Spare the Rod

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on September 26, 2014 8:24 am

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

spare the rodThe argument for corporal punishment has been the longstanding acceptance by those who have endured this form of punishment. The debate for corporal punishment has varied from religious instructions to parental rights. Corporal punishment has not only been excused by religious texts, familial familiarity, and governmental avoidance of change; it has been made allowable because of its longstanding relationship with society. “My father did not spare the rod, therefore I won’t spare the rod either.”

Parents, teachers and school administrators have frequently argued that there are no, or limited, alternatives. For a number of parents, religious leaders, teachers, and school administrators the argument is corporal punishment will realign and adjust a child’s behavior.


The Canadian Parliament has ruled in Section 43 of the Criminal Code that:

Section 43 of the Criminal Code reads as follows:

            Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in  using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is  under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstance.

While the Canadian Parliament has ruled on the case of corporal punishment, the ruling on corporal punishment allows for a vague interpretation by those who are reading this decree. Furthermore, corporal punishment is neither abolished or rejected, but has been made excusable by the government of Canada.

For many, corporal punishment has roots in “religious” backgrounds. An example of this allowable form punishment finds its acceptability in religious texts such as Proverbs 13:24 of the King James Bible. The verse states:

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” ~ Proverbs 13:24, King James Version

As a society, we have learned to justify our need for corporal discipline. Corporal Punishment is a physical form of punishment, which may include switching, spanking, caning, slapping, chastising, paddling or flogging. Corporal punishment has long been considered an acceptable form of discipline by parents, teachers, principals and other authorities.


“Instead of yelling and spanking, which don’t work anyway, I believe in finding creative ways to keep their attention – turning things into a game, for instance. And, when they do something good, positive reinforcement and praise.” ~ Patricia Richardson

Why are you attached to the use of corporal punishment? Do you feel that you are incapable of disciplining your child without it? Do you feel that the use of corporal punishment is an individual right? Have you been taught to use corporal punishment by a religious leader or religious teaching? Why have you chosen to use corporal punishment?

Research has shown that a majority of adults use corporal punishment before considering alternative approaches to discipline. When have you chosen to use corporal punishment? Were you frustrated, angry or simply without alternative methods of discipline?


“Spanking a child is about the parent not the child. The child will learn more from positive correction than physical manipulation.”   ~ Asa Don Brown

Corporal punishment is most commonly used by frustrated adults. The typical excuse for exercising one’s rights to use corporal punishment is:

  • My child left me no alternative.
  • If I love my child, then I will discipline my child (spank them).
  • I am commanded to spank my child.
  • I learned from my spankings.
  • My child forced my hand.
  • “People get frustrated and hit their kids. Maybe they don’t see there are other options.” (Smith, 2012, p. 60)

If corporal punishment is allowable for children, then why not for adults? The argument could be made that an employee lying or cheating should be spanked for his or her dishonesty. Perhaps we should reinstate corporal punishment in the police force. Could you imagine receiving a spanking the next time you are caught speeding or forgetting to wear your seatbelt? Moreover, maybe we should make it allowable in the home for partners and spouses. Should your spouse be provided the right to discipline you with a paddling the next time you forget to take out the trash or do the dishes? Of course, we might even consider employing corporal punishment for the disorderly rich and famous, and our governing bodies. Why not, if it is good for chastising a child, then why not employee it in all aspects of society? Why not even consider returning to an age of using stoning and the severing of hands? Of course, you may think I am being simply preposterous, running my lips in a hyperbole forum, but I beg you to consider the basis of this argument. If corporal punishment is permissible among the youth of our society, then why not consider employing such a corrective tool throughout the whole spectrum of society?

Furthermore, the Canadian Foundation For Children, Youth and The Law v. Canada (Attorney General) have made a continued argument for the enforcement or allowability of corporal discipline, only among those who are the most innocent of our society.

On 30 January 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the case of Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General). The issue was whether s. 43 unconstitutional. Six of nine justices concluded that the provision does not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it does not   infringe a child’s rights to security of a person or a child’s rights to equality, and it does not constitute cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

My argument is, if it “does not infringe a child’s rights to security of a person or a child’s rights to equality,” then why not have true equality making corporal punishment permissible throughout the entire spectrum of society?


“The greatest mark of a father is how he treats his children when no one is looking.”       ~ Dan Pearce

Let’s consider the following: what measures have been taken to correct an employee who fails to meet the expectations of his or her employer? In recent months, the British Columbia teachers unions have been on strike disputing a variety of employment related issues. Given that these government employees have failed to complete their obligations as teachers, should we consider chastising them? Why not harshly rebuke these insubordinate employees, by implementing a stern reprimand followed up with a good ol’ fashion paddling? Again, you may think of me as being utterly absurd, but my argument remains, there are alternatives to all forms of corporal punishment. Whether an employee or a child, there are alternatives to implementing and excusing the use of corporal punishment.

If there are alternatives to the enforcement of corporal punishment in the workplace, then should there not be made alternate forms of correction in the home and school? As in the workplace, alternative punishment or correction will not occur without consideration and constructive dialogue. As a society, we owe it to our children to devise a plan of action that is constructive (serving a useful purpose), instructive (useful and informative), edifying (providing moral or intellectual instruction), supportive (providing encouragement or emotional help), corrective (designed to correct or counteract something harmful or undesirable) and directional (relating to or indicating the direction in which someone or something is situated, moving, or developing).


“We need to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. Punishment is what you do to someone; discipline is what you do for someone.”     ~ Zig Ziglar

In a majority of Canadian and American school systems, if a child is caught hitting or lashing out at a fellow student or teacher, they will in a majority of cases be apprehended by law enforcement. For many school systems, there is absolutely no tolerance for disruptive behaviors, much less aggravated assault or threats of assault. Even if, a child were to verbally threaten the action of assault, they could be immediately apprehended by authority and they could be tried as an adult in many jurisdictions. If our school and legal systems no longer tolerate even the utterance of a threat by a child, then why do we permit a parent or an adult to physical harm or utter threats of harm towards our children? A threat is a threat and harm is harm.

Who should be made responsible for setting the standards of corporal punishment? Who should be permitted to decide what is “allowable” and what is not? Should parents be provided a standard, and if so, then who will be made responsible for setting such a “standard”? The Canadian Parliament has a vague interpretation of what is permissible and allowable in the home and in the public school setting.

Why is it illegal and a violation of an adult’s civil rights to be struck by another adult? Why is it not permissible to hit your spouse? employer? employee? neighbor?

Why have we made it permissible for an adult to strike a child? Whether or not a governing body could devise a permissible set of standards, the truth is, striking any individual, whether young or old should be a violation of human rights. “(Even) on the international front, physical discipline is increasingly being viewed as a violation of children’s human rights.” (Smith, 2012, 60)

The following is an example whereby a child’s rights were violated. “The first swat knocked [my son] down … when he fell, the principal said he had five seconds to get back up, or he’d start all over again … it probably took him a minute and a half to get up again. They gave him two more swats. Then the principal had to go to the nurse’s office to get the asthma inhaler, [my son] couldn’t breathe … When he came home from school, my wife found the marks on him. … He had severe bruising on his buttocks and on his lower back. His butt was just covered.” (Adwar, 2014, Online)

The previous discourse is not an uncommon case for communities that have made corporal punishment legal. Why should a child be scolded for striking a fellow student, if he or she is permitted to be struck by his or her mother, father or another adult?

  1. “It perpetuates a cycle of child abuse. It teaches children to hit someone smaller and weaker when angry.
  2. Injuries occur. Bruises are common. Broken bones are not unusual. Children’s deaths have occurred… due to school corporal punishment.
  3. Corporal punishment is used much more often on poor children, minorities, children with disabilities, and boys.
  4. Schools are the only institutions in America (and Canada) in which striking another person is legally sanctioned. It is not allowed in prisons, in the military or in mental hospitals.
  5. Educators and school boards are sometimes sued when corporal punishment is used in their schools.
  6. Schools that use corporal punishment often have poorer academic achievement, more vandalism, truancy, pupil violence and higher drop out rates.
  7. Corporal punishment is often not used as a last resort. It is often the first resort for minor misbehaviors.
  8. Many alternatives to corporal punishment have proven their worth. Alternatives teach children to be self-disciplined rather than cooperative only because of fear.” (CED, 2014, Online)

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most ratified human rights treaty… It is the first international human rights binding instrument to expressly address the protection of children from violence.

Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires states to take:

‘all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child’” (COE, 2014, Online)

The use of corporal punishment has no effective behavioral features. In fact, there is no substantive evidence or research to support the use of corporal punishment. Furthermore, whether the use corporal punishment is being used in an academic environment or a familial domain; it has no positive constructive benefit or feature for those enduring this type of behavioral intervention.

Healthy Communication and Discipline

For many children, when they are acting out, they are poorly communicating or feeling unheard.

As parents, we need to do our best to know and to actively listen to our child. If we know our child, then we will have an ability to communicate with our child. Healthy communication is one of the best approaches to offering corrective and constructive discipline. Healthy discipline occurs when the child is gaining a positive perspective on a negative choice or decision that they have made.


“What I love most about fatherhood is the opportunity to be a part of the development process of a new life.”    ~ Seal

Always be certain to employ an unconditional spirit of love with discipline. If you are forced to discipline, do it in a manner that is respectful, dignified, and loving.   As a parent, you may ask your child to participate in his or her discipline, rather than disciplining with an iron fist.   A parent does not have to “use the rod” to discipline his or her child. In fact, we should remove the word discipline from our vocabulary, replacing it with the word GUIDANCE.   If we are guiding our children, then we are offering positive advice, direction, and/or information that is aimed at resolving a problem or personal challenge.


“I believe that there is no longer any use for corporal punishment in schools and much to be gained by suppressing it.”         ~ B. F. Skinner

As a father, mother, teacher, or school administrator, do not fear being limited in your information. Be diligent and extremely conscientious when you are considering the methods with which you intend on discipling (or Guiding) a child. Always remember that you are guiding them away from destructive paths, down paths that enrich the person’s character and overall well-being.   Do everything within your means to gain positively constructive information, education, and skills. Consider acquiring the services of a professional therapist, counselor, or psychologist. Do not fear feeling inadequate as a parent, teacher or administrator, because we are all limited. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, or parent, be resourceful, asking for constructive information and alternative methods to providing guidance for your child.

Always have an attitude of diligence and a desire to be punctilious. Child rearing is a directional role, thus we should be guiding in a way that inspires others to follow positive pathways. If I am acting in a conscientious way, then I will have a deep desire and heartfelt yearning to do that with which is right and constructive.

Always remember, that “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.

Author:  Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.,




Brown, A. D. (2008) The effects of childhood trauma on adult perception and worldview. Minneapolis, MN: Capella University, Proquest LLC; 154 pages; AAT 3297512

C.E.D. (2014) Discipline at school. The Center for Effective Discipline Retrieved September 22,    2014 from

C.O.E. (2014) Children and corporal punishment: “The right not to be hit, also a children’s right.” Council of Europe. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from

Smith, B. L. (2012) The case against spanking. American Psychological Association, Monitor on   Psychology 43 (4) p. 60

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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