Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." The interpretation that many Texans, especially black Texans, give this scripture is that God condones spanking. As a parent, I agree with this interpretation and have occasionally spanked my children.

However, as an attorney, I caution parents to be very, very careful spanking their children. I have represented parents who were charged with serious felonies for spanking their children. These parents were facing up to 10 years in jail. In addition, CPS took possession of their children. Fortunately, after many months and lots of hard work, I got the charges dismissed in each case. Nevertheless, these experiences compel me to warn parents about the serious legal jeopardy they face under Texas law when they spank their children.

Texas law does permit parents to spank their children so long as the spanking is reasonable and for the child’s safety or welfare. This is called the Parent-Child Justification. Despite this justification; however, prosecutors often charge parents, especially black parents, with Injury to a Child (felony) for spanking their children, and Texas law requires only that the prosecutor prove that the spanking caused the child “pain."

If the parent raises the Parent-Child Justification as a defense, the question would become whether the spanking was reasonable. The problem with the reasonableness test is its subjectivity. What a parent, prosecutor, judge or juror considers reasonable may all differ. However, most people, myself included, would find it unreasonable if a spanking leaves bruises on a child or if a parent spanks a child with a dangerous object such as an extension cord, broomstick, etc.

In summary, Texas law permits parents to use a reasonable amount of force to spank their children. Nevertheless, zealous prosecutors and CPS workers who abhor any type of spanking may pursue parents who spank their children, especially if the spanking causes any type of injuries and/or bruises. Hence, be very cautious when spanking your child.

This is not legal advice but is intended only for informational purposes. Consult a licensed attorney if you have specific questions regarding this matter.