Why Children Should Not Be Spanked

No parent should get away with hitting their child with a closed fist. This can easily cause serious psychological and physical injury and should rightly be considered child abuse. Corporal punishment in schools is also illegal in the UK (since 1998), meaning that no teacher is allowed to punish pupils with the use of physical force. Whether an open palm or closed fist is used is irrelevant – caning is illegal, so is spanking or grabbing a child by the ear. Corporal punishment is defined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.” Spanking can be defined as: hitting a child on the bottom with an open hand.

In the UK, while school corporal punishment is illegal, parental corporal punishment is legal. Parents are allowed to spank their child in the home or in public, although doing so in public will probably result in some public scrutiny and criticism. However, it is hard to decide when corporal punishment turns into child abuse. A child may be spanked so hard that they are left injured or emotionally scarred – a court judge may see this as evidence of abuse. Some may even argue that any sort of corporal punishment is child abuse. No doubt it is worse to slap a child in the face than on the arm or their behind, but should we still not oppose any act of violence inflicted on a child by an adult? Some countries have taken a firm opposition to any sort of corporal punishment, whether it takes place in schools or in the home. Most of Europe has outlawed all forms of corporal punishment, as well as countries such as Venezuela, Uruguay, New Zealand, Tunisia, Kenya and Albania.

Green = countries in Europe where corporal punishment is illegal at schools and in the home.
Green = countries in Europe where corporal punishment is illegal at schools and in the home. Blue = prohibited in schools only.

One of the experts on this issue, Dr Elizabeth Gershoff, wrote an article entitled, Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children (2013). By referring to a compilation of evidence, she concludes that corporal punishment is ineffective, harmful and should be banned as a matter of human rights. And it is bad for all kids. It does not teach children how to behave positively in a particular situation, only how not to behave if there is a threat of punishment. In addition, spanking destroys the relationship of trust that should exist between a child and their parents. A child will build a self-protective shield around themselves in regards to relationships in general.

Here is a list of peer-reviewed research on the issue, most of which proposes that spanking is ineffective because it leads to more spanking in the future. Therefore, instead of creating obedient children, spanking creates children who are disobedient and non-compliant. Moreover, such spanking is harmful in that it can contribute to a variety of behavioural, developmental and cognitive issues later in life. One notable negative change is an increased level of aggression, which can lead to a tendency to engage in delinquent or criminal behaviour. Spanking has also been linked to child abuse and physical health problems later in life.

The increase in aggressive behaviour should not be surprising. A young child’s mind is extremely sensitive and we know that a child has a tendency to repeat any violence or abuse inflicted on them. When a child looks up to their parent as a provider of rules to live by (which is natural) they will immediately interpret their violent actions as a normal way to respond to an undesirable situation. In this disturbing documentary, we find out that Beth’s desire to harm her own family resulted from the sexual abuse that she suffered as a young child.

Stefan Molyneux promotes 'philosophical parenting' instead of spanking.
Stefan Molyneux promotes ‘philosophical parenting’ instead of spanking.

Gershoff also had an article published in Psychology, Public Policy & Law, along with Susan Bitensky, from Michigan State University, College of Law. In it both authors argue that corporal punishment should be opposed in all areas as a human rights and ethical issue. They argue that if child abuse is to be seriously tackled, then corporal punishment must be banned. As it stands, there is currently some confusion and inconsistency in the law – why do we have a legal system that permits some form of violence against children and not others? Furthermore, it was the removal of a husband’s right to hit ‘his’ wife that led to a substantial decrease in cases of domestic violence against women. Likewise, the right of a parent to spank their child should be abandoned. In all likelihood, the ban on corporal punishment would lead to lower rates of domestic child abuse. The US, for example, has one of the worst rates of child abuse in the world and domestic corporal punishment is legal, while school corporal punishment is still legal in many States.

The philosopher, blogger and host of Freedomain Radio, Stefan Molyneux, is a non-spanking parent who believes that ‘philosophical parenting’ is a much healthier alternative to corporal punishment. In dealing with toddler tantrums, he believes that situations of conflict with the child come down to a lack of preparation and it is the duty of the parent to resolve that conflict in a rational and constructive way. Molyneux contends that any repetitive behaviour displayed by the child that annoys the parent is caused by a failure to instil the correct behaviour and a lack of consistency on the parent’s part. Getting a child to commit to promises and using skills of negotiation are a more effective, mature and ethical way to prevent conflicts or resolve them if any arise.

Molyneux is an advocate of the non-aggression principle which asserts that aggression, in any sphere of activity, cannot be justified. He considers spanking a violation of this principle. We can define aggression as a behaviour which is hostile, forceful or attacking and it can be expressed physically, verbally or non-verbally (through facial expressions and body language). Molyneux probably presents a very idealistic method of parenting; after all, it must be extremely stressful to deal with a tantrum in a calm and collected manner. But this doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t do their best to achieve this ideal. If some tantrums escalate to the point where the child attacks or hits the parent, I see no problem in using physical restraint, if necessary. Physical violence and aggression, on the other hand, should be avoided at all costs.


  1. Less crime and out of control juvenile delinquent behavior when this was still the norm.If you got it at school, you had to explain to your parents why, and if they agreed, you got it again from them. Even as a Kid I noticed that parents that did not do this, all their kids were the bullies, gang-members and sex-fiends. Corporal punishment, scientifically applied, makes society safer for everyone. You don’t have to be Einstien to figure it out, just a realist!!!….

  2. Spanking never did me any harm as a child. My only regret is now that I have to pay to enjoy the pleasure of two glowing arse cheeks……Oooh matron!

    • For a good time call “Susan” on 01366-377658 or 07867-531288 ask for “Derek” and “kiddy porn”. Or call in at 9 Lynn Rd, PE38.

  3. I love Stefan Molyneux – he is a very clever and entertaining guy and I enjoy his shows immensely. (He’s really NOT a Lefty, by the way.) But I think he’s got this one wrong. However, the balance of when to smack and when not to is very fine. The question is: “will enough harm be prevented by the ban to counter the damage created by the ban.” I doubt it. Since the sort of people who smack too often, too hard or for the wrong reasons aren’t going to care much about the ban anyway.

  4. Spanking =/= child abuse

    I get the impression that you view any form of physical discipline as the parent lashing out on a defenseless child. Do it properly and there is not a problem, that is use a three strikes method like “Ask, Tell, Hit” then go on to explain why.

    For the record I should say that I’m a student without any children (thank god), and I’m coming from the view point of: “I-was-a-little-shit-when-I-was-young-and-would-have-jammed-a-fork-into-a-live-wall-socket-had-my-mother-not-smacked-me-above-the-calf-every-time-I-went-near-one-which-eventually-led-me-to-know-live-wall-sockets = pain”,

    Arguably it’s only through spanking that I’m still here.

    And just because a negative reinforcement method is used doesn’t mean positive ones cannot be used as well! It’s all situational!

  5. Another pair of sopping wet looney lefty intellectuals determined to remove your right to raise you own kids as you think fit, and instead give yet more power to the state to tell you what to do. People like this are responsible for the 1000’s of useless ASBO’s issued in a vain attempt to control out-of-control undisciplined amoral children and youths.

    When I was a lad, the three threats that kept on the straight an narrow “Ill tell your dad”, “Ill tell your teacher” and “ill tell a policeman”, are now all meaningless due to activities of cretins like this who gave children ‘rights’ that , being children, they could not execise properly, due to the fact there were children and could not accept the responsibility for those rights and the obligation not to abuse those rights. Any street savvy kid these days gets there own way, and gets away with outrageous antisocial and criminal behavior with the simple threat “ill tell Social Services of you”

    You are a pair of morons, Molyneux and Gershoff, andy ou have done more damage to kids with your idiot looney lefty cultural marxist views than any good spanking did.

    • Well said Richard. These lefty’s are the reason we have kids with no ambition, happy to vegitate on the dole. When the do-gooders allow lazy no-hopers the edge, they take it and increase. We have produced sullen, argumentative brain-washed morons!

    • I can appreciate your concern about giving the State more power, however if you have any evidence that spanking leads to less delinquency I’d like to see it. As I point out in the article, all the evidence suggests that spanking leads to a greater tendency for delinquent behaviour.

      Also, Molyneux is a self-avowed anarcho-capitalist, so I don’t know where you get the idea that he has “lefty cultural marxist views”.


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