The Euphemism of Spanking (Hint: it’s actually assault)

Imagine: You’re at work. You’re scrolling through Facebook or playing Candy Crush instead of paying attention to your conference call – your boss comes into your office, tells you, quite angrily, that you are in trouble, and starts to hit you with a branch from a tree.

This sounds absolutely insane because you know that this would never happen, and if it did, that you could sue your boss to smithereens for a charge called “assault”.

At this point, I’m going to assume most have heard about the Adrian Peterson spanking case.

He was briefly jailed for “spanking” his son until he bled, leaving scars – and yet many still think that this is an okay practice if “done correctly.”

Why is it that, so many people, when confronted that something within their worldview is unhealthy, uncouth, and unfit in this modern world, shut down and begin a long line of excuses and defenses?

Why on earth would anyone condone the beating of anyone, especially a child, for any reason?

Allow me to break down all of the reasons spanking is wrong and should be called and thought of as assault.

Legally: When someone hits another person, it is assault. Whether I’m at a bar and I have a disagreement with a stranger, or if I am home and have a disagreement with my husband, or if I beat my neighbor’s kid, me hitting and/or beating them because I do not like what they said or did is assault, and is poor self-control on my part. These assaults are also illegal, and I could be charged with a crime.

The fact that it is legal in any capacity to hit your children when you are mad at them harkens back to master/slave relations. Slave owners could legally beat their slaves (whether this meant with a belt, their hands, or whatever else they saw fit) because slaves were not seen as people under the law. They were seen as property and had no rights. Do we really want to relate our children to slaves? This black woman sure as hell doesn’t.

Philosophically: “I was beat/spanked/paddled and I turned out fine! See?” I would argue that you did not turn out fine, you turned into someone who thinks it is okay to hit a defenseless child when they do something wrong because you have power over someone smaller than you.

Not to mention, what does this actually teach kids? It teaches kids that they can and should physically hit others when others do something that they don’t like. I’ve taken care of children since I was 14, and I have seen parents hit their kids for hitting their sibling or a peer – in what world does that make sense?

Spiritually: And of course, we have those that blame cite Jesus. “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” they say, “It’s in the bible!”

1) This phrase is not in the bible, it is from a poem by Samuel Butler, who spent many-a-poem satirizing religious extremism. So not only are these people misattributing a quote to a book so holy that they clearly haven’t bothered to read it, they are also citing something wholly ironic that mocks the action they are using these words to justify.

2) There are around five or so verses in the bible about using rods with children, many more comparing children (and even other Christians) to sheep. For those who don’t know, the rods are used by shepherds to help lead the sheep, not to beat the sheep.

In the words of my homeboy Son of Baldwin, these verses that are advising parents to use rods with their children were “about you, as the adult, being the ruler against which the child is measured, NOT about you picking up an ACTUAL rod to strike the child with. LEARN WHAT A METAPHOR IS.”

Scientifically: There are studies upon studies with stats and findings, virtually ALL of which say that hitting a child is psychologically damaging to the child. There is indeed a stronger correlation of the adverse effects the more severe the hitting is, but it is essentially always damaging. How could you do this knowing it will most likely damage your child? The numbers and the studies say it all. I have to believe that people would prefer to hit their kids because it’s easier than taking the time (for yourself, especially) to find a calm and reasonable solution.

Realistically: Parenting is hard. Children are their own people, which means there will be minutes and hours and days that you hate what they’re doing, how they’re behaving, and wish with all your might you could make them go away stop. I have babysat and lived with a family as a nanny. I get it. It’s exhausting. But in all honesty, I do not trust ANYONE to not take it too far, even if its only once – it is easy to lose control, and allow discipline to slide into punishment, to allow yourself to hit your kids because they are irritating you, not because they are actually doing something wrong. I do not think we should leave this line to the parents’ discretion to get blurred.

Essentially, people continue to endorse and defend “spanking” because it was done to them, because they themselves do it, because they don’t think its that bad, because in their worldview, it is NORMAL, therefore it is OKAY. People use all sorts of reasons to rationalize why this assault and abuse is okay. But it isn’t.

It’s assault because it is physical violence. It’s abuse because it is done by someone who should be loving and caring for the one they’re hurting.

And its wrong, no matter how much you want to believe that it isn’t.


23 thoughts on “The Euphemism of Spanking (Hint: it’s actually assault)

  1. Well said! I wish I could find a copy of a sermon I heard that was amazing; the Bishop of Maryland, Eugene Sutton, gave an amazing sermon on the limitations of violence and the mistake of thinking that you’re in a healthy relationship with someone you hit. (Specifically, spanking your children, and how we as a nation seem to treat other nations as if they were our own recalcitrant children)


    • Oooh that sounds interesting. And also, thank you!!

      As someone who looks back on my own childhood “spankings” they were mostly for me irritating or disagreeing with my parents, not because I was doing something wrong. It’s actually quite patriarchal and disgusting and so easy for people to distort it and abuse that power.

      I will never ever hit my kids. I think there is always a better way. (And also thousands of books on parenting to help you out)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dearest ChocolatePompAndCircumstance…
        I cannot begin to tell you how I love your writing, especially this essay. For me, the depth of your thought, research and how it all speaks to me…!!!! I would love to share. I request permission to republish at
        May life bring you peace, prosperity, pleasant dreams becoming the best of your reality. May your life reflect the goodness that is you . . . Betsy

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Though I agree with everything in this post, I am afraid that it will fall on deaf ears. This society is so used to being physically aggressive and assaultive toward children that a post like this – which uses ACTUAL data – is quickly dismissed, particularly within the Black community. I have heard people defend Adrian Peterson, Joe Jackson etc., for so long, I doubt a post like yours would make an impact.

    Again, I agree with everything you wrote, but I doubt that it will make a dent in the belief that might makes right when it comes to raising children.


  3. I like your idea of spanking office workers when they break the rules. Corporal punishment in the office is definitely needed. Would make my lazy colleges work for a change.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Children (all people) learn and mature better when given a maximum amount of freedom… But without ethical/moral/spiritual limitations, they will operate as wild feral savages unfit to be in public.

    It would be nice if parents had the time and moral compass to enforce those limitations with their words, but physical violence is more time efficient.


    • I totally agree with you on the time efficiency.

      Not sure that you meant this, but I often see this argument that not spanking also means not discipline the child, which is not at all what I meant.


  5. I generally agree about spanking not being the most effective parental form of discipline, but I think comparing it to assault and slavery comparisons isn’t right either. Virtually every form of punishment would be called a crime by the same criteria, as would all the physical restraining that is sometimes necessary with children. Likewise, parents DO have authority and greater rights over their children, as kids don’t have full rights – that’s why they can’t drive, drink, vote, sign contracts, etc.

    This doesn’t make it a slave-owner relationship, it makes it what it is – a parent-child relationship.


  6. Generally I refrained from spanking my kids. I was young and had a terrible temper and they were afraid when they stepped out of line so I didn’t have to. I did however slap their hands when hey were getting into something they should not or a quick pinch under the table when they were misbehaving. When they became teenagers I admittedly smacked the hell out of them. I remember my son telling my daughter when she turned 13. “I know you don’t think mom will ever hit you, but she will if you push her far enough” He was older and knew from experience. By the time she reached 14 she knew. I am not necessarily proud of it but I can tell you that may kids are in their early 20’s now and we have a great relationship. They knew as children that I would never hurt them but if they crossed me as equals (in size I mean) I would not take it and they would suffer the consequences. I can count on one hand how many times I hit my children in my life. That may be more than some and less than most, either way it worked for me. I still don’t know how I feel about “spanking”. I never found that I needed to do it when they were little. Things got a little out of control as teens but we came through it. And, maybe I don’t deserve it but I have some seriously awesome adult children now. I couldn’t be prouder.


  7. Proverbs 13:24 but it is a bit different. “Those who spare the rod of discipline, hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” New Living Translation.


      • @dmunro Proverbs is disputed, too, you should read other translations.

        The rod is a shepherd’s crook. Have you ever seen a shepherd beating on a sheep with a stick? No. The rod is used to guide the sheep, which is one interpretation of proverbs; parents must firmly lead their children to good and away from danger.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Not sure if any one else has bothered to chime in, but if not and for the sake of accuracy, spanking is more a euphemism for “assault and battery,” not just “assault.”

    Assault is defined in most penal codes as the “attempt” to inflict violence upon another. Battery is defined as the actual infliction of violence upon another.

    So in terms of spanking, think of the adult swinging his arm down as assault up until the moment of battery when it comes in contact with the child’s bottom.


  9. Thanks for writing this up. The truth is that most parents use a variety of methods to discipline. And I agree with the comment about efficiency of results (it’s quick and dirty – and it lives on as a threat – unfortunately).

    In the section about defining spanking in legal terms, whether it is assault, battery, or both, disciplining children will often include other things that one wouldn’t expect in the work place, such as search and seizure, detainment, arrest, and incarceration. For me discipline is in the larger context of authority and enforcement.

    Additionally, this discussion could be counterbalanced with a discussion of verbal and psychological abuse. Parents who never laid a finger on their child still cause debilitating damage.

    Whenever I see a long list of don’ts, or why something is a bad idea, I always look for the next part, which is what *should* happen instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment! The links I provide under the “scientific” section include many alternatives that are legit (proven to work by scientists and psychologists).

      This may have not been your intention, but I find that when people find this incomplete because there are no offered alternatives a bit short sighted. If I had offered some, those would be criticized too!

      This article is for the many people who, for TONS of reasons, think spanking, ranging from hitting to beating a child severely to be okay.
      This article is to demonstrate why people should reconsider normative ideology.


  10. Dear Friend,

    Thank you so much for this post. It is cogent and beautifully written–yes, I am an English teacher. :-).

    An overlooked aspect of spanking is that a certain percentage of people fetishize this act. In the last few years, the FBI has busted two child pornography rings that focused on spanking of children as a source of sexual gratification for the porn consumers.

    In the past, this issue did not arise often because children were raised by biological parents who usually have deep feelings for their children, even if they are temporarily out of control. However, children are often raised by mommy’s boyfriends now, who do not feel an incest taboo and would not hesitate to pull a child’s pants down and engage in voyeurism. After all, if they had photos of naked children, they could spend decades in prison, but if they pull a child’s pants down and look as part of a spanking, it is just part of child discipline.


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