What Does it Mean to Spank Your Child?

It is common practice for parents to disagree on whether or not to use spanking as a form of discipline within the home. What may seem appropriate to one parent may seem harmful or wrong to another.

If one parent, for example, was spanked as a child and feels that it’s a normal part of growing up, they may think they are not harming their child when they use the same tactics.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “corporal punishment and harsh verbal abuse may cause a child to be fearful in the short term but does not improve behavior over the long term and may cause more aggressive behaviors.” Instead, the site suggests consistently using positive reinforcement to shape your child’s behavior.

Where you stand on discipline may also change over time. Suppose at one point you were on board with spanking as a form of punishment and now have changed your mind. Is the other parent still using spanking as a discipline and now committing child abuse?

The short answer is no. Read on to learn more.

Who Can Legally Spank a Child in Texas?

It may be of concern to think that just anyone or entity can choose to spank your child as a form of discipline. This is not the case. As stipulated in Texas Code 151.001(e), only the people listed below are allowed to spank your child:

  • Either parent or set of grandparents of the child
  • An individual who is the legal guardian of the child with the duty to control the child when necessary
  • A stepparent of the child who has a duty to control the child when necessary

In summary, someone in a public space, such as a store, can not legally choose to spank someone else’s child without issue. The person who can lawfully spank your child is you, the other parent, a stepparent, a legal grandparent, or a legal guardian.

When is Spanking Considered Abusive?

Within reason, you are legally able to spank your child in Texas. There are limits, however, as to who (which we discussed above) and how to use spanking as a form of punishment without it being considered abuse.

If you are using ropes, sticks, phone cords, boards, or other various instruments to spank rather than your hand, this may lead to what is considered abuse rather than what is legally permissible.

If the force used causes a welt, bruising, or swelling, requires medication, or leaves lasting marks on the skin, this can be considered abusive.

Also, as spanking is done below the waist on the child’s body, if striking occurs above the waist, such as in or near the face, this may be considered abusive behavior.

Alternative Methods of Discipline

It may be beneficial to incorporate other forms of discipline so that you, your partner or co-parent, grandparents, and anyone around your child understand what methods are appropriate or acceptable forms of discipline within your family.

Time outs – time outs can be effective for both the children and the adults. It allows time to calm down for all parties, time to think or revisit the emotions rather than acting on them immediately, and more.

Positive reinforcement – Many say it’s important to utilize positive reinforcement often and consistently as part of an overall discipline strategy. Positive reinforcement can help foster good behavior. Cating a child in the act of doing something good and verbally praising them or rewarding them in other ways can be effective and counteract poor behavior.

Loss of privileges – the idea of grounding a child may feel as old as time. Maybe you were grounded as a child, which meant you couldn’t use your favorite toys, electronics, or other items that brought you joy. Denying your child access to these items if they are misbehaving can be an alternative to spanking for your family.

When Should I Report Spanking to Child Protective Services?

If your instinct or suspicions give you a reasonable belief that a child is being abused, you should contact Child Protective Services (CPS). It can be tough to determine when it is appropriate to report behavior, but you will just have to trust your best judgment.

If the discipline seems unreasonable, excessive, or borderline abusive, it can be in the child’s best interest to report the behavior and allow the proper parties to investigate.

Gathering photographs, statements from the child or others closely related to them, or past medical documents can be helpful in allowing CPS to determine whether or not to move forward with investigations.

What To Do if Being Investigated For Child Abuse

Crimes against children are taken seriously everywhere, and Texas is no exception. Understanding your rights and what is considered reasonable is essential so you do not inadvertently risk being charged with or investigated for child abuse.

If you are looking for professional legal guidance or criminal defense regarding spanking or child abuse, contact our office at (254) 274-2227. Let us help you determine your options or discuss your concerns regarding the abuse suspicions you may have.

Child abuse charges can become serious quickly, so don’t wait to discuss your concerns or learn more about how to prepare yourself best. Call our office today to get st