When Does Spanking Become Child Abuse?

Spanking your child can either be a form of discipline or child abuse. It's advisable to know the difference not only for your child's sake but also to avoid getting in trouble with the law. Here are three questions whose answers will help you know whether your spanking is a form of child abuse:  

What's Your Relation with the Child?

In all fifty states, it's legal for a parent to spank a child. Of course, each state has its terms and conditions, some more specific than others, of what this spanking means. However, the law isn't expressly clear on whether or not you can spank another person's child. It depends on many different issues such as whether they are in your home or not. A few states also allow teachers to spank kids. Therefore, your relationship with the child determines whether or not you can legally spank them.

What Is the Purpose of the Spanking?

The purpose of the spanking also determines whether or not it's legal. You may spank your child only if you want to correct their bad or dangerous behavior. Therefore, it may be legal to spank your child if they keep on breaking your neighbor's windows despite your repeated warnings. However, it's illegal to come home drunk, start quarreling with your loved ones and lash out at the nearest child when they request for a new toy. In this later example, the child hasn't done anything inappropriate or dangerous to warrant the spanking.

How Much Force Did You Use?

Lastly, the amount of force you use when hitting the child also determines whether you have crossed the line. There is no specific force that you must use if you want to spank your child legally; it all depends on the age of the child. Apart from the force being age-appropriate, it mustn't leave the child with any injuries.

For example, using your bare palms to smack a child lightly on their rear end may be legal if the force used doesn't leave an injury. However, beating up your child with a baseball bat is clearly illegal since it's likely to leave the child injured. Courts generally decide these issues on a case-by-case basis.

As you can see, the line between spanking and child abuse can be very thin. Therefore, it's easy to be accused of child abuse, even if that wasn't your intention. Consult an attorney to help defend yourself if you are facing those charges. To learn more, speak with someone like Greenberg Walden & Grossman.