen video footage of alleged police brutality. These situations are also appalling and difficult. Often the police are provoked by revolt or resistance, and then the cameras start rolling afterward, when the billy clubs start swinging. Sometimes the force is excessive; sometimes it is justified.

Good citizens should remember that police exist to protect them and punish wrongdoers. The police force should be supported, not abolished because of the rare cases of abuse. We would commit a great error to disband the police or to take away their weapons, as if taking their guns would somehow reduce violence in society. And governments would commit a similar error to undermine the authority of parents by equating spanking with abuse, thereby making it illegal.

What is Truth?

Sometimes journalists step down from the role of reporting the news to making or influencing the news. When they do not inform their audience of this, it is considered unethical behavior. Fundamental dishonesty, you could say. Yet such unethical behavior is not limited to journalists. It can and does motivate the “research scientists” that all look to in this modern age for truth. But what if the “truth” they offer is not founded on the evidence they gather? Is it then science? No, it is propaganda.

Scientists are to begin their research with an hypothesis, whose validity or truth is determined by the evidence. But what if they begin with an assumption instead, which “guides” their research, as Dr. Straus did his?

The assumption that guided this research is that corporal punishment, by itself, has harmful psychological side effects for children and hurts the society as a whole.2

Such prejudice (pre-judgment) makes any claim to scientific objectivity both false and even worse, deceptive. Diana Baumrind of U.C. Berkeley, a noted critic of deception in psychological research, writes:

When a scientist begins his or her research with an already formed conclusion, as Straus does, it is likely that the initial bias will be confirmed, not amended or rejected by the ensuing evidence.3

In fact, the very trust people have in scientists as a source of objective truth is violated. Objective science is no longer being done, and the need for “research” removed:

When value commitments include (as Straus says his does) willingness to “ignore equivocal or inconsistent evidence” or to put a “spin” on one’s representation of one’s own findings then one’s deep value commitments are indeed incompatible with objective science. To quote Straus, when one “knows their theory is right” one “(up to a certain point) may ignore equivocal or inconsistent findings.” Why bother to collect data at all when one knows from the start one’s theory is right?4

Why indeed? Facts, data, evidence, might get in the way, as the 34 years of life in Sweden since the spanking ban might get in the way — years marked by incredible increases in violence: children against parents, children against children, youth against youth, and parents against children. These are facts, culminating (for now) in the May 2013 riots in Stockholm by the undisciplined, out of control, and bitterly angry youth of that nation.

In spite of this, nothing has changed in the campaign against spanking, of which the media plays the crucial role. In it, the entire subject of child discipline is always framed within two very narrow endpoints. The one to the left: “Corporal punishment is always bad,” and the one to the right: “there’s no real evidence it does any good.” Any report passed on to the public, and even legislators and judges, is squeezed through this filter. Just read the news and see. A diet of such deliberately slanted “information” would convince most reasonable people that discipline was wrong, wouldn’t it?

But most reasonable people do not realize they are thinking within a realm of “acceptable opinion” that is quite narrow — and set up by others. Such “debate” is not free, and the desired results — here, that spanking is bad — are not actually subject to proof or disproof. Official dogma is being inculcated, in other words. Instead of preachers we have newsmen and reporters, and instead of theologians we have research scientists. But only the names have changed; the roles remain the same.

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum... That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.5

Whether the presuppositions are religious or secular, the end result, for those who will not conform, is persecution for cause of conscience. The focus in studying history is often given to rights, especially how this person or that people “stood up for their rights.” In our times, the focus should be on how people forfeited their rights through passivity — through not exercising them. Being deathly afraid to stand out of the crowd, to be seen as unhappy with or disapproving of the status quo, they are left as clay in the hands of today’s opinion makers.

It is probably why the prophet Daniel used the word clay to describe the religious system of the last days uniting with the iron of the state. Clay can be molded to any shape, glazed to a lustrous appearance, and finally hardened to a permanent, unalterable, and unfeeling condition.

  • 1. Fuller, Jason, “The Science and Statistics Behind Spanking Suggest that Laws Allowing Corporal Punishment are in the Best Interests of the Child” (March 11, 2009), Akron Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 243, 2009, available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1357669.
  • 2. M. Straus, Beating the Devil out of Them (1994), p. xii.
  • 3. D. Baumrind, “DOES CAUSALLY RELEVANT RESEARCH SUPPORT A BLANKET INJUNCTION AGAINST DISCIPLINARY SPANKING BY PARENTS?” Address at the 109th Convention of the American Psychological Association, 2001, p. 13.
  • 4. Letter of Baumrind to Robert Larzelere, Ph.D., University of Nebraska Medical Center (December 1, 1998), available at http://fractaldomains.com/devpsych/baumrind.htm.
  • 5. N. Chomsky, The Common Good (Odonian Press, 1998),

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