My friend (who believes in corporal punishment delivered lovingly[1]) has cancelled two of her pediatrician appointments now because one or another of her (4) children have had bruises on their bottoms. I also know that some kids bruise more easily than others. Her pediatrician (who was also ours) does not object to corporal punishment in certain circumstances.

I know of, and witness, her deep love for her kids. She just really believes in corporal punishment. I've never seen her deliver it (it's always done in private), nor have I ever seen her really out of control with her kids, though some of the stuff she comes out with is pretty wild (she told her oldest, knowing he wasn't trying his hardest in an AP math course, "I don't care how hard you try. What matters is that you get an A." He got an A the next semester.) The kids don't seem to be afraid of their parents (indeed, the opposite is true; their relationship seems very positive); they seem to respect their kid's feelings (while at times differing with them, and it is clear that they believe in instilling their values - and only their values - in their kids), and the kids are very (but not robotically) polite with adults. Honestly, they are lively, intelligent, seemingly happy kids who get along beautifully. They are also all high-achievers (each of her kids are proficient in piano and are studying a second instrument of their choice.)

I have really mixed feelings about the fact that she's actually had to reschedule appointments to hide the fact that she does use corporal punishment. I have no mixed feelings about what the Pearls espouse; I detest it. Yet it seems to work in this case, and no, her kids are not frightened automatons.

I know what seems abusive to me, and that involves more not recognizing and respecting the rights of people to feel and believe the way they do (obviously barring mental illness where delusions are present.) Refusing to recognize boundaries, and that kind of thing.

Are there any studies that don't support the idea that all corporal punishment is abusive? Or that, at any event, not everyone suffers serious consequences from it?

I've read some of the previous posts on corporal punishment. I'm honestly kind of looking for an intelligent discussion of the subject that avoids knee-jerk responses, so to speak.

If this should be closed as a dupe, I can live with that quite well.

I have a hard time thinking this isn't abuse. If her kids argue too much, she puts hot pepper sauce on their tongues. They do use time-outs as well, and other measures - like taking away privileges. But her kids seem so well behaved. I've certainly not witnessed any paddle-worthy behavior.

As espoused by Michael and Debi Pearl

  • You really ask the tough questions, don't you? I wish I had the time to post an answer right now. Mar 27, 2015 at 13:39

7 Answers 7


To keep this very simple:

Corporal punishment, by definition (in the US), is not abuse. Corporal punishment is the intentional infliction of physical punishment that may cause pain or discomfort, but not injury or impairment, upon an individual.

Physical or mental child abuse, on the other hand, inflicts injury, impairment, or lasting harm upon a child.

I think most US states will use these definitions, or something similar, in their laws. I wouldn't be surprised if the same is true in other countries.

So, then, really, corporal punishment is never child abuse. The two are mutually exclusive. As soon as corporal punishment becomes violent and harmful it is no longer corporal punishment at all. However, child abuse may happen under the guise of corporal punishment. Welts and bruises themselves aren't necessarily child abuse, depending on the local laws. In Iowa, for instance, the Department of Human Services court ruled in Hildreth v. Dept. of Human Services:

The definition of physical injury contained in Iowa Administrative Code rule 441-175.1 is expressed in terms of a necessary healing process of bodily tissue so as to be restored to a sound and healthy condition. Implicit in the definition of "physical injury" is a requirement that an external force has initially placed the bodily tissue in an unsound or unhealthy condition. Consequently, we cannot accept the conclusion in the agency handbook that any reddening of the skin lasting for twenty-four hours is a physical injury per se. We believe, rather, that welts, bruises, or similar markings are not physical injuries per se but may be and frequently are evidence from which the existence of a physical injury can be found.

This ruling was not to say that such injuries aren't abuse, but that sometimes such injuries can happen accidentally when using corporal punishment. For instance, underestimating the amount of force applied when delivering the punishment. The court essentially ruled that such markings must be intentional, or reasonably be expected based on the punishment:

The definition of "nonaccidental physical injury" is, by agency rule, as follows:

An injury which was a natural and probable result of a caretaker's actions which the caretaker could have reasonably foreseen, or which a reasonable person could have foreseen in similar circumstances, or which resulted from an act administered for the specific purpose of causing an injury.

So, we see that parental intent is a measure of abuse. If bruises were caused once from a spanking, then that parent is now reasonably aware that another spanking or paddling of the same force will cause bruises again. This, in Iowa, would likely be construed as abuse if investigated.

Another interesting qualifier of abuse comes up in Iowa law:

 2.  "Child abuse" or "abuse" means:
         a.  Any nonaccidental physical injury, or injury which is at
      variance with the history given of it, suffered by a child as the
      result of the acts or omissions of a person responsible for the care
      of the child.

What I would point out here is "injury which is at with the history given of it". This seems to indicate that hiding the nature of the injury is relevant to the qualification as abuse. Thus, refusing to reveal the injuries, or covering them up, may be used as evidence against a guardian in claim of child abuse.

The studies to which I have access to also seem to indicate that corporal punishment is one of the biggest precursors to physical child abuse. Many of these studies and articles have been publish in Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal.

When corporal punishment is used by the parent, it may escalate to child abuse by definition, but not necessarily in the eyes of the parents.

One of the articles in the the aforementioned journal also saw a correlation between a parent's belief in the value of corporal punishment and a rise in the potential for child abuse (Crouch & Behl, 2001).

Results: Level of parenting stress was positively associated with physical child abuse potential. As expected, the interaction of parenting stress and belief in the value of corporal punishment was significant. Level of parenting stress was positively associated with physical child abuse potential among parents who reported high levels of belief in the value of corporal punishment. In contrast, level of parenting stress was not associated with physical child abuse potential among parents who reported low belief in the value of corporal punishment.

However, this was a very small study (31 qualified participants).

Regardless, the line between corporal punishment and abuse will likely need to be evaluated by professionals, and most laws likely reflect as much. Simple observations of borderline punishments are not sufficient to determine abuse. Evaluations of the children, the parents, and the home are often necessary. Physical examinations, psychological evaluations, and forensic interviews are some the tools used to make this determination. Experts on these matters are able to make connections that untrained observers can not, or dismiss perceived connections that don't objectively exist.

Crouch, Julie L., and Leah E. Behl. "Relationships among Parental Beliefs in Corporal Punishment, Reported Stress, and Physical Child Abuse Potential." Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal 25.3 (2001): 413-19. Relationships among Parental Beliefs in Corporal Punishment, Reported Stress, and Physical Child Abuse Potential. Child Abuse & Neglect, 1 Mar. 2001. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

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    Thanks for this very informative (and actually fairly reassuring) answer. It addresses the question quite well with reason, not just emotion. It does make me think, though, that there's an uncomfortable amount of "wiggle-room" in the way America sees corporal punishment vs physical abuse. However, that doesn't change the fact that this resolves a lot of my conflicting doubts, and helps me to see why the AAP does not support corporal punishment. Mar 27, 2015 at 22:06
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    It's interesting. Corporal punishment seems to be a parental right in the US, so laws are made to have wiggle room so that right isn't infringed upon while also protecting the rights of the children. Seems like an unnecessary balancing act. But "spanking ban" laws never seem to stick.
    – user11394
    Mar 27, 2015 at 22:12
  • Yes, I agree. It reminds me about Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart's famously loose legal definition of (please forgive the comparison) pornography: “I know it when I see it.” This is helpful to me to know what I don't see in this case. Mar 27, 2015 at 22:28
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    @DanBeale I agree that the rights of the child are not really being protected in US or UK law while assault on a child is legally permitted under any guise.
    – A E
    Mar 28, 2015 at 15:08
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    @AE If it's corporal punishment, then it's not violent and not abusive. If it's violent and abusive it's not corporal punishment. I worded in that way on purpose. The two are mutually exclusive. As soon as CP becomes violent and harmful it is no longer CP at all. I don't think CP is abuse (even if I don't agree with it). The problem is that people erroneously call abusive behavior corporal punishment.
    – user11394
    Mar 28, 2015 at 15:08

Here in the UK that would be an assault punishable with up to 5 years in jail.

In Britain, mild smacking is permitted under a "reasonable chastisement'' defence against common assault.

The 2004 Children’s Act clarified the defence by making any hitting that causes bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches punishable with up to five years in jail.

Smacking children: the law, The Telegraph, 28 Jul 2011 (emphasis mine)

So here it definitely would be considered abuse, legally.

That said, the phrase "up to 5 years in jail" is a little bit misleading though, in that the punishment for a one-off instance of assault causing bruising would be very unlikely to be as high as 5 years in custody.

Under the 'Cruelty to a Child' sentencing guidelines, it seems like it would probably come into this section:

Nature of failure & harm:

(i) Short term neglect or ill-treatment.
(ii) Single incident of short-term abandonment.
(iii) Failure to protect a child from any of the above.

Starting point: 12 weeks custody
Sentencing range: Community Order (LOW) - 26 weeks custody

Where sentencing options remain open, the court should take into account the impact that a custodial sentence for the offender might have on the victim.

Chastisement causing injury neither intended nor foreseen, and not even reasonably foreseeable - a discharge might be appropriate.

Here are some cases in which the degree of harm might be considered similar:

R v S [2009] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 40
Appellant cohabited with the mother of girl aged five. Harsh discipline, sent to her room for long periods, put masking tape over her mouth, no other violence. Bewildered man with inadequate parenting skills and mitigating features. Guilty pleas. Sentence reduced to a community order with supervision and a good parenting course.

R v Z [2009] 2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 32
Appellant, a devout Shia Muslim, convicted on two counts of cruelty to his sons aged under 16. He allowed them to use an instrument to flagellate themselves, despite disapproval of the mosque's elders. Sentence of 26 weeks' imprisonment suspended for 12 months upheld.

The United Nations and the European Union criticised the UK for allowing children to be assaulted by their parents at all (even when it doesn't leave a mark other than temporary reddening and so the legal defence of 'reasonable chastisement' is available to the parent):

Britain is one of only five EU countries that have not introduced a ban on smacking. In 2008, the United Nations criticised Britain over the issue while last year the deputy head of the Council of Europe said the country needed to turn away from physical chastisement.

I don't know the US law on this.

The United Nations takes the position that

In terms of discipline, the Convention does not specify what forms of punishment parents should use. However any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour – ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child's level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration.

FACT SHEET: A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF

but the USA is one of two countries that are not signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (the other country is South Sudan).

On the more general issue, one could ask whether, if hitting one's children hard enough to leave bruises was perfectly ok, one would need to hide it from the children's doctor. Generally speaking I'd take the whole 'hiding from the doctor injuries caused to the children by the parents' as a really big danger sign.

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    It is kind of comforting actually to see such clear guidelines. This would leave no room for doubt. I think it's a red flag as well, especially as we both know the pediatrician well enough to 'fess up. What I have a really hard time with is how well these kids are doing if this is abusive. I will look into the law in the US and edit my question. Thanks. Mar 27, 2015 at 18:10
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    @anongoodnurse I'm not sure "how well the kids are doing" is something that's entirely easy to tell or evaluate as far as how it's affecting them. After all, up to what, 30 years ago? this would have been an insane discussion: certainly when I was a child (in the 80s) it was entirely, 100% normal to spank and smack (perhaps not intentionally causing significant bruises, but enough to hurt quite a lot), and people managed to do "well" under those circumstances. It's hard to say how they'd do under different ones, though... especially in terms of relationship dynamics.
    – Joe
    Mar 27, 2015 at 18:23
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    How much of domestic violence is a direct result of corporal punishment, for example? How much of general acceptability of violence? And, how much automatic acceptance of authority? There're so many things that it can affect that don't necessarily shout out "this person is psychologically damaged" right then, but later in life ...
    – Joe
    Mar 27, 2015 at 18:24

The form and severity of the punishment itself is irrelevant to the determination of when corporal punishment changes into abuse.

For the record, this entire answer pertains to your own children. There are some situations where some of this can extent to others that you are responsible for ("Thanks for watching the kids, sis. Tim has been punching Sue recently; if he does it again feel free to give him one swift pop on the butt. See you in a couple hours."), but the answer is meant only for your own children.

As I stated in a comment, my father sometimes spanked me harshly enough that I could feel it a day or two later, and his father was even more harsh with him. But this, or worse, does not necessarily constitute abuse in and of itself. Please bear with me here and hear me out...

TL;DR: Don't use physical punishment when you are angry, and do it only out of love when actually necessary.

I know the rest below is a lot to take in, but I filled it with honest truth and love, so I hope you can get through it all and with an open heart.

An abuse outline

What really matters is (feel free to come up with your own outline, but I think mine is pretty good):

  1. Was the punishment just (as in "justice")?

    a. If not, it might be abuse and you need to reconsider it.

  2. What were the parent's motives?

    a. Bullying your children is often disguised as punishment; that is abuse and is evil. Spanking your child out of anger often falls into this category; if you are angry at the child you should think twice (or thrice), and possibly refrain even if you're telling yourself they deserve it.

  3. What damage was done to the child?

    a. Lasting physical injury is almost certainly abuse, and actions which have the potential for permanent injury are definitely abuse.

    b. Acting in a manner which damages the child psychologically is abuse.

  4. The list could go on; feel free to make your own, but try to be honest about it instead of just saying "It physically hurt the child so it must be bad."

In the absence of such signs of abuse, there probably is none, especially in the presence of obvious wrong-doing from the child.

My household example

I generally don't discuss this with others, but this seems important and like it might be well received by you.

I do use physical punishment with my children. I prefer to use it as sparingly as possible, and I try to set a situation up to avoid it if I can, but if I feel it's necessary it will happen.

Generally, physical punishment is used when one or more of my children are being blatantly disobedient (they are already being bad, they are given a direct order in an effort to improve the situation, they refuse), or if they continually do the same thing even after a large number of gentler disciplines in a short time, or if they do something severely bad (like "Wow, my mouth just dropped open because I can't believe you just did that" bad).

When I do use physical punishment, especially if it was severe, I often stay with the child after to make sure they understand why it happened, and sometimes to provide hugs or cuddles while telling them that I love them. Sometimes I genuinely cry with them, because I can't stand hurting them.

Understanding and love

Above all else, I try to make sure that children understand as fully as possible why they are being punished or disciplined, what was bad about their behavior, and how they could love others more. That last one is key in our house: love.

We make sure that all the children understand love and hate. If my oldest son does something purposefully to hurt his sister or she says something mean to him, all we have to do usually is say "Are you hating each other?" ("Yes dad. [with frowns] I'm sorry .") "Do you want to hate each other or love each other?" ("Love.") and then they start to do nice things for each other.

Maturing from understanding

Because I make sure my children understand love, hate, good, and bad, they usually can tell the difference. And because lies are not tolerated at all, and we go more lenient on offenders who tell the truth, they usually come out with the whole truth and explain the bad things they did in even more detail than we knew.

When we have the opportunity to discuss like this with the older children who knew precisely what happened and "spill the beans," this allows us to take it to the next step, which for me is to ask them what types of disciplines or punishments are appropriate for their actions. Sometimes they cite spanking as an appropriate punishment for a certain action.

If my children are truthful, and if they come up with a descent list of appropriate disciplines or punishments that fit their offence, I often let them choose which one will happen. This right here was my main reason in wanting to do this answer, to explain this part: sometimes my children choose the physical punishment over a non-physical alternative. No matter what they choose, if it gets to this point, I try to provide the smallest version of the punishment possible, and sometimes even provide ways for them to get out of it entirely; at this point, they don't need instruction and only need punishment if the offense was severe.

Note on severity

As said earlier, the severity itself does not necessarily imply abuse. There have been a few (very few) times I have spanked my children very harshly, nearly as badly as my father used to with me, but these times were always because of very dire need.

The best example is with one of my sons who used to do things that were actually dangerous - not to himself, but to his brothers. When I am worried that one of the children could cause terrible injury to one of the other children (or to anyone), then I would - and should - do whatever is necessary to squash that behavior. No other disciplines or punishments were working, and the health of others was riding on it, so out came some very severe physical punishments... and they worked.

Note on maturity of the parent

If we want our children to respect and honor our decisions, one of the best things we can do is to set a good example. I strive to set an example to my children of how to love each other. I also admit to them when I'm wrong, even as it relates to discipline or punishments.

Sometimes I make a mistake in the disciplines or punishments that I dish out. When that happens, I feel terrible. I want my children to be able to tell me freely when that has happened, and sometimes they do. Sometimes they do not, since disrespectful arguing (which it often turns into) is itself punishable, but if they are respectable about it they can talk to me about what has happened. And sometimes I ask them later about the incident.

If a punishment I provide is over-reacting, or worse was in error, I apologize to my children. This one really gets them to respect me more. Nothing turns their anger into understanding (or acceptance) better than when I talk to them about whether my action was just or unjust. Usually they admit that what they got was just and deserved. Sometimes they insist that I am not understanding why they did something and that they had no ill intention and deserved nothing negative; when this happens I apologize to them and ask them to please forgive me, which they always do (and I often try later to secretly do something good to make up for it best I can).

Another note an parent maturity: Whether it's with punishments or other things, I try usually to guarantee their situation is never worse than my own, so I know what they are going through. For physical punishments, this often means that I take no precautions to protect myself, and indeed sometimes I specifically make it worse for myself. Often, if I take physical action, I am in at least as much pain after, often more pain. If one of my children tells me that I hurt them too badly, I have a few times done to myself whatever I did to them and made sure that I got it worse than they did... this has caused me to apologize to them before and ask for their forgiveness if I did not realize, for example, that even a light smack on a certain spot hurts disproportionately much.


I know that I do not abuse my children when I use physical punishment since I try to avoid it at all costs until I feel it is actually necessary, I do it out of love, and I admit when I was wrong.

Essentially, if you are acting out of hate then it is abuse, but if you are acting out of true love then it is not, and you can perform a hateful act even against people that you otherwise love.

The physical punishment itself is not abuse. What is abuse is when parents hurt their children out of anger instead of love, when they hurt them with lasting injury (physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual), or when they are bullies.

Show them mountains of unconditional love, and then once your children are old enough talk, very gently, to them about it openly.

  • Thank you for this answer. It's a controversial question, and you answered it honestly and carefully. +1 Nov 30, 2017 at 14:44
  • You should probably add the disclaimer that it's not abuse if it's "done out of love" to your children because no matter how much you love them, this would definitely be considered abuse if done to anyone else.
    – Erik
    Nov 30, 2017 at 16:12
  • @Erik Newly added second paragraph, complete with an example of watching family members' kids. Beyond that, hopefully "I shouldn't spank my neighbor's kid who disobeyed me," or "... that stranger's kid who stole his sister's tablet" is common sense. I do know that "common sense" is often not so common, but I think my entire answer will be lost anyway on someone who does those things.
    – Aaron
    Nov 30, 2017 at 17:15
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    In much of the world, common sense says that any form of corporal punishment is abuse, so given the controversy around the topic I think it's good to be explicit about where you're making exceptions :)
    – Erik
    Nov 30, 2017 at 19:11
  • @Erik Technically yes, but when I say common sense (and I think many others too) I mean it in more of a "that should be an automatic assumption, and to assume otherwise is dumb." Like "water is wet," "fire is hot," "murder is evil." That's the angle I was coming from with "I shouldn't spank that stranger's kid." In that regard, where I am using common as "should be default" rather than "majority opinion," common sense does not say that corporal punishment is abuse anywhere in the world. That does not mean that it's not abuse (though I would say it's not), only that it's not by default.
    – Aaron
    Nov 30, 2017 at 19:56

First of all, let me say I'm not a parent, nor do I plan to be one anytime soon. But as a child of two people, one of whom (Mother) applies corporal punishment and the other of whom (Father) does not apply it, I think I am at least slightly qualified to speak (write?) on the subject.

My mom spanks my sisters (as she did me) when they break serious rules (i.e. by being disrespectful, hurting animals/people, disobeying, etc.). She is never angry (that would be abuse and would only make us angrier), but she is calm and firm. And guess what? Yes, we dislike it, but after it is over we genuinely realize that what we did was wrong, and apologize wholeheartedly. Mom is the kind of person who lives for her kids; she spent every waking (and sleeping) moment with me when I was younger, and now with all three of us, homeschooling us and taking us places even though she cannot drive, and overcoming her bad memory to teach us things that would be useful; she has given us everything we could want or need--love, a home, pets, games. (She would however only give us a pet when we had researched its needs and took responsibility for its care.) She's even learning to bike now, at 43 years old, so that she can go places with us.

Dad, on the other hand, is more reserved. He works all day and watches TV at night, and he thinks since we're girls he shouldn't use corporal punishment with us (he only does that when he completely loses his temper, which is seldom). Instead, he resorts to scolding and taking away privileges. He doesn't "hit" us. And guess which of our parents all three of us would choose in a heartbeat, if we had to choose between them?...Mom! Because taking away privileges just makes us angry. We feel like the kid who had his toy taken away by a bigger kid, and we plot ways to get back our own. On the other hand, a loving smacking...yes, it's painful and unpleasant, but if Mom is calm, even through our temporarily muddled thoughts we can see that she truly cares and is trying to teach us what is best for us. After a spanking, I feel calm in a way, and truly sorry for what I did; after having a privilege taken away, I begin to plot how to get away with what I did the next time. That's sad, but it's what my sisters and I do.

Just my two cents :) I agree with you, Mr. Robbins, except that I must say that taking away privileges, yelling, scolding, etc. are counterproductive. They make a child angry and though they may force outward compliance, the kid will always be plotting how to get away with it next time without getting caught/punished. On the other hand, a loving but firm spanking, correctly applied, makes a child see what they did wrong and genuinely want to fix it. So, in answer to the original question, I would say that corporal punishment that is calmly and firmly administrated is not abuse, but that some other punishments could be seen as such.

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    What do you mean by firmly in "calmly and firmly"? Because, I know there are people out there that can calmly and firmly switch or beat a child until they can't stand. I think some additional constraints might be needed here.
    – user11394
    Mar 28, 2015 at 5:02
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    Amen! I think you answered that beautifully!
    – L.B.
    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:04
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    What's always interesting to me is where does this end? If you believe that pain is an acceptable, why is hitting your spouse considered wrong as long as it is also "delivered in a loving way"? Why is it not okay for someone to knock down and kick someone who queue jumps? In essence, why is it only okay when it's a child? Maybe it's just my need for simplicity, but I'd really have a hard time justifying to my daughter that it's not okay for her to push another child, but it's fine for me to hold her down and hit her.
    – deworde
    Mar 31, 2015 at 9:07
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    Reading this over, I think if the punishments were reversed, you'd still pick your mum over your dad. Your mum clearly seems to be the more involved, respected and loving parent, which makes you accept and understand when she punishes you. I do not think the actual method of punishment has as much to do with it as the respect for her as a parent and the knowledge that the punishment is because she loves you and wants you to become better, not because you did something wrong and you need to suffer for it. But I might just be reading into things that aren't there.
    – Erik
    Apr 1, 2015 at 14:45
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    @MartinArgerami Actually, yes. Critically, those "privileges" are things that belong to me or that I would have to work to make happen.So, for example, I would see no issue with my child refusing to do something for a bully, and not be outraged if my wife refused to make me a cup of tea after I smashed her favourite figurine. Contrast with my wife punching me square between the eyes in that instance, which I would consider a very bad relationship sign.
    – deworde
    Dec 13, 2016 at 6:22

Well, in my personal opinion, which has the 1/7 billion value, you don't need to use violence to teach something to a kid. I got like 2 slaps in the butt growing up, and i turned out fine, better than fine. From what i have seen in my experience parents use violence when they don't know what else to do, so it isn't the right option inherently.

But i do respect different opinions, I just think that a slap in the butt is way more than enough for a kid to get scared and understand. If your kid has bruises and you need to change appointments because of it that is crossing the line by a long shot. If she thinks what she does is right, and the childs doctor agrees, why is she ashamed? Because deep down she knows what she is doing is wrong.

Not only does she use violence she does her best to hide it from the world, she is a dangerous type of parent and one i would not wish on any child.

Hot pepper sause in their tongues? That is actualy a form of torture used in prisioners in some countries(USA had a few cases of that aswell).

What's next? waterboarding because they crossed the road without looking twice?

Let's be honest we don't need to read laws from any country to figure out if it is ok to beat a child. It's a moral code thing, either you have it or you don't. She is obviously in the wrong.


It would seem that the answer to your question is.. it depends. There have been studies done, in fact a study on studies.. a meta-study (how fitting for our current environment) on corporal punishment as an effective means of discipline. This link is to the summary of the meta-study.

The other (minimal) research I've done shows that corporal punishment in and of itself is not abuse. I can become abuse. The public outcry comes when someone sees an angry parent shouting at their child, grabbing them by the arm, and yanking them along somewhere to receive their discipline.

Corporal punishment should be used only in moderation, if the child is putting themselves or others in danger for instance. But the parent can NOT let their emotions rule the situation. When a parent allows fear and anxiety to override their rational brain, the hand gets heavier on the behind.

Thank you for the question! This drove me to something other than watching silly cat videos on the internet during my lunch hour.

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    I apologize. Silly cat videos are really fun! ') Thank you for this. Our pediatrician said to reserve corporal punishment for exactly the same situation - when it can save a child from serious harm (such as running into the street). I look forward to reading the link. Mar 27, 2015 at 18:06
  • Funny, the link mentions precisely that scenario. And don't apologize! I love a good read from you :) Mar 27, 2015 at 18:50
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    Very useful link.
    – A E
    Mar 28, 2015 at 15:54
  • The link provides details that confirm some of the other answers here. Thanks! Very useful. Apr 1, 2015 at 0:04

I can't believe anyone still thinks it is acceptable to hit children. Subjecting children to violence is clearly wrong and is always abuse. Hitting your child is as abusive as hitting your spouse -- perhaps worse because a child has less ability to escape the violence.

Beating children is something that mostly comes from extremist Christian sects. A small number of those sects also promote violence against women:-


When a follower of the Christian Domestic Discipline movement decides what to hit his God-fearing wife with, research is important. A hairbrush, for example, is "excellent for achieving the desired sting" but can break easily. Alternatively, a ping pong paddle is quiet and sturdy but may not sting as much as is required to get the message across.

These bits of information are among the tips and tricks detailed in the Beginning Domestic Discipline's "Beginner's Packet," a 54-page document that lays out the basic principles and practices of CDD.

Violence against children is illegal in many countries, and it's time for right thinking Americans to stand against violence to children.

The UN Convetion of the Rights of the Child is clear:

Article 19

  1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

    1. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

All forms of violence are wrong; corporal punishment is by definition violent; corporal punishment is thus a violation of the child's human rights.

The US tends not to ratify these conventions (The US and Sudan are the only countries to not ratify this convention) but as legal rulings posted in other answers shows the US legal system doesn't view violence against children as violence.

  • 6
    "...it's time for right thinking Americans to stand against violence to children." I agree with this wholeheartedly. I also agree that some Christians (that's why I cited the Pearls) believe in an abusive amount of corporal punishment. But as this answer stands, it's pretty much a good example of what I was hoping to avoid. Kind of just an opinion, then an attack on a group of people, backed up by a site known for its click-baiting. There are many people who beat their children who are certainly not practicing any religion. Some of it is regional, some education level, etc. Mar 28, 2015 at 16:21
  • 2
    It is not violence or abuse when done correctly.
    – L.B.
    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:03
  • 2
    Subjecting children to violence is clearly wrong and is always abuse Everyone agrees with this. What needs to be answered is "...when does corporal punishment become violent?" Currently your answer to that is purely opinion.
    – LCIII
    Mar 30, 2015 at 15:01
  • 3
    @l.b. How can hitting someone not be violent?
    – DanBeale
    Mar 31, 2015 at 7:37
  • 3
    I think the question has gotten some good answers, with references. Your answer is the only one I was critical of, for the already stated reasons. Surely on a parenting site, we should be able to discuss this. Mar 31, 2015 at 15:15

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