Spanking can get you jailed

Posted by ~Summer~ on January 20, 2014
in , ,

Spending four years in Sweden made me view motherhood from a different perspective and allowed me to reflect on things that I would not have if I had never travelled afar. The way that Swedes let their children play by beaches, roll in mud and hang upside down from monkey bars while Singaporeans let our kids glue their eyes to iPads and iPhones, the cultural differences did make me rethink about how I wish to bring up my girls.

The one big difference we have between the two lands is how we punish a child. I remember my fellow friends giving me kind advice after Angel came along and the most memorable line was "Remember not to hit your child, at least not in public, because it is illegal here in Sweden".

Yes, you read it. Illegal. For those of us who got hit on the hand with a ruler, slapped on the face or even caned by our parents, does this come as a surprise to you?

Did you know?

All forms of corporal punishment, including spanking, slapping, pinching, hair-pulling and whipping, are illegal and severely frowned upon in Sweden. 

The Nordic country became the first to ban physical punishment against children under any circumstances, both at home and in school, on March 15, 1979. The new Swedish Parental Code reads: "Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment."

Sweden’s Children and Parents Code does not carry any penalties but parents are liable to be jailed for between six months and 10 years, depending on the severity of the crime, under Section 5 of the Swedish Penal Code. 

Since then, states that have completely prohibited corporal punishment of children by law are, in chronological order:

Sweden (1979)
Finland (1983)
Norway (1987)
Austria (1989)
Cyprus (1994)
Denmark (1997)
Latvia (1998)
Croatia (1999)
Bulgaria (2000)
Israel (2000)
Germany (2000)

Iceland (2003)
Ukraine (2004)
Romania (2004)
Hungary (2005)
Greece (2006)
Netherlands (2007)
New Zealand (2007)
Portugal (2007)
Uruguay (2007)
Venezuela (2007)
Spain (2007)

Togo (2007)
Costa Rica (2008)
Republic of Moldova (2008)
Luxembourg (2008)
Liechtenstein (2008)
Poland (2010)
Tunisia (2010)
Kenya (2010)
Congo, Republic of (2010)
Albania (2010)
South Sudan (2011)
Honduras (2013)

(List source: Wikipedia)

Even though I don't do it openly in front of others, back at home in Singapore when it is just another crazy day with two kids threatening to leave me with zero sanity, I, for one, am guilty of hitting my big girl now and then. No matter how hard I try to leave it as the absolute last resort, it doesn't change the fact that I have done it because sometimes, I am totally at my wit's end of how else I can make her listen and obey.


Yesterday, I read in the news that A Malaysian couple is being held by Swedish authorities for allegedly hitting one of their children. Azizul Raheem Awalludin, the Tourism Malaysia director in Stockholm, and his wife Shalwati Nurshal, a secondary school teacher, had reportedly struck their 12-year-old son for not performing his prayers.

The incident started when Azizul and Shalwati had allegedly scolded their 12-year-old son for failing to perform his prayers and hit him on his hands.

Although the boy did not suffer any bruises, he was feeling a bit down and his teacher at school noticed his dispirited outlook. After the boy told the teacher, the school counsellor was informed and a report was lodged with Swedish authorities.

"Within a day, the children were removed from the school and both Azizul and Shalwati were arrested and taken into custody," the source told The Star.

(Extracted from Asiaone. For the full news article, click here)

Since there is no bail system in Sweden, those arrested can be held in custody until the trial is completed. If found guilty, the couple face a mandatory jail sentence of at least nine months. What dismayed me most to know was that if found not guilty, the parents would still lose custody of their children. In order to reclaim custody, the Malaysian couple would need to apply to the court to get their children back.

Yes, it is that serious.

Since the father has been working in Sweden for three years and the mother is a school teacher, it is likely that they are fully aware of the law and from how I see it, it might just have been a light hit on the spur of the moment. The boy probably suffered more emotionally rather than physically and if I were him, having indirectly caused the parents to be in custody and himself and three siblings to be in foster care, it must be a terrible, terrible feeling.

Well, one way or another, I just hope the family can be reunited soon and will take this incident as a lesson learnt about the cultural differences in raising a child between countries.


Some social psychologists claim that corporal punishment might make a child become conditioned to pain, making the punishment lose its meaning and thus serves no purpose. Worse, if it becomes hard to draw a line, abuse might follow.

While it is easy to say that parents should always explore other options such as giving incentives or removing privileges, coming from experience, I know how challenging it can be and much as it is against your own will and how badly it breaks your heart, you turn to physical punishment.

I like to think of myself as quite a patient person but there are indeed times when after countless sessions of talking, teaching, nagging and reprimanding which fail to work, I turn to hitting. Especially when the big girl does something dangerous or causes hurt to the baby sister. By the way, I hate the cane and have only used it a couple of times before I decided not to touch it for as long as I can. But hitting on the hand, thighs and butt, yes I have done them plenty of times and I'm owning up to them. Except in the case of psychopaths, I never believe that it makes any parent happy about beating up their own child. I dread doing it and it is ironic that I still do it because on days like these, both of us just end up with tears on our pillows when we go to bed.

Well, I guess it is time for me to go and do some self-reflection as a mum and how I can better nurture my children. Today, I plead guilty.

Some people say it is never right to hit a child. Others say it is the best way you can discipline a kid.  What is your take on this? Are you for or against corporal punishment?


  1. I didn't know that it was illegal in Sweden. I guess sometimes the anger gets to us and it is really hard not to inflict corporal punishment on the kid. I am not against it but it has to be use appropriately.

    1. You are right, Dom, it's mostly done on the spur of the moment when we feel the rage. No one likes to inflict pain on a kid, right? It might be a good thing that I lived in a country where hitting is illegal for the first three years of Angel's life, I had to explore other means to let out the anger and it really trained up my endurance and patience. Tsk tsk. Thanks for reading!

  2. Agree with u that no one likes to inflict pain on a kid but sometimes i feel it's necessary. Hitting or caning is a form of instilling fear in kids. Sometimes they r too young to understand what is right or wrong. They will be afraid and know they can't do it again otherwise mummy will beat. Only when they r a little older then they understand why they did wrong. By then ,maybe talking to them will work better.

  3. Forgot to write my name:)

    1. Hi Lyn, thanks for the comment, you know what you said is what the hubby said too, that hitting is a way to instill fear in the kids. We had a heated argument about it before and I was seriously wondering if it is right to want to instill fear a kid instead of teaching him/her to differentiate right from wrong. It might be hard to expect a newborn to do that, but I believe from a very young age, kids can actually distinguish if they are doing something dangerous or wrong from the tone of our voices instead of having to suffer pain. But aiyah, easier said than done, like I said I am guilty of having hit my child on the hands and thighs too, just can't help it though I know I will only feel regretful after that. I would love to just do the 'talking' part if it works, sometimes I can talk for hours, days and weeks and she still does the same mistakes. Haha.

  4. Hello =)

    Being born -82 and raised in Sweden, I've never known corporal punishment.. This leaves me biased, so I began looking for a discussion about this topic, preferably with people who knew about the opposite upbringing where corporal punishment was expected in a wrongdoing.

    I came across your blog and I read through your post. I would like to say thank you for giving me a small insight in your life and the lives of those around you. This is the first post I have read from your blog, but I found what you wrote to be self-reflecting and honest and it left me with a positive impression of you as a person.

    Since I've never experienced it, I cannot say that I understand a need for corporal punishment or the arguments for it. This is why I'm trying to educate myself, so if nothing else I will have a better understanding of cultures different from my own.

    Since I'm, regretfully, very uneducated on Malaysian culture and customs, I can only contribute to this discussion with my own point of view. I was born with something called ADHD (Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and this made me a pretty unruly child. I suspect that had I been a Malaysian child, I would have been disciplined on regular occasion.

    I saw in the replies here a comment on the importance of instilling fear into the child. I may have interpreted this comment differently then the authors intention, but I would like to comment on it never the less.

    Fear is a form of stress. It puts your body and mind into a defensive state, readying it for action. Fear, as we all know, is a very powerful and useful tool in survivability and a good means to keep ourselves out of harms way. I think this is how the author wanted to explain the importance of fear, but the comment that this is something that needs to be taught is gravely erroneous.

    Since fear is stress, it can be useful in small amounts, but in large amounts it is disastrous. Stress directly effect the brain and the cognitive abilities. Memory, flexibility, logical reasoning ... it affects everything. If you're constantly putting a child in the state of fear, the results could be very damaging for the child's learning capabilities. The very opposite of what is trying to be achieved.

    What is happening to this Malaysian family is very tragic. The Swedish law is very strict on this matter and there are many Swedish families who have gone through a lot of hardships because of this. I know of a few personally. Despite this, there is a general consensus among the population that this law does not need changing to a more lenient approach.

    This strictness does not just enforce physical safety for the children, it forces the parents to find alternate means of educating their children then a physical upbringing would. This puts the stress on the parents instead of the children.

    Since we're putting the pressure on the parent instead of the child, I guess we view it as something like this; The parent is older and more knowledgeable about what is accepted and what is not, thus having an easier time in figuring out a solution to a problematic situation. A child is still learning and can only make the most out of it's limited experience and knowledge, increasing the risk of behaving in an unacceptable way.

    I just want to point out that I am in no way telling you on how to raise your children. I would find it incredibly insulting if someone began telling me how I should raise my child, so what I'm saying are only personal opinions and views, based on my own experiences and my own understanding.

    Our differences aside, what I see in this blog post is a mother who is clearly questioning herself on what is best for her children. Reflecting upon past experience and confronting her own actions for the sake of giving her children the best possible upbringing she can. To me, that displays a very caring, devoted and loving mother.

    Thank you for reading, I wish you all the best.

    1. Hihi, first and foremost, thank you for writing this heartfelt comment and I appreciate it more than I can say for being willing to open up and share the situation with me. I totally understand what you mean about instilling too much of fear in children, and I too often question myself on am I doing the right thing by giving punishments and making my child afraid of doing the wrong thing because she is scared of getting privileges removed, and not because of whether she understands and distinguishes between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. It's easier for me to see the points of view from the different cultures but if you had been raised and grew up in Sweden vs a place like Singapore, it might be hard to see the other's point of view because our minds have been programmed to view corporal punishment as wrong/right, and both will have valid points to defend our side of the argument. But thank you so much for your kind comments, I am a mum who is learning with each step of the way and I too make more mistakes than I like, resulting in tears, fatigue and frustration. But that is what motherhood is about and that is why it is so challenging yet fulfilling and absolutely rewarding at the same time. I wish you all the best too and I hope we can keep in touch! =)

  5. A child need to learn the difrence between right and wrong. Only if it was that easy.
    How do you deal with a child that chouses to disobey, lies and do the 'wrong' thing?

    1. Hihi, I have no doubt that a child needs to learn about acceptable vs unacceptable behaviour, though sometimes I do think right/wrong is a matter of perspective, different societal norms and different parental views. It is definitely not easy and never will be, not when the child is a baby, not when he/she is a small kid, not when a teen, not even when an adult. All I am saying is that there is a need to teach, but corporal punishment need not be the only way of teaching. It is one of the ways and will only work if you believe it does and if you don't instill so much fear till it becomes counter productive and in the end pushes your child away from you. Giving incentives, removing privileges, setting up naughty corners, providing verbal guidance can all be ways of teaching a child, not just hitting and spanking. In most situations, we hit because we do not know what else to do, because we think it is the fastest and most effective, because our mums did it too, because it makes the kids scared, because that is how our peers do it too. But down the road, is it the best for your child? The best for your relationship with him/her? The best for him/her to learn and understand other than be terrified of? I am not really sure sometimes and I wrote this post because as a mum myself, I make mistakes and I try to reflect and learn. I am not saying there is a right or wrong, it's ultimately what you believe in as a parent.

  6. The Singapore government had signed the UN treaty for child protection which forbids all forms of corporal and emotional punishment for children. So while it's not yet illegal in Singapore, in principle it should be.


Yoohoo, thanks so much for reading my blog and leaving your comment! I am feeling the love! (^.^)