Family Matters

Trudy J. Morgan-Cole March/April 2002
The home was not notorious in the community as an abusive one. In, fact, the family-members of a conservative Christian group called the Church of God, affiliated with the Mennonites-were known to their neighbors as a happy, law-abiding family with well adjusted children.

However, on July 4, 2001, an attention-grabbing scene took place on the lawn of that home in Aylmer, Ontario. Seven children were taken by Ontario children's aid workers "dragged, kicking and screaming," as some onlookers described it. Family and Children's Services of St. Thomas and Elgin (FCS) was intervening in what it believed was a case of possible child abuse."

Family and Children's Services workers removed the children because the parents believed in using corporal punishment to discipline their children. More specifically, they believe, and their church teaches, that it is appropriate to spank children using a switch, strap, or other object. A parent's hand, they say, should be an instrument of love and caring: an impersonal object such as a stick should be used for discipline. ''A hand should be 'used for guidance and comfort:' says the Aylmer Church of God pastor, Henry Hildebrandt. "Plus, the hand is way too ready. If a person is angry, they may just slap with their hand. We don't believe in hitting children that way."

Christian parents who believe in corporal punishment cite biblical authority, based on verses such as Proverbs 23:13, 14: "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death" (NIV) and "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15, NIV).

Canadian law supports these parents. Section 43 of the federal Criminal Code states: "Every school teacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable in the circumstances." A group called Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law is launching a court challenge to have Section 43 overturned on the grounds that it violates children's rights. Their challenge is supported by z number of groups, including the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.'

Social workers such as those at Family and Children's Services are less interested in what the book of Proverbs says about spanking than in what groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have to say about it. The AAP describes spanking as the "least effective way to discipline," noting that:

Article Author: Trudy J. Morgan-Cole