Normative parental spanking (in Canada) encompasses the following attributes and definitions:
In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCOC”) ruled on definitions of Sec.43 in a case, Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General). After consultations with many experts, the resulting rulings provided very detailed evidence-based laws on differentiating allowable force in discipline vs. harsh and abusive force.
Below is our synopsis of Canada’s parental spanking law:
1) The child must between 2 and 12 years of age
2) The force is allowed with the open hand only; implements are prohibited
3) The force must not be applied to a child’s face or head
4) The force must not cause physical harm, but be “transitory & trifling” which effect is ‘no more than a temporary reddening of the skin”
5) The force must not be administered in anger but as a thoughtful process intended to modify behaviour and improve the child
6) The child must not be cognitively impaired precluding their capacity to benefit from the correction
7) The “gravity of the wrongdoing” is irrelevant to the amount of force applied
NB: This synopsis expressed by Keep 43 is based on interpretations of Canadian Law but is not legal advice, and must not be relied upon as such.
Keep 43 would add the following evidence-based observations: spanking…
8) that is not a habitual and constant response, but used reservedly to enforce limits where other methods have been tried and failed;
9) where the child is fully aware of the consequence of a particular behaviour and wilfully disregards expectations of it. One excellent example is “Trouble at school gets spanked at home”;
10) that is accompanied with discussion as a learning experience;
11) that is accompanied by loving consolation, and an opportunity for contrition, atonement and forgiveness;
12) like all enforcement alternatives, should be applied in private;
13) as a backup for other methods. Example: Timeouts are ineffective when children refuse to observe them and escape timeouts. A “Two swat spank response” is clinically proven (four studies of 2-6 year olds) to substantially increase observance of timeouts thereby negating the use of the spank backup.
An important part of Keep 43’s mission is public education. We’ve received many legitimate questions from parents regarding Canada’s child-discipline laws, parenting approaches and various aspects surrounding normative spanking as a salutary and effective consequential tool in child-rearing.
We originally responded to questions individually through our “Parents Ask” series on social media. Now, we’ve combined, edited and reprinted all Q&A into this one resource.
Behaviour management has three stages “PIE”: Prevention, Intervention and Enforcement. These are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary and used in that order. They are also circular, as successful Enforcement becomes Prevention.
All enforcements are deterrents, and spanking is an Enforcement tool. Enforcements are emphatically not intended to be a first line or typical response. A sensible and loving parent should attempt methods of reason first (Preventions), and progress through a continuum of responses (Interventions) depending on observation and success in their particular case. Enforcement occurs when P & I have been tried and failed.
The usual Enforcement alternatives are confinement-type sanctions (time-outs, confined to a bed room or groundings) which gain their effectiveness by inflicting psychological pain as a deterrent. While hard science has proven that tempered spanking is more effective than psychological punishments in pre-teens, what works best in each case is very much dependent on the individual child. Only a parent can know which is more salutary in their case.
Most children learn that limits are meaningless if they are not enforced, and that is why more than 4 in 5 parents rely on enforcement methods where other methods prove ineffective or harmful.
No. We are not Pro-spank, just as we are not Pro-confinements, Pro-sitting-in-timeout or Pro-removal-of-privileges. A “Pro-anything” label would infer advocating that every parent should do this, and moreover, use it as a first or primary response.
Each child and parent-child dynamic is unique, and therefore, there is no “one size fits all” approach applicable to anything in child-rearing.
We are actually “Pro-parental options”, understanding that optimal success in raising great kids into productive adults requires a diversity of approaches which each parent, knowing their own child the best, must determine is most beneficial and appropriate for that child.
Recent surveys (year in brackets) show that more than 4-in-5 parents with preteen children will use some minor force in salutary child discipline:
Canada 82% (2012)
England 85% (2000)
France 87% (2009)
USA 86% (2013)