Spanking has been in the news a lot recently. We all heard about Adrian Peterson and his charges of reckless assault of his four-year-old. After this story hit the news, the topic of spanking was brought to light again. Recently, the pope said that it is ok to spank your children. In one of the first episodes of the show, Black-ish, the main character had to debate whether or not spanking was an ok punishment for his child. This is a conversation many parents have with each other; will we spank our children?

According to Parenting magazine, 94 percent of three- and four-year-olds have been spanked in the past year. Seventy-four percent of mothers believe that spanking is acceptable for children ages 1–3. So if the overwhelming majority of parents believe that spanking is ok, why is it always a hot topic of debate?

We know that spanking is not a practice that will necessarily constitute a call to children’s protective services. Yet, when we see spanking in public or we hear about a colleague spanking their children, we are often shocked. Many experts believe that spanking actually is counterproductive. Dr. Barbara Greenberg believes that “physical punishment instills a feeling of shame. It’s a very embarrassing thing to be spanked, and shame is one of the most intolerable feelings to experience.”

Benjamin Siegel, M.D. chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has said, “There’s no reason to get physical with a child when other discipline tactics are more effective.” Furthermore, the AAP believes that spanking evolves into abuse. They also believe that spanking could actually backfire and make children more unruly.

The debate of spanking will probably carry on for many years to come. One very important aspect of this controversial topic that we must also consider is the thinking behind the spanking. If a parent is spanking a child to teach him or her a lesson, it would not be considered abuse. However, if a parent goes into a spanking with the intention of hurting his or her child, that most definitely is abuse. So while the action itself may be the same, the intentions behind the action are incredibly important to consider.

What are your opinions on spanking? Would you spank your child in order to teach a lesson? Why are you for or against spanking? As criminal defense lawyers, we will continue to stay abreast of the debate surrounding this topic.

Photo Credit: left-hand via Compfight cc