Spanking has whacked its way into the headlines once again. We all know the story. A Christian fundamentalist community in rural Ontario is torn apart when local Children’s Aid workers raid homes and take away children. The details of the case are unknown because of a court gag order. But the arguments remain the same.

My personal view is that spanking doesn’t achieve very much. The occasional pat on the bum with an open hand might be necessary, or a spank on a child’s hand or the top of a leg. There is a very limited age window when this might be helpful, and more often than not there are other ways to achieve the task. But it doesn’t really matter. I say again, it doesn’t really matter.

The great irony of all this is that child abuse has probably never been greater. And there has never been as little corporal punishment of children. By abuse I mean, for example, the indifference shown by so many parents, the lack of love. The absence of proper parenting with boundaries, discipline and the sacrifice of time.

Little girls dressed up as Madonna or as miniature hookers, boys as pimps and pushers. Give the 10-year-old the cell phone, free access to the internet and a television in their bedroom. Presents from mum and dad instead of presence of mum and dad. Let them do what they want to do when they want to do it. Make them sexual when they should be silly, let them by materialistic when they should be merry, foulmouthed when they should be fancy-free.

I fully respect a person’s right never to spank their children. Odd, then, that the zealots amongst the non-spankers have no respect for the parenting approach of other people. We should also scratch the surface of what these extremists really believe. Not only is any form of physical punishment seen as being unacceptable but also the raising of a parental voice towards a child and the sending of a child to their bedroom. “To shout or be loud to a young person is tantamount to abuse,” one young woman explained to me. “I mean, would you do this to your wife? Would you strike your wife as well if she had done something wrong?”

The answer is no. But nor would I demand that she did her homework when she wanted to go to the park to play soccer, nor would I say that she could not have any more candy and nor would I demand that she go to school, respect her elders and tidy her room. If I did, well she might end up giving me a clip round the ear.

It’s interesting that the teachers’ unions, not always the bastions of conservative thought, are solidly behind the right to use mild force when children are involved. The reason? Obvious. They are on the front line and grasp the reality of the situation.

The same young woman who told me of the repugnance of a parent raising a voice to a child also gave me a lecture about, “the laziness of parents who spank or shout instead of listening to some of the latest sociological evidence. Use time-outs, redirection programs, affirmative support action.” Interesting. Time-outs and affection – now why didn’t any of the rest of us think of that?

Then we have the consequences of the repeal of the law that allows mild spanking of a child. The zealots deny it, but if the law is changed it will be illegal to use any kind of force against a child. In other words a hysterical child in a store cannot be put over a shoulder and taken home. If a complaint is made, the parent would be visited by a social worker and even lose custody. If you doubt me, look at the history of Sweden since it altered its laws.

Abuse is always wrong, the habitual use of corporal punishment is wrong, inflicting pain on a child is wrong. But some people confuse proper child raising with their own permissive self-indulgence. Do as you wish, but don’t impose fashionable nonsense on the rest of us. It would be terribly abusive.