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Attorney Renee C. Walsh

To Spank or Not To Spank – Michigan Spanking

Inquiry:  Is spanking child abuse?

Response:  It depends on your state.

I live in Michigan and here, Michigan Compiled Law 750.136b of the Michigan Penal Code defines child abuse. Subsection(7) specifically exempts from criminal punishment a parent or guardian (or someone authorized by them) who takes steps to reasonably discipline a child, including the use of reasonable force. In other words, if you spank with reasonable force, you are in the clear.

The debate is clearly a personal one. As to myself, I have two children, ages five and two and never expect to and never would spank them. I prefer a firm voice and demeanor along with explanation over corporal punishment. This serves the higher purpose of maintaining my children’s autonomy and dignity. Furthermore, it works! My children are happy, respectful, and well-disciplined both at home and in public. I have family and friends who spank their children and the children do not seem to be scarred. Yet, I wonder, what was it about their verbal communication that it was not effective enough to get the job done alone. It seems that getting anyone, including your child, to do or refrain from doing something is the same as making a pitch for a sale where effective communication, explanation, understanding and rewards where appropriate seal the deal.

A mother friend of mine told her 5 year-old-daughter and her daughter’s friend of the same age, to stop throwing rocks in the yard. They did not head her directive and she sternly told them a second time. Still they did not discontinue and mom was about to threaten spanking when I went over to the children and bent down speaking to them in a concerned and friendly motherly voice at their level. I advised, “kids, if you do not stop throwing rocks in the yard, when mommy mows the lawn and you are outside, the lawn mower could run over a rock and the blades could shoot it out from under, and make the rock hit you in the face! Wow, that would hurt wouldn’t it! And, what would you do? You would not be able to get out of the way fast enough even if you jumped this high (and I jumped in the air).” They started jumping and the point hit home and they ceased the prohibited activity. Effective communication worked like a charm, and as I have said, for me, it works every time.

Those who do spank seem to have the law on their side. The U.S. Constitution gives us the right to rear our children in accordance with our own beliefs and most state laws allow parents to use “reasonable” corporal punishment, as with Michigan as noted above. It is a fine line to tow and hard to judge the spankers, because when it comes to the government telling me how to raise my child, I tend to want it out of that arena. However, I cannot see that under the circumstances I ever would need to hit my child and if I am to be totally honest, I see physical discipline as weak and a failure when it comes to our children.

Consider this: Do we hit our children to punish them when they are teenagers? We see that less often and why? Because we see them as more equal to us at that stage and they can defend themselves.


  1. I can say Whoopings kept me from going to far and taught me limits.

  2. Disciplined/USMC says:

    Have an unruly 12-year-old (my girlfriend’s grandchild). The child has no father figure. He is not attending school. His mother has to give him rewards to get him to do anything. He has hit his mother. Spank or don’t spank ????

    • Dear Disciplined/USMC:

      My feeling is that age 12 is too old for spanking, however, it does seem that it is time to get serious. Take a look at this article for ideas: Parenting an Extremely Rebellious Teen.

      I thought of your situation when I read in the article that “parent battering” usually occurs when a parent has failed to fulfill their role of being in charge. Instead, the violent child is left in charge. Their parent does not admit the seriousness of the situation by taking appropriate action like calling the police, lying to protect the child, and giving in to their demands. This collapse of parental authority is viewed by the rebellious teen as weak.

      When considering what to do next, know that the child respects strength and disdains weakness–especially that borne of love. It is our role as parents to teach them how to be independent. If I try to put myself in your shoes, I imagine myself trying to get the child in some activity they enjoy and see if that plants a seed that will grow.

      • And that authority was claimed by just a firm voice? You don’t see many teenagers spanked because the level of pain is ineffective at a certain age/size. I was spanked as a young child and it taught me what boundaries I weren’t allowed to cross as well as understanding and respecting authority. I didn’t spank my child for the first 4 years of his life and spoke to him about his choices I wasn’t pleased with and why. Now I have a child who is 8 with a 156 IQ who can give valid arguments why he can/can’t do many things even our University’s logic professor can’t win! I wish I would’ve spanked my child because although he respects and loves me, explaining things to him instead of whooping his butt and saying “because I said so” has taught him how to analyze situations and find logical ways to explain why he is “entitled” to behave in manners I find unacceptable. But good job with your perfect parenting skills and children and shame on all those awful parents that can’t achieve what you did seeing as all kids are exactly the same.

  3. Parents have less rights and parenthood isn’t parenting anymore. There is a fear of their child having them investigated. Different times, different laws – that merely enforce control over our rights and liberties! Welcome to a world that as a parent carries heavy restrictions and major consequences for spanking a child. Not only that, these days, the children know it. You see more and more cases of children or young adults suing and having their parents incarcerated. Local CPS leads the way in many minor and reasonable cases!!

  4. Light spanking is okay if the circumstances leave no other alternatives, but if you have to spank a child older than 8, you have failed as a parent.

    • Catherine H. says:

      Wow that’s a very judgemental and ignorant statement just how many children do you have and how many are over the age of eight cause you can try your hardest but parenting has no handbook on how to be perfect so I believe you have failed as a human being and shame on your parents for raising someone who is completely narcissistic , judgemental and has no compassion.