Is "Spanking" the Same as "Hitting"?

A recent editorial in Minnesota’s Caledonia Argus reads:

“According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 69,322 referrals were made to Child Protection in Minnesota in 2013. A total of 49,006 were screened out and 20,316 were screened for follow through.

A study of 17,000 adults by the Kaiser Permanente health care organization in 1997 showed that 28 percent of the respondents had suffered from physical abuse growing up.

Is it possible that some of this abuse could have been prevented had the parents learned how better to parent, instead of spanking and abusing their children?”

It’s an honest question. And it reveals author Don Heinzman’s honest and unequivocal ranking of “spanking” as an inferior parenting technique, comparing or equating it with “abusing” children. Heinzman goes on to inform Minnesotans about the organization Early Child Family Education, which conducts classes in local communities to aid and inform parents.

In fact, “using the strategies discussed in ECFE classes can prevent parents from hitting or spanking the child,” claims Heinzman–again yoking abuse, or “hitting,” with “spanking.”

The first time I heard of the distinction between spanking and hitting being erased was when I lived in Massachusetts. Our neighbors told us that they had just been visited by a child services representative, who had heard from the neighbors’ family members that the parents were “hitting.” Our neighbors protested that they would never hit their children or anyone, but that under certain circumstances they did spank, and they explained their rationale and methodology. “Yes, that’s hitting,” replied the representative.

A few questions for readers–answer any or all:

  1. Do you distinguish between spanking and hitting?
  2. If so, how?
  3. To what do you attribute your position? Geographical location, ethnicity, how you were raised, how you weren’t raised?
  4. Does it ever cross your mind whether your position is in-step with child services in your region?