Decolonizing Discipline

Children, Corporal Punishment, Christian Theologies, and Reconciliation


In June 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 Calls to Action that urged reform of policies and programs to repair the harms caused by the Indian Residential Schools. Decolonizing Discipline is a response to Call to Action 6––the call to repeal Section 43 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which justifies the corporal punishment of children.

Editors Valerie Michaelson and Joan Durrant have brought together diverse voices to respond to this call and to consider the ways that colonial Western interpretations of Christian theologies have been used over centuries to normalize violence and rationalize the physical discipline of children. Theologians, clergy, social scientists, and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders and community members explore the risks that corporal punishment poses to children and examine practical, non-violent approaches to discipline. The authors invite readers to participate in shaping this country into one that does not sanction violence against children.

The result is a multifaceted exploration of theological debates, scientific evidence, and personal journeys of the violence that permeated Canada’s Residential Schools and continues in Canadian homes today. Together, they compel us to decolonize discipline in Canada.


“Practical and prophetic, Decolonizing Discipline is vital reading for Christians in Canada, and beyond. The wise contributors to this well-written anthology invite us not only to “spare the rod”, but to re-imagine relationships amongst care-givers and children, ancient text and lived world, Indigenous and settler societies, in ways that are redemptive, healing… and at times, revolutionary.”

Steve Heinrichs, Indigenous-Settler Relations director, Mennonite Church Canada

"Decolonizing Discipline transcends disciplinary boundaries and advocates for all Canadians—academics, theologians, and readers alike—to push toward improved standards of compassion and care for our children."

Alex Gagne, BC Studies

"Skillfully sew[n] together... Decolonizing Discipline provides a thorough and well-rounded discussion of corporal punishment and what it truly means to decolonize discipline."

Destany Schafer-Morgan, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

About the Authors

Valerie Michaelson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Brock University. Her current projects focus on violence, spirituality, mental health, and decolonization and reconciliation.

Joan Durrant is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. For three decades, she has studied the psychological, cultural and legal dimensions of corporal punishment of children, and the global movement to abolish it.

Other contributors: Martin Brokenleg, Marcia Bunge, Amy Crawford, Chris Dodd, Kacey Dool, Joan Durrant, Clarence Hale, Charlene Hallett, Mark MacDonald, Valerie Michaelson, William Morrow, Peter Robinson, Bernadette J. Saunders, Andrew Sheldon, Ashley Stewart-Tufescu, Shirley Tagalik, Michael Thompson, Riscylla Shaw, John H. Young

Table of Contents

Part I. Setting the Stage: Indian Residential Schools, Canadian Churches, and Corporal Punishment
Chapter 1. A Prophetic Call to Churches in Canada
Chapter 2. ‘I was Spanked and I’m OK’: Examining Thirty Years of Research Evidence on Corporal Punishment
Chapter 3. Corporal Punishment: The Child’s Experience
Chapter 4. Lies that have Shaped Us: Racism, Violence and Ageism in Canadian Churches
Part II. Examining Sacred Texts: Christian Theological Reflections on Corporal Punishment
Chapter 5. Acculturation, Enculturation and Social Imaginaries: The Complex Relationship between the Gospel and Culture
Chapter 6. Reading the Bible Redemptively
Chapter 7. What do we do with Proverbs?
Chapter 8. The Significance of Robust Theologies of Childhood for Honouring Children’s Full Humanity and Rejecting Corporal Punishment
Part III. Seeking Further Wisdom: Indigenous Parenting, Positive Approaches to Discipline and Spiritual Practices
Chapter 9. The Circle of Courage: Raising Respectful, Responsible Children through Indigenous Child Rearing Practices
Chapter 10. “Inunnguiniq” (The Making of a Human Being): Inuit Traditional Values and Child Rearing Practices
Chapter 11. Rethinking Christian Theologies of Discipline and Discipleship
Chapter 12. Walking the Path Toward Reconciliation: One Mother’s Transformative Journey from Parenting with Punishment to Parenting with Positive Discipline
Chapter 13. Whole Person Discipline: The Spiritual Nurture of Children
Part IV. Moving Toward Reconciliation: Reflections on the Theological Statement and (re)Imagining our Shared Future
Chapter 14. Developing a Theological Position Statement on Corporal Punishment: The Process
Chapter 15. An International Perspective on the Canadian Theological Statement: Context, Tools and Encouragement
Chapter 16. “On Sparing the Rod and Spoiling the Child:” Preaching on Call to Action Number 6, and the Repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada
Chapter 17. An Opportune Time: Corrupt Imagination and Distorted Lives
Chapter 18. Hiding, Finding and Breaking: One Man’s Journey to Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle of Violence
Chapter 19. Let these be Hands that Bless

University of Manitoba Press is grateful for the support it receives for its publishing program from the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund; the Canada Council for the Arts; the Manitoba Department of Culture, Heritage, and Tourism; the Manitoba Arts Council; and the Aid to Scholarly Publishing Programme.