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We spoke to lawyers and non-legal experts about if they think it is against the law (or if it should be) to spank a child. See the comments below. We got feedback from the UK, USA, and China.

The laws around spanking children are different in each state. In most states, however, there is not a strict law prohibiting corporal punishment, which is the legal phrase used to refer to spanking. However, states often have laws that criminalize child abuse, which is often defined using two key elements: first, that a defendant acts intentionally; and, second, that a defendant inflicts injury upon the child.

One critical point of these laws is that a defendant must act intentionally, but does not necessarily have to intend to cause any injury. Under this law, a parent who intentionally spanks a child and leaves an injury, even if they did not specifically intend to cause that injury, may be subject to prosecution for child abuse.

We routinely advise parents to review relevant laws prior to any parenting decision and to avoid corporal punishment if living between two households, as routine parenting decisions may lead to criminal investigation if the other parent misunderstands a disciplinary decision.

W. Scott Kimberly, ATTORNEY AT LAW,

Spanking your child in Texas

In Texas, we have the “Reasonable Discipline Defense” that permits a parent or guardian to spank a child under 18 years old, as a defence against Assault Causing Bodily Injury, Family Violence and possibly Injury to a Child. We used to have a local judge require a parent to spank his or her child in court to ensure that the parent was capable of disciplining a delinquent child.

There is an old saying that you will know child abuse when you see it; well, if you leave whelps after the spanking or break bones or cut skin it is unlikely that any court will conclude your discipline was reasonable. Having raised six sons myself, I spanked each from time to time and hated doing so, but absent proper discipline I would have hated more what they would have become. My sons turned out great and two of them are now my law partners and both of them are also Lt. Colonels in the Army Reserves.

Joseph Gutheinz
Gutheinz Law Firm, LLP

Abusing your child

Is it against the law to “Spank Your Child”? No. No, it isn’t. There’s nowhere in any sort of rulebook saying that spanking your child is illegal. At least not in the US where I live (and can really only talk about it). Should it be though? It’s a fine line. This is because, well, is spanking your child abuse? Or is it a good way to lay down the law? It’s hard to really know because every kid is different. Some kids can listen to reason so, if you just calmly explain to them what they did wrong, they will be less likely to do it again.

Other kids really need some sort of punishment to learn not to do certain things. That also being said it really depends on WHAT they did wrong. Did they play ball in the house or did they kill an animal? While it’s important to lay down the law and teach kids right from wrong, not everything is as bad as another thing. And, therefore, not everything is so bad that it deserves some punishment as extreme as a spanking. Therefore, while it’s not illegal, you should probably think twice before spanking your kids.

Harrison Tanner Baron,

The Law of Spanking in the UK

Unless there is actual injury, I think parents can spank their kids (or employ another form of corporal punishment). The right of parents to adopt reasonable means of discipline is recognized by the law. The courts have acknowledged that the law protects parents’ rights to punish their children as long as those tactics are not overbearing and are reasonable in criminal and civil proceedings involving child abuse.

Consequently, spanking is acceptable but not if it causes harm to the child. Even if no actual hurt takes place, I think harm can still entail physical, mental, or emotional harm. According to the law, it is illegal to intentionally cause severe physical injury to a kid, although appropriate punishment of children is a valid defence.

Gary Hunter,
Director of CompareGolfPrices.

Spanking your child in China

Over here in China, where I and my family live, spanking of kids is very common. For the period of years, I stayed here, I haven’t heard that spanking is prohibited or unlawful. This is because the Chinese are known to be disciplined, in order to produce a society that is unique and more developed.

Therefore, Parents or guardians would want to pass such attributes of discipline to their children or ward. However, spanking is one of the measures Chinese parents use to correct kids who behave foolishly.

Currently, I did research on how China is currently overpowering other countries that were once better than her. Part of the answer is that the younger generations are trained to have in-depth knowledge, an accomplished mindset and be disciplined. This is done by giving strict training, which sometimes includes spanking.

Pan Chen,