Whenever I am spending time with childhood friends it usually doesn’t take long before we are reminiscing on some of the funny stories and experiences of our past together. The one’s where we got caught and punished by our parents or teachers always get the biggest laugh. I spent some of my childhood years growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the mid 80’s, I clearly recall a teacher who used a wooden ruler to keep order in the class. One day it was my fateful turn to stand at my desk and hold out my hand for the ruler. I was quite afraid as I outstretched my hand and the teacher calmly administered the slap, but to my surprise the pain was hardly worth all the fuss. I do recall only needing the treatment the one time. I can’t say I’ve felt any negative impact from this experience. In fact the only negative experience that comes to memory from my time in the Irish school system was when a teacher known for his short temper really lost his cool and shouted at me for a prolonged time because I was late due to being at a doctor’s appointment.
Opinions vary on the use of Corporal punishment, be it from a parent or teacher, and can lead to quite an interesting debate. I think we can all relate to times when we have seen a young child who has the run of the house and think “that child just needs a spanking”, but also times when we may have seen a child struck out of anger and worry for the child’s safety. Whatever side of the fence one sits on, the issue has taken center stage again as bill S-204 which would repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code has people talking. Section 43 allows teachers, parents, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to use force as a means of discipline “if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”
Commenting on this proposed law on Canada AM, Andrea Mrozek of the Institution of Marriage and Family Canada stated that “spanking used appropriately by a loving and responsible parent can have a positive outcome”. (Click here for full story) Clearly spanking can go way too far but generally parents choose lots of love and encouragement over spanking to see positive character development in their children.
Perhaps our main concern here should be that if a parent chooses to discipline through spanking, is it the right of others, (even government) to challenge that decision? Can government become too big in the scope of what they have been commissioned to do? Scripturally, governments are supposed to provide peace, order, justice and fairness, and help to bring a restraining effect on evil in society (see Rom13:1-4). Within these boundaries, in a democratic country, there is a great deal of freedom in people’s pursuit of happiness. At the pinnacle of these freedoms are an individual’s family and how that family as a unit relates to one-another. It is the parent’s right, within the family, to decide what is best for their children and not the state. These “freedoms” could be under threat by removing section 43 from the criminal code which may open Canadian parents to criminal charges of abuse and assault for the crime of spanking. Prison terms in Canada for assault can run up to five years. Two Swedish parents were recently sentenced to nine months in prison. Swiss authorities (who outlawed spanking in 1979) also charged the parents about $11,000 for the offense.
I am curious to see how parents of young children are going to respond to this proposed bill. As I write this, I hope to be a parent myself one day. I would like to think that my ability as an adult to love and discipline my own children will be respected and the freedoms we enjoy as Canadians would not be taken away from us or our future generations.