Definitions of Normative Parental Spanking as Constructive Discipline

Normative parental spanking (in Canada) encompasses the following attributes and definitions:

(The opinions expressed by Keep43 are based on interpretations of Canadian Law but are not legal advice, and must not be relied upon as such)


Moderate Spanking...

1) of the seat in direct response to particular anti-social behaviours and NOT intended to cause harm or damage, but rather intended as loving and constructive disciplining to modify behaviour and improve the child;

2) with an open hand only - implements are prohibited;

3) not administered in anger but as a thoughtful process;

4) that does not cause physical harm or produces more than a temporary reddening of the skin;

5) that is not a habitual and constant response, but used reservedly to enforce limits where other methods have been tried and failed;

6) where the child is fully aware of the consequences of particular behaviours and wilfully disregards expectations of it. One excellent example is: “Trouble at school gets spanked at home”;

7) that is accompanied with discussion as a learning experience;

8) that is accompanied by loving consolation, and an opportunity for contrition, atonement and forgiveness;

9) like all enforcement alternatives, should be applied in private;

10) as a backup for other methods. Example: Timeouts are ineffective when children refuse to observe them and escape timeouts. A "Two swat spank" is clinically proven (study of 2-6 year olds) to substantially increase observance of Timeouts without the future need for the spank backup.


For other definitions, see also “The Supreme Court of Canada Decision (2004)” (highlights below...)


The use of force to correct a child is only allowed to help the child learn and can never be used in anger.

•The child must be between two years old and twelve years old.

•The force used must be reasonable and its impact only "transitory and trifling" (further defined as no more than a temporary reddening of the skin - see above).

•The person must not use an object, such as a ruler or belt, when applying the force.

•The person must not hit or slap the child's head.

•The seriousness of what happened or what the child did is not relevant.


Using reasonable force to restrain a child may be acceptable in some circumstances".

"Hitting* a child in anger or in retaliation for something a child did is not considered reasonable and is against the law.”


THIS is a very important distinction, because spanking and “hitting” are two completely opposite operations;


What is “hitting”? This has been defined by the Dept of Justice (website) and equates to assault and violence. Violence is a conscious and deliberate act, motivated by anger and rage, using excessive force with the intent to cause harm and damage. Hitting can be physical, psychological, emotional and verbal.


Constructive spanking, scientifically proven as the most effective consequence for preteens, is applied with the intention of improving the child and changing behaviour.


Therefore; constructive spanking does not meet the definition of violence. Were this not true then ALL sanctions are de-facto violence. For example, a time-out inflicts psychological pain and, removing intent from the definition, this method would clearly be illegal: both as violence of the mind and a violation of the right to freedom of movement.  citation p.87, definitions of “Violence”

Does "Keep 43" advocate parents to spank? NO! 

Keep 43 does NOT advocate parents to spank when other consequences prove effective and salutary.


Every child is unique: Most children need limits enforced with consequences, some do not. Any approach that is salutary and beneficial for one child can be ineffective for another. This is also dependent on the unique characteristics and styles of each parent. This is why the broadest spectrum of reasonable approaches must be available to parents.


Some ideologists wish to impose certain “positive” parenting styles on everyone even though most children cannot be appealed to by methods of reason alone. Imposing styles that only work for a minority of children, and can be outright harmful for others leaves the majority with helpless, ineffective and often harmful and abusive alternatives. This is why one of the proven effects of spanking bans is substantially higher physical assault rates on children.

How does spanking fit into the behaviour management spectrum?


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.

How Prevalent is Parental Spanking?

Recent surveys (year in brackets) show that more than 4-in-5 parents with preteen children will use some form of constructive physical discipline:


Canada 82% (2012)
England 85% (2000)
France 87% (2009)
USA 86% (2013)

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