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Is it abuse to spank my child?

The purpose of the force must always be the education or discipline of the child:

                  Ogg-Moss, supra, at p. 193.

Section 43 of the Criminal Code attempts to accommodate the needs and safety of the child while giving parents the ability to correct behaviour and educate their children without fear of prosecution or sanction.

Spanking is a contentious issue, particularly between parents in a separation situation. What might seem like a reasonable response to a child’s misbehaviour to one person, could be construed as abusive to someone else. As a result of experiencing various levels of physical discipline as children in our own pasts, perspectives on what is appropriate discipline can be immensely varied.

To try to help remedy this problem, we can refer to Section 43 of the Criminal Code which addresses the use of reasonable force for correction of children.

The Supreme Court of Canada, upon review of this issue, has provided some guidance.  Parents are permitted to:

  • Only use force as a correction when sober and reasoned.
    • Correction must not be motivated by anger
  • Only use force that is reasonable.  Examples of unreasonable force would include: 
    • Corporal punishment using objects is harmful to both the physical and mental well-being of a child.
    • Blows to the head are harmful.
  • Only use corporal punishment with children  who can benefit from the correction.
    • Children under the age of two do not have the cognitive maturity to understand the connection between the behaviour and the correction. Likewise, it is also inappropriate to correct a child who is unable to understand due to a disability.
    • Teenagers, in contrast, are cognitively able to understand the correction, but it can trigger aggressive behaviour so it is deemed to be a harmful corrective tool.

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