Monday, May 23, 2011

When Am I Allowed To Hit Someone?

It seems like this is what our society tells us about hitting:

I don't think a child EVER deserves to be hit. But laws in the United States allow parents (in all states) and teachers (in 19 states) to use corporal punishment on children.

Why do we allow this?

Why are children not protected from being hit by adults, by their own parents and teachers?


  1. I love flow charts, but damn is this one depressing.

  2. I like this. It makes sense to me. Give Thanks!

  3. I did not know that! In my home country it was banned in 1979, the year I was born, which is ages ago. Is there a strong movement to ban it?

  4. This really puts things in perspective!

  5. can i use the diagram in my blog. I will link it back to you. Thanks.

  6. @azurah, Sure!

    @freechildhood, Yes, it is depressing. It breaks my heart to think of little, defenseless kids being afraid of their parents, and having no legal recourse at all.

    @brave new life, There is not really a strong movement to ban it for parents. A recent poll says 65% of people think spanking by parents is just fine. There is a stronger movement to ban it in schools. New Mexico recently passed a ban, and hopefully other states will follow soon. But then there are states like Texas in which the school doesn't even have to have parental consent in order to spank a child. That's just messed up!!

  7. The problem with this chart is that it doesn't differentiate between spanking and hitting. And yes, they are two very different thing.

    No child for ever be hit, for any reason. But spanking is a time-honored technique that works.

    Then again, in some states, not only is spanking illegal, but so is making a child stand in a corner, sending them to bed without supper, confining to their room, and even (yes, I am serious) taking away their cell phone !

    And we wonder why kids are the way they are today?

  8. @James, What is the difference between spanking and hitting?

    And in what states is it illegal for a parent to spank his child? Do you have a source for that information? I would love to see it.

    Also, spanking may be time-honored, but it does not work, unless you mean it makes kids more aggressive. Here is a link for you about that:

  9. great! Putting this in next week's sunday surf!

  10. As a parent who does practice non-abusive discipline, I still see spanking or slapping the hand a hard punishment that has a place (last resort and thoughtfully executed). Never on small children (around 1, give or take, the hand slap gives the idea of pain if it can't be taught another way). On an older child (where right and wrong is understood and cognition comprehends consequence), spanking should be the LAST resort, whereby it's known and feared, thus realized that their actions have meant the worst consequence. It's the lack of patience and willingness to TEACH, on the part of parents, which causes abusive behavior. I would rather my child learn to fear a spanking and realize horrible consequences at my controlled and thoughtful hand, than to get into a situation where police or other authoritarians, or gangs, exact worse punishments.

  11. @mamapoekie, Thank you!

    @Hollie, I understand you think spanking is OK as a last resort. It's interesting though, when you read research on spanking, that the practice actually leads to more problems than anything else. It is good to be thoughtful about these decisions. I prefer to start with the assumption that no child ever deserves a disciplinary spank. That makes me always have to think of another way to help my child through a situation. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Ugh, this flow chart really shows what's wrong with this country :(

    Speaking from MO, it's illegal for an educator to hit a child without the parent specifically requesting it in this state. I watched my friend get paddled in third grade and I was so afraid of the principal after that that I kicked him and ran out into a thunderstorm to hide on top of the monkey bars where no one could safely reach me until my mom got there to save me. And I was TERRIFIED of thunder storms!

  13. WOW, great chart! Being from Canada, physical punishment is not allowed in our schools here (thank goodness!) though plenty of parents still spank. I love reading posts from like-minded peaceful parents, thanks for this!

  14. I've heard people say that spanking isn't hitting, but it is (by definition). It is a form of hitting. There is ZERO logic or sense in the statement that spanking isn't hitting. SPANKING IS HITTING. That is not an opinion or value judgment. It doesn't make it wrong or right, doesn't mean it's abusive or not, it's just a statement of fact.

  15. @Heather, I would imagine that was a terrifying experience for you. No child should have to feel terror at the hands of anyone. It's sick. I hope I live to see the end of state-supported corporal punishment.

    @Anons, Spanking is definitely hitting. And hitting another person (unless in true self-defense) is wrong.

  16. I don't really think it's right to hit anyone. ESPECIALLY children because they're so young and they're still learning. You can't even really hit a puppy that's learning not to pee on the floor.

  17. The whole point of the chart is to point out that there is only ONE hitting that "we" think is OK and that is spanking. It is still hitting, and there are ALWAYS other alternatives. I was a spanker. I still sometimes resort to a swat with my toddler, out of my own frustration & lack of tools. I would *never* allow one of my children to hit with the excuse that they couldn't think of anything else to do, so why would I allow that in myself?! I'm a work in progress, and it comes less & less. If children "turn out OK", it is *despite* the spanking and *because of* the other, healthier tools their parents used in discipline.

    Let's just keep this in mind when we equate not-spanking with not-withholding-a-cell-phone -- NOT SPANKING DOES NOT EQUAL NOT DISCIPLINING!!! There area couple of no-discipline circles out there, but PLEASE do not think that everyone who feels spanking is harmful is the type to just let their kids run around willy-nilly never correcting them at all for fear of hurting their feelings. We just manage to figure out ways to do so with respect & love.

  18. @Angela and polygonia, Thank you!

    @Gem, Thank you for sharing. You are brave to admit to your mistakes, and I admire anyone who can fight the urge to hit her children. We can aim to treat our children with love and respect.

  19. The problem with "research" is that it is almost always done with an agenda. Yes, that's right, every area of research is prone to research bias by how the research is conducted to even the hypothesis being proposed. Every year thousands of "peer reviewed research" articles are rescinded or contradicted in every discipline known to man. When you read spanking research you have to ask: How is spanking defined? Is it always defined as "out of anger"? Is it ever defined as a loving, patiently explained discipline? Is there EVER any differentiation? How was the research conducted? Was it based on parent reporting? If so, how were questions framed? Who is doing the research and what is their agenda and who funds them?

  20. @Anon, I only bring up "research" to counter anyone who brings up a study in which spanking is shown to be effective. Surely, one can find research to support either side of the issue. The good thing is, I do not rely on any research whatsoever in my condemnation of spanking as a practice. In my mind, it is simply a matter of human rights. I wouldn't hit anyone else, so why would I hit my child who I love more than anyone else in the world? Why is it ok for parents (and some teachers) to hit children? In my mind, it's just not.

  21. THANK GOODNESS I LIVE IN CANADA!! I feel horrible for all of the kids in the US who have to not only fear abuse at home but at school as well. What a horrible way to grow up... and be taught that when someone is doing something you don't like, it's ok to hit them. I hate any and all types of physical and mental abuse towards kids and I don't think it is EVER justified. There are always better ways and if you love your kids enough and have enough of a brain you will figure them out. I HOPE THAT CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IS BANNED FOR GOOD ALL OVER THE WORLD!! ~ Jessy Mills, BC, Canada

  22. @Jessy, Thank you for the comment. I look forward to a day when spanking is no longer socially acceptable here in the US as well.

  23. My parents really didn't use other methods of discipline other than spanking(that worked). I've also had the wooden spoon. I got "grounded" but that never really worked. None of my parents' punishments ever really worked (i.e. removal of privileges, removal of precious things, stern talking tos, bribes, rewards(not really a punishment, but a tool nonetheless.)) Spanking...I definitely feared that and it was definite motivation to do whatever it was I was or wasn't doing that needed correcting. And I wasn't exactly a 'willful' child that needed constant spanking or anything like that. I just got bad grades, never did my homework, and the normal childhood/teenage rebellion, etc.

    I do understand where you're coming from with the whole "you shouldn't hit another person, especially your child." But children DO turn out all right with spankings and not just because of their parents "other" disciplinary measures. I'm not saying I encourage spanking, but I will admit that I spank my children as a form of punishment. We don't believe in time-out. We do talk to our children and explain what is they're doing wrong and spanking is a last resort. I hate spanking my children, but it is what I think works when I feel I have run out of all other options.

    I have also seen a child who's parents use "everything" but spanking and their child is willful, disobedient and malicious and is just a downright terror. This little kid bit my two kids, unprovoked, a total of 15 times. Obviously..."everything" isn't working. Personally, I am of the opinion that the kid needs a good swat on the behind to know that what she did was NOT okay. (And I'm not implying either that the kid needed a spanking after the first bite or even the third, but FIFTEEN is a little excessive.)

  24. I went through foster care training. They successfully got the option of spanking out of my head.

    My then 2-year-old daughter pushed by 6-month-old son down the stairs. He was not hurt. I told her not to do it again. When I talked to my dad about the event he told me to spank that kid. He told me his rationale too. The kid is young and you need to get its attention quickly. Spanking definitely gets the attention quickly and seems to focus the kid a bit too.

    For about two years, I used a light swat as an attention grabbing method, when my kids committed safety offenses, like running out into the middle of the street.

    I have to say, it worked. I never had to use a swat on the same offense.

    I'm not talking about beatings here. I'm talking about swats on diaper clad behinds. I'm pretty sure these swats didn't actually hurt. I think they surprised the kids.

    If I had to cope with a toddler again, I'd still swat. I haven't done this for years, because my kids are old enough that "you just lost your computer privileges for two days" works faster and more efficiently.

    I think spanking is okay,
    - in safety situations
    - with children that lack advanced mental facilities (that is, mentally equivalent to a toddler)
    - as long as you're not angry
    - as long as you pick a number, preferably 1, and only ever give that number of swats
    - are used to get attention
    - don't leave marks

    My husband didn't swat. He was generally angry in whatever situation he would use it, so he didn't use spanking. He didn't mind me doing it, because he knew I wasn't angry, only gave one swat, and only did this in safety situations.

  25. @Anonymous, I wrote a whole post in response to your comment. I encourage you to read it:

    @Gwen, If the hits you administer are not causing pain, then how do they work? I am not being rude, I really want to understand.

    Is there an age cut-off for a person with the "mental capacity of a toddler" where it stops being appropriate to spank? Curious to hear your thoughts...

  26. If you want to spank or hit your child, go ahead, but before you do, try to explain to your child that when Mommy disobeys she also gets hit, and that is ok. Otherwise, you only show your children they are second rate in the eyes of their parents and teach them that there is two sets of rules. One for those that rule and one for those that are ruled. The difference in these two classes are defined only by the willingness and abilty to use more violence than the other.

  27. Please add your voice to the National Campaign to End School Paddling of Students at

    Search "A Violent Education" for disturbing Facts.

    Free online resource "Plain Talk About Spanking" is available for all child caregivers at

  28. Go ahead. Try that 'no spanking' crap and see what happens. If someone knows there is no consequences for misbehaving, they will not respect the rules.

    ... and punishing in room/corner only works until they realize you have no power except your voice and threats.

    Why do people obey traffic law? Because they are afraid of punishment - a spanking in the form of fines or even imprisonment with violent offenders.

    If prison was nothing more than house arrest, people wouldn't fear it.

  29. @Anonymous, You say: "If someone knows there is no consequences for misbehaving, they will not respect the rules. "

    There are "consequences" when children hit each other, when children hit adults, when adults hit dogs, but not when parents hit their own children. That is a huge problem. Parents who hit are not respecting the rule that people should not hit other people. Spanking is hitting. Hitting is wrong (with the exception of true self-defense). Period.

  30. it is a proven fact that in cultures where they revere the children as opposed to dominating a child through physical force there is much more harmony, compassion and near nil violent crimes...
    case in point, the countries which have banned spanking... over the years their violent crime rates have PLUMMETED

    kudos on the chart... i love it!

  31. I was spanked as a child and it was the best thing that happened to me in regard to my learning manners ans proper behavior. If I acted out as a child, being put in a corner did not change my behavior; I sat in the corner thinking about how to not get caught next time. If my parents had a "talk" with me, I would lie or do whatever it took to appease them. The restriction of toys/fun activities did not work because I found something else to entertain myself.

    (Now, I haven't read other comments so I don't know if this has been touched on already, so I apologize if it has.)
    An important distinction when talking about spanking/swatting, though, is to never do it while visibly angry. My parents made sure to never spank me while visibly angry. Spanking was not associated with rage or anger in our household, but merely a transgression of mine. I did not get spanked frequently, but when I did something sufficiently bad I got spanked, and being spanked taught me to not do those same things again. Sometimes I didn't understand why things were really REALLY wrong, when explanations did not help, so spanking or swats to the rear did the explaining for me. Now don't get me wrong, I hated being spanked or getting swats. Hated it. But I come back to the point that my parents didn't spank me while visibly angry or upset. To this day I'm a very non violent person. I have gotten into fights unless protecting myself from getting robbed/mugged (I live ina not-so-great area)

    The only semi-exception to the rule was once when I snuck out of a movie at 3 years old and walked next door to a Star Trek convention to get presents for my dad. My dad, you see, has always been a huge Star Trek fan, so I wanted to surprise him with Star Trek gifts. My dad realized I had disappeared and searched until I was found. My dad was hysterical by the time he found me. My dad, angry and in tears, give me 1 swat on the rear. What I remember is that the swat wasn't what hurt the most, what hurt what that my father, my hero, had been brought to tears because I had scared him so much. At the same time, I do not believe the moment would have been as powerful if he hadn't given me a swat. The swat hammered home that I was never to wonder off like that.

    I go back in forth in my mind on whether I plan on spanking if I ever have children. I have a hard time imagining myself spanking my child, but at the same time a child's brain cannot process abstract concepts, so there are situations where I would probably be better served giving the child a few swats on the rear.

  32. Randomly passing through here, these types of discussions always catch my attention.

    Let's look at abstract concepts; a toddler plays and touches with everything in her reach. She reaches for an interesting object and mother slaps her hand and scolds her. So, from this interaction, she's supposed to understand that 1) she did something wrong and she deserved being in pain for it 2)reaching for that particular object was the wrong thing she did, and 3)in the future, she is to refrain from reaching for that particular object to avoid deserving pain.

    I find it interesting that people believe a toddle can make the above mental connections, yet at the same time, believe it's impossible for them to get it if it's explained to them. That's some serious mental legwork in both cases. But neither is necessary at that young stage; keep toddler and dangerous objects out of reach of each other, and the situation never arises.

    The biggest problem I have with spanking in particular, and punishment in general, is that it doesn't address the child as a person. It doesn't acknowledge WHY they're acting the way they do. It's a hammer -- and you know that thing about hammers and how they turn every problem into a nail.

    A child screaming in the store? Swat them until they're quiet! But what if the *reason* the child was screaming is because they're tired, or bored and frustrated, or in some kind of illness-related pain, or upset about something else that has happened? Something that could be solved by cutting the shopping trip short early, or giving them something to do, or a nap, or even just giving them words and encouragement to express their feelings in a quieter way? A solution other than punishment.

    And what lesson is the child really getting from that swat? Is it "when I'm disruptive in public, I get hurt, so I won't be disruptive in public" or is it "when I express my frustrated, upset, hurt feelings, I only get hurt more, so I won't express myself"? Which do you want your child to learn?

    I feel like a lot of parents feel helpless and at a loss for what to do for their children. They don't want to hurt them, but they don't want them to be those wild, crazy, uncontrollable children everyone looks down their noses at. It's hard. Our parents didn't raise us as human beings with thoughts and feelings that deserve respect and acknowledgement. Most people are ill-equipped to figure out how to be respectful of their own children.

  33. Question for the author: do you consider yourself pro - choice?

  34. Keith, I'm curious what my views on abortion have to do with this topic. Maybe you can explain that for me.

  35. Sorry for the delayed response - it appears I wasn't notified of your response or if I was, it went into my junk mail.

    In reading many of your posts, it seems you are fine with the government issuing laws and rulings outlawing corporal punishment in all forms. (I say 'in all forms' because for many, there is a vast difference between controlled spanking and angry beating. It appears from your writings you believe them to be equally bad.)

    So in a sense, you think the government has the right and perhaps the duty to protect the child from spanking by their parents and forbid them from doing so. So I am wondering if you also think the government has the right (and/or duty) to protect an unborn child from being aborted by it's parent(s). Just curious as to how far reaching you think government intervention should be, where you think the line is, and how that line should be drawn. Thanks.

  36. Keith, Thanks for clarifying. Here is my take on this issue: I think the government should protect personal freedom and autonomy. As far as children and parenting, I think the line is not too difficult to draw. Children are fully people, and should be protected from being harmed by other people, even (especially) their parents, even (especially) in the name of discipline. I don't think that a law against corporal punishment would stop parents from harming their children, but it may be the first step in eliminating this practice that is harmful to society.

    I also realize that the line is much more difficult to draw in terms of protection of a fetus inside a woman's body. The problem is, there is no way to protect the autonomy of a fetus without trampling on the freedom and autonomy of the woman carrying it. I am pro-choice for this reason. I feel a woman should not be forced to carry a child at the expense of her health (physical or mental). I know there is some gray area involved here (especially in terms of methods of aborting and how late into pregnancy they are done). I hope that clears things up a bit, but I acknowledge that I don't have a hard line to draw in this case.

  37. Thank god. I just finished reading this post

    It's nice to see at least one parents here at this site with a little something called common sense

  38. We've outlawed hitting animals and people look down on the idea of hitting women over the age of 18. Why aren't kids treated with this same courtesy? Why is it that some parents approve of hitting kids without even knowing what they've done wrong and assuming that kids need to be physically abused in order to learn?

    What really annoys me are those who say spanking is not abuse. It reminds me of what you said in one of your posts. Just because you can think of something worse to do doesn't make what you did okay. Just because you're not abusing a kid doesn't mean you're not doing him wrong

  39. Also, since when is sending a child to bed without supper right? We're supposed to starve kids? Seriously? I've never even heard of an instance where it's illegal to take away a kid's phone. Hitting is spanking. Spanking is hitting. I don't care what fancy words you may come up with. A parent is able to say "I spanked my child" and is not able to say "I hit my child" when they are the same things?

  40. Great post! May I post it on Pinterest?

    I am working to produce a documentary on spanking. Here is some footage on why some people believe it should be banned in the US.

    Find us on Facebook:


  41. In reading the comments especially those from Canada they make it out like US schools are physically abusing our kids. That is way off. It has been my own personal experience that some schools allow it if parents gives written consent - but that is becoming less and less. The daycare I took my child to a few years ago were against it and I know all the schools around my area don't allow it. Period. Now I do understand that this post is a couple of years maybe it was this way back then. But I know that there is a lot if "new age" type crap coming around that has made schools not go for the spanking. Which I'm fine with...I'm in the process of adopting the "absolutely no hitting" rule in my house since I was raised in a spanking home...I thus spanked my child. My problem with the above accusations is the pinning spanking as abuse. My parents spanked me....and I never once doubted that they loved me. I blatantly disobeyed my parents.....I got spanked. In my mind...I did deserve it. I knew the rules....I knew better...and did it anyway. I have seen some parents that have chosen to not spank their child and their children are straight up spawns of satan. They have no respect for their parents, they do whatever they want because they know they will bear no consequences, they are a hurricane of chaos no matter where they go and their parents have to bribe them to "be good". But in reading more and more articles of parents that disciple but use other methods than spanking...I'm beginning to be more open to the idea of not spanking. But at first all I saw was well behaved, well mannered children who were shanked if they did something they knew was wrong, and then there were those crazy kids whose parents chose not to spank.....I never knew until recently there was a type of parent in between and that's what I want to be. I want defined boundaries and rules - but if those are tested or broken I want to provide discipline...but in a way that is not spanking my child. But because I have spanked my child the past 4 years.....does NOT mean that I have abused my child.

  42. I was spanked by my parents and by babysitters and i can say i did not turn "ok" emotionally. There was physical and emotional abuse in my home. I fit right into the category of the harmful effects that carry over into adulthood- emotionally detached (with peers, not my children), insecure, impulsive, etc. I still have impulsive and anger issues and sometimes i have a tendency to become so emotionally overwhelmed that I scream and yell. I have chosen not to spank my kids, ever, because of these issues and i am REALLY working on the yelling. Words cannot express how helpful your insight has been, and continues to be, on my parenting journey. My 4 year old son is very active (i refuse to label this with ADHD even though he meets the criteria) and before i discovered these gentle-parenting websites we were not doing very well. These alternative disciple (meaning "to teach") techniques have absolutely turned his behavior around (and mine also) in a way that we have been able to have peace in our home and he is now able to express his emotions in constructive ways and showing signs of giftedness (he can read better than most 1st graders). Whenever i am having a hard time i turn to these websites and articles, so thank you for helping me raise my children :) I sent my children to a babysitter who i believed to be like-minded but turned out she spanked her kids right in front of my kids and then got upset when my kids hit her kids. One other thing- my son was recently sexually abused by his 5 year old best friend and because of the open and honest relationship we have he was able to tell me about it (the part that i did not catch red-handed). That child is spanked/swatted and i feel very stronly that because of that (along with other issues in his home) he was not able to go to his parents when it happened to him (5 year olds dont naturally do what he did). I realize this is a bit long-winded but to those parents who are skeptical about gentle-parenting just ask yourself where do you draw the line? At what age is too old to spank, and then what? My parents took away our phones, but then went to work. We always had an extra. We were very sneaky about everything. My goal is to raise children that don't feel like they have to sneak around ad can come to us about anything and everthing