Spanking clearly not best option
By Rick Shefchik, Knight Ridder Newspapers
July 13, 2004
In their infinite, stodgy wisdom, lawmakers in Great Britain voted last week not to ban spanking.

And while I think I see their point - why create a new class of criminals by outlawing a child-rearing technique many believe in and will practice anyway? - I also believe spanking is unnecessary.

One reason not to spank your kids can be discovered if you do a Google search for Britain and spanking, as I did after the ruling was announced. Think such a search is going to lead you to international news organizations, or the official Web site of the British House of Lords?

It may, eventually, but only after you've waded through listing after listing of fetish sites.

It seems that those who get a kick out of spanking like to chat with fellow spanking enthusiasts. Whether or not you believe in laying your child across your lap and giving him or her a couple of well-meaning whacks on the bum when they've misbehaved, these Web sites can't be seen as a positive outgrowth of parental discipline.

Scientifically put, these people are nut jobs.

Something about the punishment that was inflicted upon them when they were children has caused them to obsess about it into adulthood. And while I'm sure they are an incredibly narrow percentage of all the adults who were spanked as children, they are taking up too much Internet bandwidth as it is. We don't need more of them.

So how do we phase out spanking without passing laws against it - as they've done in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Austria, and other countries where the physical punishment of children is illegal?

The short answer, I suppose, is that we never will eliminate spanking, no matter what we do. But as civilization evolves, it ought to be possible to make more parents understand that whacking your kid on the butt is a last resort which reflects more on your lack of creativity and energy as a parent than on your child's misbehavior.

Think about it: When you spank your kids, the message they're getting is, "Dad couldn't think of anything more original or specific to the situation, so now I'm getting paddled."

I believe kids care more about their parents' approval than they fear their parents' hand - as long as the hand isn't a fist. (And if it does become a fist, even the British have laws to punish parents who physically batter their children.)

I believe kids are more deeply affected by losing a privilege for misbehavior than they are by a few seconds across the knee.

And if, as a parent, your first resort is to spank, what's your backup plan?

Sometimes it doesn't stop there. Though the overwhelming majority of parents know when they've gone far enough, some don't. In rare - but not rare enough - cases, that can turn into genuine abuse.

So while the House of Lords continues to struggle between the hands-off policy of their European neighbors and their own nation's tradition of measured corporal punishment, individual parents can agree on a law for their own home.

And that law should be: no spanking. There are other, better ways.

(Rick Shefchik writes for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Write to him at the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 345 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55101. Send e-mail to him at

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