Making Sense of Physical Punishment of Children


The question of physical punishment of children has been prominent in the news lately, particularly on the sports pages.

NFL star, Adrian Peterson, took a ‘switch” (the thin part of a tree branch) and beat his son for some misbehaviour. As a result he was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child, his 4-year-old son. And the media ran with the story.

From my quick reads of the Linked In groups and Facebook comments and news stories the majority opinion is that  not only was his action over the top, it is simply not appropriate in this day and age to physically punish a child. We know better and should do better.

Ironically, I have just launched a new website on the topic and was planning on inviting you to come for a visit. In this e-zine I am going to talk to you about why this is an important issue for me and suggest you come and visit my new website.

But first and quick note on my upcoming travels.

Kathy Will Be in Ontario

If you are looking for a quality parenting workshop in your workplace, a professional development event for your staff who work with children and families, or a workshop for parents in your community and you are based in Ontario, I have good news. I will be in Ottawa in mid October and in Toronto in early December. You win because you get a quality event with no travel costs and I win because I get to work with you and your people.

I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.

And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:

P.U.R.E. Parenting.

P — is a parenting plan

U — is unconditional love

R — is respect for your child as he is right now

E — is encouragement

These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.

Every child has the right to be safe from harm

 For the past 25 years I have been actively involved in advocating an end to physical punishment of children. But it has seemed that this issue has sat on the corner of my desk.

But I am now committed to putting more time and energy into getting the question on the national agenda. As of August, 2014, 39 countries have prohibited physical punishment of children. Canada is not one of them, despite the fact that Canada has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a national disgrace.

Enough discussion about when hitting becomes abuse. Enough of being polite when people say they think kids need to be hit. Enough of arguing when and on what body parts and what age it’s okay to smack a child. Enough of hearing, ‘but I was hit and I turned out OK’. It is time to take a stand, and to do so publically.

Why Does This Matter?

It matters because a child could be seriously injured. It also teaches children that hitting people is the right way to get them to do what you want. Spanking as discipline also replaces safer, positive and more effective ways of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined teens and adults.

The Research is Clear

Research tells us that spanking can lead to impaired parent-child relationships, poorer child mental health, child aggression and weaker internalization of moral standards and delinquency.

These often carry on into adulthood.

Child Discipline is the Issue

The bottom-line is that spanking simply doesn’t work. If the child does change his behavior it is due to fear of pain.

Discipline is not about, pain, revenge or retribution. These are forms of punishment and do not teach children; they simply control kids. It also does not respect a child’s right to be safe from harm.

Discipline is training, guiding, leading and teaching children to make good decisions, and that their decisions have consequences for them and for others.

Discipline is active and ongoing as our children grow and develop. The absence of physical punishment does not mean the absence of child discipline.

Two Prongs to the Issue

It is essential that parents learn that hitting kids is counter-productive and that there are many better and more effective ways to raise our children to become self-disciplined and capable young men and women. To that end we are producing a website which will offer links to quality positive parenting sites. We are also contemplating a national public awareness campaign on this issue.

There is also a legal issue that needs to be addressed. Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada says:

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.
R.S.C., 1985, c .C-4

This section has been adjusted as a result of constitutional court challenges. Today, a child cannot be hit if he is under the age of two or over the age of 12, and he cannot be hit with an object or around the head. This section is an anomaly in the code as it is permissive rather than restrictive. It is not necessary and needs to be eliminated.

What you can do?

Sign on as a supporter on the website. Call Kathy if you want to do more.

Vive la Différence

There are so many times when we are raising our kids when we note their differences.  My mini guide e-book , Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments addresses this.

I have always known that each child is a unique individual. I looked at my two who are as different as night and day. Then I consider my siblings and we are a textbook example of different.

But, now I have three grandchildren, all the same age and the differences from their births has been striking.

The result is the e-parenting mini guide, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments.  The guide is available on my parenting today website.






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One Response to Making Sense of Physical Punishment of Children

  1. It’s an uphill battle where I live, but we have to press on. So many parents.. most in fact… are confused. They will say immediately that punishment worked fine on THEM because look “I turned out alright, didn’t I?”

    And the unwavering lesson I try to help them out with is that their parents loved them deeply and actually tried a hundred different things while raising them. With so many variables, it takes systematic research methods to actually determined which ones actually made the desired impact.

    Which leads to another discussiona about desired impact. Punishment had some other fall-outs too. The bottom line is that compliance might be a (very) short-term goal, and for that, punishment is fine. But study after study after study has told us beyond a shadow of doubt that it has NO positive impact whatsoever… only negative ones. And by the way, deep LEARNING is probably the most sought-after positive, long-term impact we seek as parents.

    One of these days we will turn the tide and get the world to understand that physical punishment has zero returns in terms of learning that children will take with them into adulthood. Whatever they learned, you can bet it was from one or more of the many other methods all parents used.

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