Nov 22 2006

Now that is parenting

Published by at 4:02 am under Current Events,Globe and Post,WorldView

Canada must do something to stop the terrible violence.

This latest call from the United Nations isn’t a proposal for Canada to beef up its presence in Afghanistan or muster troops for Sudan. No, apparently, we need to stop spanking our kids.

The recommendation today comes out of a Vancouver forum focusing on child welfare.

I’m not advocating spanking as a routine fix for kids behaving badly. Most kids I’ve ever met would likely benefit from a time-out and a sit-down chat. But then there are the ones that play with lighters around the living room drapes or attempt to brain their siblings from behind with blunt objects…

UN special envoy Stephen Lewis tells it like this: “I think physical punishment is actually a kind of lazy way out. ‘I’m bigger than you. I can shout louder than you and I’m stronger than you. Therefore, unless you do what I tell you, I’ll whack you.’ I can’t see that that’s actually helping a child understand values and consequences.”

That’s the thing, though: small children don’t understand values and consequences in abstract terms. They are legally recognized as not being able to understand the consequences of their own actions or even recognizing the difference between fantasy and reality. Parents quite literally can’t reason with a small child. It seems to me that spanking should only be used as a last resort, but to completely take it off the table seems unrealistic (full disclosure: I don’t have kids).

I’m not suggesting that this means parents have complete freedom of action to discipline their kids as they see fit. We have child abuse laws in this country. When parents strike their children hard enough to injure, they go to jail.

Real violence against children is a terrible injustice. But does spanking really need to be discussed at a UN conference in the same context as honor killings, beatings and female genital mutilation?

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