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The Globe and Mail

You're pro-spanking? That's a whackable offence

I thought we'd finally put the efficacy of a good swat to the tushy to bed without its supper.

Yet, in a poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail, Canadians were asked if they believed that spanking was beneficial to children - and 42 per cent answered, "Sure."


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Maybe 42 per cent of Canadians aren't actually using corporal punishment; they simply want to keep the option of spanking in their back pockets, just in case their kid does something really, really awful that merits a little acceptable rendition. Might there be such a thing as a spankable offence?

There are times when I want to spank all kinds of people, most of them adults. Here is a list of offences that apply to all Canadians, not just kids, and not just the 42 per cent.

Beware my paddle if you: 1) Let your giant dog, with its human-sized colon, poop on the sidewalk in front of my house; 2) Honk at an elderly person as they try to get through a stoplight; 3) Criticize parents for the way they are raising their child - and you are not a parent yourself. That gets you the belt with the buckle.

That settled, who determines what a spankable offence is for children?

Let's ask God: Deuteronomy states that the "rebellious son" is to be put to death by stoning. A rebel in the age of Deuteronomy would be someone who wore clothing of mixed fabrics. So all you Lycra-spandex, lululemon yoga people better watch out.

Let's ask U.S. psychologist Robert Larzelere, a much-quoted expert on parental disciplinary responses: Being difficult, antisocial, disobedient, or disruptive (in other words, interesting) are good reasons for two- to six-year-olds to receive "two open-handed swats to the buttocks leaving no bruise." But remember, "effectiveness will be most maximized when the child is most distressed." That'll be one happy household around Christmastime.

Let's ask Stephen Harper: By press time, he hadn't returned my call, so I'm going to have to send him to the naughty step.

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There's not much point in asking me, because although there have been moments when I was so frustrated that I had a Three-Stooges-esque "Why I oughta ..." honking through my brain, I already promised that I would never spank my sons. (The closest I came had to do with my son's strong will mixed with the black hole that is Pearson airport.) If, at some point, I break my no-spanky vow, I will treat 42 per cent of Canadians to a de-stressing aromatherapy session/Botox party.

So let's ask my next-door neighbour, Denise: The other day, a coffee hangout in our neighbourhood was having a 15th anniversary bash. Suddenly, someone rushed in and told Denise that her four-year-old daughter, Stella, had been missing from her house for the past 45 minutes.

Every parent immediately vacated the party and came to her house to help look. They arrived on bikes, in cars, on foot, in cold sweats, white-faced and panic-stricken. By this point, Stella's big sister was running back and forth in front of their house screaming her little sister's name. Denise's husband frantically pleaded, "Stella, just let us know where you are! Just let us know where you are!"

The police were called and two cruisers immediately pulled up. They were about to bring in the search dogs and the helicopter when someone shouted, "I found her! She's okay!" She had been hiding under her bed, behind a narrow bin, curled in a tight ball. The more alarmed the voices around her, the more still and quiet she got. A neighbour whispered that this would be a good time to bring back spanking.

So there you have it: Hiding while your family's adrenal glands explode and they age 15 years imagining the unimaginable is a spankable offence on my block.

Or is it?

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As punishment, Denise took Stella to each parent who helped search for her, and made her apologize. Think back to the times you were spanked as a child. While you may remember every pore on that wooden spoon, do you remember what the spanking was for? I bet Stella will never forget the reason for her neighbourhood prostrations. My inclination might be more toward prevention: Simply hook the child up to one of those leashes that you sometimes see on ferrets.

Recently, a friend was heading home on the streetcar, when she noticed a stressed-out mother loaded down with bags, a stroller and two little ones. The mom's eldest son refused to get on the streetcar. So she grabbed his arm, yanked him roughly up the stairs, and slapped his face.

Everyone in the streetcar registered silent horror, but said nothing. My friend's heart was pounding. Should she step in? Educate this woman on the latest research about the value of teaching your child inner discipline? Slap mom back to teach her a lesson? Instead, she approached the now defensive, wild-eyed mother and said softly, "You must be having a really bad day." The mom burst into tears, and hugged her son.

Can we afford our own children the same compassion that my friend extended to this face-slapping stranger? Survey says: Sure.

Diane Flacks is an actor, writer, mom, multi-tasker and author of the book, Bear With Me.

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