The Instigator
Pro (for)
5 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Corporal Punishment of Children Should be Illegal

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/24/2012 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 21,987 times Debate No: 24860
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (2)




Corporal Punishment: Physical punishment, as spanking, inflicted on a child by an adult in authority.

I propose that corporal punishment is tantamount to abuse and fosters a violent, unhealthy atmosphere for a child to grow up in. Furthermore, I find that corporal punishment not only has negative psychological, emotional and physical effects on the child, but is detrimental to the mental health of the punisher as well. As a result, I believe that corporal punishment should be made illegal.


1. New arguments brought in at the final round will not count.
2. R1 is for acceptance and R2 is for argumentation.
3. Claims of personal experience (ie. I was spanked and it made me more loving and compassionate) without the corroboration of reviewable sources will not count as valid examples.


I accept and wish my opponent good luck in this debate!
Debate Round No. 1


I look forward to our debate. And congrats on making it to Australs, how did your team do?

I'll start off by presenting my arguments against spanking in the form of four points labeled (A, B, C and D).

Point A: Spanking your children encourages violence and promotes physical altercations. Striking your child even if it is 'only spanking' makes them more aggressive.

Effective parents lead primarily by example (Sc 1 and 2). Parents may say one thing and do another, but as the old saying goes, 'Actions speak louder than words.' Parents aren't able to say something and do the opposite without adversely effecting a child's perception of 'right' or 'wrong.' If a parent hits their child in any manner, but then goes on to say that the child shouldn't pick fights or hit others it is hypocritical and will only serve to confuse the child. Community-health-sciences professor Catherine Taylor says, "The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 increased by 50% if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began." (Sc. 3)

" I've never been able to understand how we figured that hitting a child could teach a child not to hit others." --Michael Ungar, Ph.D (Sc. 4)

Spanking is violent, and humiliating for the child. Other discipline options are available for a parent who isn't 'too tired' or 'disinterested' in investing a little time to figuring out how to best teach their child good behavior.

Point B: Striking a child on the bottom bears the same consequences as hitting them anywhere else. Spanking also has the added negative of 'humiliation.' Spanking is tantamount to battery.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse spanking under any circumstance. (Sc. 5)

If I hit a girl in my class on her elbow with my fist, does that make it ok? As long as I don't strike her face, it wasn't a violent action, right? If I punch in the stomach vs. the back, is that okay? No. These are all acts of violence and can all be construed as 'battery' by a court of law. So why is it that so many people think that violently striking a 'rear end' is more acceptable than slapping someone's 'face.'

Furthermore, if you strike your spouse, coworker, friend etc... in this way it constitutes battery and abuse. So why is it that the smallest, most defenseless members of society don't get that same protection by law? (US) Why is it that striking a child is acceptable, but in any other forum it is illegal? Is it because hitting a kid is an easy way to teach obedience? Kicking your pets will teach them submission, but that doesn't mean it is an appropriate form of discipline.

Point C: Spanking adversely effects the child's mental health and growth.

Firstly, I would claim that over-aggressive behavior as established in the previous points is a negative mental trait and can lead to crime, domestic violence, and poor communication skills.

But beyond that, there are other mental effects as stated below:

"...researchers found harsh physical punishment increased a person's odds for having a mood or anxiety disorder, engaging in alcohol or drug abuse and risk for several types of personality disorders. They determined that between 2 and 7 percent of mental health disorders among study participants were attributed to physical punishment." (Sc. 6)

If someone grows up in an abusive home, (sexually, emotionally, physically) the effects on their mental health can be seen years after the abuse occurred. So if someone is striking a child's bottom, arm or upper lags, humiliating and making a habit of establishing fear of pain in their child while promoting aggression, it follows that this would have similar long-lasting consequences.

"Research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ,) reveals that spanking increases aggression in kids and can affect their long term emotional and social development." (Sc. 8)

Two case studies. Here is a video of spanking where a judge beats his daughter who is in tears and tries to avoid him. THIS IS LEGAL, but shouldn't be.:

Second case study providing a plethora of negative effects from physical violence used as discipline:

Point D: Spanking a child is harmful to society.

Research suggests that spanking contributes to aggression anti-social behavior as stated above.

If spanking teaches a child that aggression is okay and that violence is an answer, and furthermore effects their mental health to make them more likely to commit spousal abuse or pick a fight--or simply have them be emotionally stunted by the abuse--then it also has a negative impact on society. Society will suffer in schools when fights emerge. Society will suffer from the lack of resources caused by emotionally stunted intellects. Society will suffer from a wave of aggressive adults and teenagers who think violence is an answer.

Closing Argument: Why should Spanking a Child be made illegal?

"We all gasp at the video of the judge hitting his child, but some of us think nothing of turning an innocent child over our knee and swatting him. But the fact is, physical punishment is physical punishment, whether it's a paddle or a punch in the gut. And it's wrong." (Sc. 7)

Firstly, it is a little known fact that physical punishment by parents or caregivers has been outlawed in 32 countries. (Sc. 6) Sweden was one of the first to institute this law and can try parents in a court of law if they smack their child on the rear, in the same way that a parent in the U.S. can be tried for smacking a child on the face.

I argue that physical punishment is child abuse. What is child abuse? "Department for Children And Families (DCF) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child." We've established that there is potential for emotional, relational harm in a child by instilling a nature of aggression and violence. We've further established that striking a child is harmful simply because it is inflicting physical pain and I took it a step further to suggest that the anatomy of the part you are physically assaulting, while it may increase pain, does not necessarily make the act of violence any more acceptable.

Corporal punishment hurts the child physically and emotionally, stunts the child's emotional growth, and has the potential to lead to harmful repercussions and aggressive tendencies down the road. Battery against one's parents, neighbors, coworkers is illegal, and against a defenseless child it should be as well. Loosing aggressive, emotionally stunted individuals on society is detrimental and unsafe for society itself. There are alternatives to physically striking your child. Violence is an unnecessary form of punishment.

I find that these combined points conclude that corporal punishment, an act that instills fear, breeds aggression and harms society, should be made illegal.

I thank you for your time and look forward to reading your rebuttal.


1. Parenting 101 "Leading by Example"



4. 5. 6. 7. 8.


I thank my opponent for opening his case. Australs was a pretty average result, but it was a lot of fun and I was the best speaker on my team.

I'd like you to imagine a 5 year old boy who's very naughty. He's ruined a $5000 TV that you just got on hire purchase, smashed all of your best dinnerware that has been passed down from your grandmother, and then in a fit of rage he throws your laptop onto the road, endangering road users, himself, and your laptop in the process. The boy has cost you $10,000 in damage, and could have gotten himself killed several times along the way. By destroying your laptop, you also lose valuable work files that almost get you fired from your job. You are the parent of this child. How do you respond?

Bear that context in mind as I make my points. We're not talking about bullying and humiliating innocent children. We're talking about situations where children need to be taught a lesson.

My case: Children are not rational actors

Niether of us in this debate are children. Children's brains literally work different to ours. Treating children as adults doesn't work for the simple reason that children are not adults. Rather, children undergo a process of cognitive development, where they gradually learn to be able to rationalise things and work things through. To understand child behaviour, we need to understand how children think.

There are two ways children learn something. The first is to do something and see what reinforcement you get. If the reinforcement is good or neutral, you might do it again. If it's bad, then you probably won't. This is called classical conditioning ( The second is by watching what other people do and the kinds of reinforcement that they recieve. It's a bit more complicated than pure imitation - children will imitate only when the other character did not recieve negative reinforcement for their actions. So when batman beats up a bad guy and is seen to "save the day," children might beat up their enemies too. However, when cookie monster has to say sorry for stealing cookies, children learn NOT to steal, rather than imitate cookie monster. This is called observational learning (

We adults have more sophisticated modes of learning available to us, although we learn much slower. Note that both methods rely on reinforcement - for a child to know an action is good or bad, they must observe or be aware of the good or bad outcome. Reasoning would obviously be ideal and most conductive to that child's development. However, between the ages of two and six, children haven't learnt to reason yet, thus some other form of corrective behaviour is necessary (although it can be a good oppertunity to teach reasoning by association with the reinforcement). Since children are not rational, some other type of reinforcement is required. Most parents practice positive reinforcement in this style, such as giving good children a lollypop or a pat on the back. If that's good parenting, then I suggest that negative reinforcement (light spanking, for instance), to avoid undesirable behaviours, should also be classed as good parenting. That's why corporal punishment is sometimes required - the little boy, given only rational reinforcement, will not understand it and thus be tempted to do it all again.

I see the harm of corporeal punishment as going deeper than that, however, as removing the power from parents to determine how to do good upbringing - which inevitably means good upbringing often does not occur. Children recognise this and that undermines a parent's position as an authority figure. There is no "one size fits all" solution to child discipline. As Ruby Harrold-Claesson writes "In Sweden we have had a blanket prohibition against smacking children since 1979. Since then hundreds, maybe thousands, of parents have been prosecuted for "child abuse" and their children have been taken into compulsory care and placed in foster homes - where in fact they have been severely abused mentally, physically and even sexually... Since the beginning of the 1970s, parents have been indoctrinated in the modern philosophy that children should have free upbringing. Free upbringing came to mean "freedom from upbringing". The state agencies took over and parents have been forced to abdicate from their positions of authority for their children - on pain of prison and the loss of their children to the state."( By not being able to teach children these valuable lessons through the only way we can get through to them, they're either likely to repeat the behaviour (putting themselves and others in danger again), or have the state punish the behaviour that corrects it, leaving the children in the state's hands where they are often abused.


My opponent brings up four really important points that I'll deal with in order. The next four paragraphs correspond to his four points.

First he argues that children learn aggression from watching parents correct their children. The answer is that children from about the age of one can distinguish between themselves and their parents. That's why they know that they can't drive a car, but their parents can. In the same way, they know that they cannot punish other children, but parents can. Spanking teaches not aggression, but that parents may discipline their children. This is played out in the evidence as well - most studies, like those pro cited, do not separate out the degree of corporal punishment. The only study to do that over the long term found that there was no significant negative difference (in fact, there was a slight positive one, in the sense of reducing aggression) in terms of children's aggression between a control group and a group with light smacking (

Second he argues that striking on the bottom is just as bad as elsewhere. This is medically false - the buttocks are the least likely to result in damage to the body. Elbows can be easily dislocated, stomachs and backs contain all kinds of vital organs, but the bottocks are literally the largest and most developed muscle on young bodies making them the safest place to hit. Once again, the reason why children are treated differently to adults is because they're not adults. Once they learn how to rationalise and understand the consequences of their actions, then a loving parent will cease to administer corporal punishment, but before that it may well be required.

Third he argues that harsh physical punishment is really bad. I agree. Not all corporal punishment is harsh. Just because some people abuse children does not mean you should ban broadly good parenting behaviours. I would further argue that parents should not punish children (or indeed attempt to resolve any issue in life) while angry, and would thus argue for a "calm down" period for both the parent and the child.

His fourth argument is that violence is bad for society. Again, I agree - but as I've already argued, light corporal punishment does not teach violence.


What this debate is about is whether we treat children like adults or not. Children are not adults, and treating them as such makes them more defenceless, not less.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for his response.


My opponent brings up a few crucial points for his argument that I'll refute in order of appearance.

Firstly, the scenario you paint about the "five year old boy who's very naughty," is a horrible one to be sure. But where we draw the line is important. Why not shoot the kid? That'll make things easier. Not to kill of course, just a flesh wound. He's acting out over the top and you are his parent. He would learn from a gunshot to the arm. I bet he'd never do any of that 'naughty' stuff again. Now, I am not equating the severity of spanking with the severity of a healable gunshot, but I am comparing your logical conclusion with the one I have demonstrated. Just because something is effective in controlling someone, doesn't mean it is right.

Your case that children are not rational actors has little bearing on whether or not they should be physically punished. A mentally retarded forty-year-old thinks differently than a 20-year old student from Auckland. This doesn't mean one should be beaten and the other shouldn't. Unless you're suggesting that because a child's brain works differently, the only available option for punishment is spanking. I would argue this isn't the case. The gunshot idea still applies. I engage in hyperbole only to emphasize the point that while one method may be the easiest form of controlling a child, that doesn't make it the right way. There are other forms of negative reinforcement. In one paragraph you say:

"Most parents practice positive reinforcement in this style, such as giving good children a lollypop or a pat on the back. If that's good parenting, then I suggest that negative reinforcement (light spanking, for instance), to avoid undesirable behaviors, should also be classed as good parenting. That's why corporal punishment is sometimes required"

I agree that negative reinforcement is also good parenting. But my whole point is that spanking isn't a healthy form of negative reinforcement. Once again, if you give your child a flesh wound that will definitely heal it is also a form of negative reinforcement, but it is not an acceptable form. I agree with your premise, but the conclusion you draw is lacking. If you make your child go on a timeout, take away their favorite toy, or refuse to take them to the movie theater like they wanted, these are all forms of effective negative reinforcement that doesn't involve physical violence. And as for the line 'That's why corporal punishment is sometimes required." I disagree completely. Once again, corporal punishment, like gunshots, or knife wounds isn't the only form of negative reinforcement. And it is not a healthy form either.

"I see the harm of corporeal punishment as going deeper than that, however, as removing the power from parents to determine how to do good upbringing - which inevitably means good upbringing often does not occur."

Removing the power from parents on how to do a good upbringing in many cases is a good thing. Some parents think it's okay to beat their children. Others may even think that a good few days of starving or dehydration is a good way to teach a child how to 'become a man.' These powers have been removed by courts and legislature because they are deemed unfit forms of parenting. In the same way, I think corporal punishment should be added to the list of outlawed things. There are still a host of positive and negative forms of reinforcement that can be used to bring up your child. If a parent can't think of a way to take away a toy, not allow a kid to see his friend on the weekend, not allow the kid to play with his pet, or to ground the child, as an effective punishment strategy, and if that same parent thinks that violence and physically beating a child is the only way to teach that child, then I would argue that there is something seriously wrong with the parent.

Also, your point about Sweden doesn't bear on the issue. Just because parents were unable to control themselves or control their tempers and not beat their kids, doesn't mean that the kids should be punished because of it. Basically you're saying that kids should accept a little abuse from parents so they don't have to face a lot of abuse of the foster system. Just because a parent can't follow the law and refuses to think of actual forms of controlling their child without resorting to physical violence, doesn't mean that corporal punishment should be allowed. If a host of parents felt it was okay to beat their children (as was common in many third culture countries) black and blue to the point they break bones and refused to stop when it was outlawed, does that mean it shouldn't have been outlawed? No. It doesn't follow.


In his first rebuttal he makes a few claims about how children regard their parents' actions and which ones they'll try themselves. There is no proof suggesting a child doesn't want to drive a car. They may simply not have the access to mimic this particular action of their parents. I have already cited sources suggesting that children mimic their parents. If a parent swears, so will the child. If a parent tells dirty jokes, so will the kid. And if a parent hits, in many cases, so will the son or daughter. The source he sites about a long case study has this to say:

"I have looked at just about every study I can lay my hands on, and there are thousands, and I have not found any evidence that an occasional mild smack with an open hand on the clothed behind or the leg or hand is harmful or instills violence in kids," she said.

An occasional mild smack hardly constitutes usual corporal punishment. An occasional mild smack can be forgiven, because children are capable of forgiveness. Some parents may shout hurtful things at their children once or twice, this doesn't constitute emotional or verbal abuse. A child can forgive. Some parents may forget to feed a child once or twice, this isn't neglect it can be pardoned. So when a case study uses the mildest form of something, expect to see extremely mild results.

Second con argues that smacking the bottom doesn't yield the same physical results as smacking a face. I agree. I never said it did. I said it had the same consequences. If you stab someone in the knee as opposed to the heart, you will not cause as much damage but you will still be guilty of 'attempted murder.' If you punch someone in the arm instead of the face you are still guilty of 'battery.' If you smack a bottom just because it will 'cause less damage' it doesn't follow that that makes it alright. The same consequences exist no matter where you strike. Not physical (it still causes pain and causes damage of welts, scarring prevention of being able to sit down), but emotional and legal. And once again I disagree that corporal punishment is 'required.'

Third, I agree not all corporal punishment is harsh. Not all verbal abuse is barbed. Not all hateful rhetoric is overt. But it is still there and it still teaches the same thing. And in the long run it still has the potential to yield adverse results.

Finally, my argument is that spanking is bad for society because it causes aggressive behavior, violent tendencies and stunts emotional growth. My points still stand. They were not refuted, but played down to the most minimal possible effect such as 'a light occasional slap.' If I steal only a gumball from a grocery store am I guilty of theft? If I only whisper a small sexual joke about a coworker am I guilty of sexual harassment? Just because con has taken the most mild case study, doesn't mean that the crime committed is any less serious.

I never said a child should be treated like an adult. I said a child should be protected from violence like adults are protected from violence. This debate isn't about treating children like adults, unless you're claiming the only difference between a child and an adult is that adults are not spanked. Which it isn't.



Let me draw the line for you.

I know it might be tempting to think that because pro is arguing all corporal punishment should be illegal, that I am arguing all corporal punishment should be legal. That's wrong. I'm arguing for the right of parents to cause pain to children. I'm not arguing that parents have a right to inflict serious injury to children. Bruises, cuts and wounds, using extreme force or tough physical weapons, and hitting a child for non-corrective reasons or in anger are a partial list of the circumstances where it is not OK. Courts already recognise these actions as "child abuse." The fact that child abuse is harmful is a reason to ban child abuse, not all light spankings which almost nobody would deem abusive.

Like my opponent I'm going to go through my case first, and then his.

My Case

Why not shoot the very naughty kid? Because a less harmful action, such as a slap to the buttocks, would be sufficient to do the job. We both agree that parents should be reasonably nice to their children, and that means protecting them from danger. A slap to the buttocks protects them in that it prevents them from getting themselves killed in the future, whilst a gunshot wound or knife cut, at best, puts them in more danger. I should add that I wasn't attempting to prove anything with this point - it was just to set the context and show that parents typically aren't whacking their kids because they feel like it. Kids have serious tantrums, and parents need to be serious in dealing with them too. It isn't because it's easy that one does it - it's because it's really important that children learn, and there's no other way to get through to them.

Mental patients are a special case because they lack the learning capacity, so physical reinforcement is usually pretty pointless. It's because the punishment is corrective - meaning that children can learn from it - that we allow it to happen to them. Because you cannot engage them mentally or rationally, assuming they have not yet developed the capacity for this, the only available option is physically.

Taking away positive reinforcements, such as toys, movies, or free movement ("time out" - when you're 4, free movement is a bit of a privilege to show you're a big kid) does work in some cases, because they remove a physical "good". Most responsible parents reserve light smacking for more serious offences, to show children the severity of their actions. It's a more powerful way of communicating the message as the reinforcement is directly tied to the action, as opposed to being something incidental removed by the action. It's important for parents to be allowed to use all corrective tools that do not harm the child, rather than assume that one mode of response to bad behaviour is right in every context for every child.

I think my point about Sweden was missed. The point is that parents are prosecuted not for flaring tempers, but for light smacking reported by a member of the public. The harm of that is that the parents lose their children, which is bad for not only the parent but the child's behavioral development as well. This is because they lose their key authority figure and moral guide, which is difficult to transfer especially if the child is young. Furthermore, there is a presumption that the state can raise a child better than a parent. In Sweden, what we saw instead was children being taken out of loving relationships and put into foster homes where they were physically and sexually abused to an extent much worse than any light smack they ever suffered at home. On another level, if parents do not feel "in command" of their child, they might not bother to teach children important moral values - classing a light smack the same as a gunshot wound only gives parents incentives to use a gun rather than an open palm.

The response my opponent gave to this is that just because the law would be broken doesn't mean it shouldn't be the law. That's true, but the point was more about the consequences of the law being broken rather than the mere fact that it would be broken. The end goal is for these children to grow up and learn good values - they can't do that if their good parents, trying to set them on the right course with a corrective smack, are jailed by the state while they are put in the hands of an institution that probably isn't much better.


Once again I'll be using the four-point structure we established last round.

First, about learned aggression. I said children can distinguish between themselves and their parents. They recognise when actions are universally OK and when they are privileges allowed to only a few. A child may try to get into the drivers seat of a car, but on being corrected will learn that the action is not OK for them. In the same way, a child will probably attempt to hit another at some point (whether they were smacked or not) and thus learn that hitting others is not OK for them. Children thus recognise that certain actions are context, subject and person relative in terms of their morality. My opponent further agrees that mild smacks are OK, conceeding my whole argument that some forms of corporal punishment (ie mild smacks) should be allowed. I should add, however, that the results were not mild - the evidence even indicated that smacked children were less aggressive, implying that light corrective actions on the part of parents do not cause any long-term aggressive behaviour.

Second, about whether the location hit is relevant. Once again, I think it is. Parents are administering corrective punishment here - they do not want to administer retributive punishment because they love the child. That implies that they don't want to cause too much physical injury, but rather only pain. Otherwise, it ought to constitute evidence that the intent was to injure, which implies child abuse (which we both oppose). So parents who hit a child's head rather than their bottom are more likely to cause injury. I question whether this is in fact an extremely relevant point to the debate, but no matter where the child is hit, parents should be able to justify that their actions were corrective. My key point in this debate is that administration of corrective pain, in measured amount and frequency, is justifiable and should not be banned.

Third, we have an aweful lot of consensus in this debate, and thus it's great we agree not all corporal punishment is harsh, and all harsh punishments are bad. What this implies is that we ought to ban the harsh ones - we both agree on that. The issue in this debate is about whether we should ban all corporal punishment, or merely some.

Fourth, about harms to society. While I agree extreme corporal punishment might harm society, I'd like to remind everyone that I have never been advocating for legalising all corporal punishment. I've been negating that it should be illegal. I've already gone into some detail about why it's legitimate to make exceptions to the law in this case.


Children are not adults. We ought to give them different punishments that correspond to different needs for learning. We both oppose child abuse. The question is whether a smack or other light physical punishment ought also be banned. In fact, it's often necessary, and a part of good parenting.
Debate Round No. 3


My opponent states, "I am arguing for the right of parents to cause pain to children." And if that is the case you're arguing, once again I say that you cannot simply argue for the smallest possible outcome (light, gentle spanking occasionally for only really bad children). The argument is 'should parents cause physical pain to their children.'


In answer to my argument, my opponent says, "Why not shoot the very naughty kid? Because a less harmful action, such as a slap to the buttocks, would be sufficient to do the job."

If that is the logical path to determining right from wrong, then the case is settled. Why not shoot the kid? Because a less harmful action (spanking) is sufficient. Why not spank the kid? Because a less harmful action (grounding) is sufficient. So don't shoot the kid, don't spank the kid, take the mildest form of punishment possible and the mildest form is not physical violence by any accounts. (I am not saying this is true. I am simply stating my opponent's reasoning lends to this conclusion.)

My opponent says, A slap to the buttocks protects them in that it prevents them from getting themselves killed in the future, whilst a gunshot wound or knife cut, at best, puts them in more danger.

I disagree. A spanking also has the potential of putting a child in danger by causing flesh tearing, bruising and physical pain. A knife wound slit across skin can have a similar effect without long-lasting consequences. As disciplinary measures they'll both get the same point across; don't do this or you'll be physically punished. And my opponent's assertion that a slap to the buttocks protects a child from death is unfounded. There are other methods of teaching a kid not to run into the street. My same argument is that a gunshot would also teach the child not to run into the street, but it isn't an appropriate method of communication.

Also my opponent states that "It's because the punishment is corrective - meaning that children can learn from it - that we allow it to happen to them. Because you cannot engage them mentally or rationally, assuming they have not yet developed the capacity for this, the only available option is physically."

A child can also learn from starvation, but that doesn't mean we should allow it to happen to them. And just because they can be reasoned with in one sense (not all senses) the only available option is not physical violence. I heartily contest this baseless assertion. I'd contend that one could use other forms of negative reinforcement. A stern voice, disapproving tone, timeouts, grounding, taking away toys, not allowing to have fun. Are all forms of punishment that are alternatives to physical violence.

I agree that "It's important for parents to be allowed to use all corrective tools that do not harm the child." One could make this argument. But I am already saying that 'spanking' does harm the child by making them more aggressive (Shown in the study above) making the child prone to violence, emotionally debilitating the child and making them a harm to society. My opponent debates then that not ALL spanking is good (he's conceded that at least some spanking is bad) so he states that very light, minimal spanking on occasion won't cause these harms. I would agree. I'd also agree that (like I said before) occasionally forgetting to feed your child fruit with his meals doesn't cause everlasting damage, because it is a minor harm that can be forgiven. But it is a harm all the same and it is when that negligible behavior turns to negligence that you have child abuse. By making spanking illegal, (in the same way that negligence is illegal) one would make sure that a child isn't open to a scenario where a parent can abuse them or can spank them too often, or too hard or cause too much damage. (Light spanking even isn't a good model, because it still teaches the child violence.)

I did understand his point about Sweden. And I pointed out that making 'spanking illegal' was not the reason those kids went to foster care. Parents disobeying the law was the reasons those kids went to foster care. They were not allowed to spank, but did it anyway for their own selfish reasons or simply out of a negative habit. That is the parent's fault, not the child's and not the legal system's. Saying, that they suffered less abuse one place than another, doesn't mean that the first part should be legalized. Take one of those kids in foster care for example. Let's say they move from home A to home B. In home A they were beaten on occasion. In home B they were sexually abused and beaten every day. Just because Home B was worse than Home A, doesn't mean home A should be considered 'good.'

And my opponent is arguing once again about the effect of the legal system. If the punishment given is too severe, that is a problem in the courts. A parent can be nominally fined, warned, or put under house arrest for various offenses. A parent can be imprisoned for a night or two days. Repeat offenders can suffer more serious consequences. In the end, I am not writing legislation, I am simply saying that because in a single case-study the courts aren't effectively implementing the law, doesn't mean that the law should be thrown out altogether.


My opponent states, "Children thus recognise that certain actions are context, subject and person relative in terms of their morality" He also says that children have the mental ability to determine the difference between multiple scenarios. Only moments ago in his debate he was arguing that, "Because you cannot engage them mentally or rationally." Now he is attributing the reasoning skills of a much older person with that of a child, but then switching the case study when it suits his debate. I disagree with this tactic. Either the child is mentally capable and can be rational in understanding about their roles and therefore can be rational about punishment and being talked to or shown by examples, or else the child isn't. In either case one of my opponent's arguments comes up short. Either the child is rational and spanking shouldn't be allowed because you can reason with them. Or the child isn't rational, and so they don't differentiate between a parent and a child's role in hitting someone or driving. (I am not stating this as my view, only as a contradiction of my opponent's.)

My opponent is wrong is saying I said light smacks were 'ok.' I said light smacks can be forgiven or don't have as harmful an effect. In the same way punching someone on the jaw or getting in a fight with a friend can be okay, and won't be prosecuted by law. Both cases these can even draw people closer together after altercation, but they are still considered illegal and should not become common practice.

In this paragraph my opponent is once again supporting 'pain' as a corrective tool. Violence sometimes is used simply to cause pain without lasting injury. (Torture for instance.) Just because the intention is pain not injury, doesn't make the violent act any more acceptable.

Thirdly, I agree with my opponent. All harsh corporal punishment should be banned. He says that if you water it down it should be allowed, I say just because something is lesser of a greater evil, doesn't make it good. (Add flour to cocaine and you have a less potent substance, but it is still cocaine.)

I'd say allowing light corporal punishment allows for harsh corporal punishment. (Who is to determine which is which? Will some social worker stand in the house while the punishment is administered.) And in either case I still argue violence teaches violence and even if you only have very light smacking once in a while, it is still physical violence. (Could say, I only lightly slapped my sister on the wrist. I wasn't violent!)

I agree with my opponent's final statement mostly. I disagree with his conclusion. I think spanking, of any degree or speed, is poor parenting and should be illegal--though not always prosecuted.



The argument is not whether parents should be allowed to inflict any physical pain to their children. This argument is over whether all physical pain should be banned, no matter how serious, or whether just the serious kind should be banned that actually makes kids violent and aggressive, and hurts them for life. My opponent has no issue with causing emotional pain to a child, such as from taking away a loved toy, or causing isolation and a feeling of being unwanted to the child, such as through time out. In fact, he's advocated these things as punishment. However, he'd like to see good parents who give their children a light slap when they've been exceptionally naughty thrown in prison and fined, vindicating the child's naughty behaviour, removing them from their authority figures, and generally making other parents more reluctant to disciplining their children. That children become naughtier under his model is that part of the Sweden point he missed.

My case

If grounding was a sufficient alternative, a good parent may choose to do it. The problem is that for more serious offences, it often isn't. What grounding teaches a child is that the parent doesn't want to be around the child when they do a certain behaviour, which encourages them to do it when the parent isn't looking. We need to bear in mind the context I set the right at the beginning. A child has caused massive damage. I don't think spanking is massively damaging when done appropriately, but it conveys a much more serious message, that a child will get hurt if they do that again. That's an important message because it's true - they will get hurt if they do something really bad again, such as drown while playing unsupervised by the pool. Bear in mind also my explanation for why children learn, and the need for the right kind of reinforcement.

My opponent says that spanking is worse than getting a knife wound in terms of injury to the child. If we were comparing excessive spanking against a light knife wound, that might be somewhat true. However, light spanking can still produce temporary physical pain without any real damage being done to the child's body. While I'm all in favor of banning abusive punishments, I and my opponent differ in that I don't think moderated, light spanking is abusive.

I have already agreed that other alternatives can be used that seek to cause emotional pain instead. Most parents would use these alternatives instead. Most parents would do the same with positive reinforcement, such as saying "well done" being more common than giving lollypops. However, parents need to have all of the various good options open to them. Spanking is obviously a serious option, but since it doesn't really damage a child and it teaches them a valuable lesson it must be allowed.

My opponent has conceeded this entire case. He agrees mild, occassional spanking does not cause harms, and does cause learning, therefore it ought to be "forgiven" (ie, not made illegal - if it can be forgiven, why prosecute parents over using it?) Mild, occassional spanking is a form of corporal punishment. Obviously we both agree that child abuse should be banned. Looking at hot women may cause men to want to take the woman's clothes off, but that's no reason to ban either men or hot women as well. In the same way, just because mild, occassional spanking could possibly lead to child abuse (although there is no evidence for this) doesn't mean we should ban it or the parents that administer it.

My opponent conceeds also that the state can be worse than the parents with the Sweden case, saying that they are worse than the parents. While he contests whether a parent who spanks their children lightly is "good", since he must accept there is a harm in the state dictating what is good and bad parenting, since their own "parenting" is objectively worse. Control must remain with those who know best, and in this instance that party is the parents. Once again, my opponent has missed that this also relates to the children's outcomes and future. We make laws because they fit with our vision of how society should be - so if we don't think society should be aggressive, and this law turns many children from loving parents to aggressive, abused maniacs, then we should not have this law.


I've weaved most of my rebuttal into my case, and my opponent repeats the same thing several times when he is focusing on his case. Therefore this is just the remaining stuff we dealt with in the debate.

My opponent says it's a contradiction to say a child's capacity to learn is limited and that they have learnt the difference between themselves and their parents. Knowing that you're not the only independant actor in the world isn't a hard thing to learn. That's why you can't grab food on demand, for instance, but only when something "else" grabs it for you. I've already told you that children learn this at age one, but only learn to rationalise around the age of six. During that five-year window, physical reinforcement is required for teaching.

Next my opponent says light smacks can be forgiven. The difference between punching your friend and teaching a child a lesson is that for a child, there is little alternative. Reasoning is always ideal, like I said, and you can reason with your friend. However, you cannot reason with a 3 year old. They have not learnt to reason yet.

Lastly, it's not difficult to determine what is child abuse and what is light, moderated corporal punishment. Appropriate corporal punishment will not leave the child with any serious injury. Beyond that, we already trust the state to monitor child abuse, even where there is very little way of knowing, such as sexual abuse. "Light slaps on the wrist", to use my opponent's example, should never cause a dislocated wrist.


If it's not worth prosecuting, it's not worth making illegal. It's clear that my opponent has one view of good parenting and many parents have another, but when you look at the objective evidence, you cannot say that their style of parenting - involving a small and measured amount of corporal punishment - is wrong. I stand for the right of these parents to not be labelled law-breakers. Light corporal punishment is a legitimate way of teaching children a lesson. In fact, for some offences, it is the only appropriate way.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 1dustpelt 6 years ago
Fvck I get hit all the time
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
Con should have won :P
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago

Great debate! I felt that the severity of corporal punishment should have been better defined so the two debaters know exactly what they were arguing for. There were some really good points brought up about how children learn and whether they learn violence from their parents. Pro's main problem with his argumentative strategy was that he argued that Con was minimizing his arguments and only arguing for mild corporal punishment. This was in fact what Con was supposed to defend - I didn't expect Con to defend extreme violence. So, the debate was pretty much conceded by Pro's last round.

I agree with Pro's position and I think the arguments were well-written. The rebuttals however failed to answer Con's case and mostly looked for common ground. Clear Con win for showing that "mild" corporal punishment should not be outlawed which was all he had to do.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
Well it certainly can be, and it doesnt work on all children or in all situations. But really, an occasional spank to remind the child who is in charge is something I cant really lable as "cruel", but I dont want to screw up the debate so I'll stop commenting
Posted by bossyburrito 6 years ago
I believe Corporal Punishment is downright cruel.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
I see no problem in giving a kid a smack every now and again. I got hit occasionally as a child, and can't think of a time I didnt remember it before doing something stupid again
Posted by YYW 6 years ago

In the north east (where I spent most of my childhood) most parents I knew didn't. We actually had a debate about that in my social studies class. Most kids never were spanked.

In the South (where I presently life) more parents do then don't, although there is a curious socioeconomic difference among parents who spank and those who don't. Households with more than a 100,000 USD net income are substantially less likely to spank children then those who make less than 100k. I suppose the middle class reads more parenting books...


I know they do in public schools in Georgia and in some private schools in South Carolina. Not sure about texas though. As things go though, Texas is more progressive (if you can believe it) then both GA and SC (in my experience).
Posted by Apollo.11 6 years ago
@YYW Probably...
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
Most parents spank their children, and schools arent prohibited from using the paddle, but Ive only once met someone who went to a school that used it
Posted by YYW 6 years ago
No, it was fvcking hilarious. Corporal punishment. Asses. They still have the barbaric practice in Texas, right?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by tarkovsky 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: This was a long-winded argument. Though I feel the original point, that spanking should be made illegal, was a bit lost I still gave it to Pro. Con concedes that light abuses such as spanking are acceptable insofar as they instructive. This fails to negate the part of the resolution the debate seemed to focus in, viz., that though it may be instructive it may still be an unhealthy and unnecessary way of teaching your child. Good debate though.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Comments