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The Law & Child Discipline

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 27 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Discipline Law Smacking Reasonable

Every child will misbehave and be unruly at some time. But there is a fine line between you disciplining them effectively and authoritatively and being considered in the eyes of the law as being a bullying parent.

What Can I Do as a Parent to Discipline My Child?

As a parent, you have the legal and moral obligation to ensure that your child is both looked after and well behaved. Many parents feel that by shouting at their child they are making sufficient strides to ensure their behaviour. However, this is not always the case and may be considered to be emotional bullying, especially if reported to the relevant authorities.

Smacking Your Child is something that the law says we probably shouldn’t do, but there are some who say it is the only way to ensure their child understands the message they are trying to reinforce.

The Law on Smacking

Smacking in some countries, including Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, has been banned, but in the UK smacking or 'reasonable chastisement' is acceptable in the eyes of the law. A light smack to the back of the legs is acceptable and many say this is the best way to discipline their child. However, any smack or punishment that leaves clear marks, welts, bruises or scratches is a prosecutable offence, and a parent could face up to five years in jail.

How Best to Discipline Your Child?

Every parent has their own ideas as to how best control their child. For many, a light smack to the back of the legs or hands is sufficient for the child to know that what they are doing is wrong. This can be supported by a verbal scolding but really should not go any further than that.

Other forms of punishment include grounding your child (denying them playtime outside with friends), loss of privileges such as television and computer game console time, and loss of pocket money. These are, of course, only suggestions but it is the right of every parent to have the final say on how to discipline their child.

Further Information

If you are in any doubt as to what the law says on the subject of disciplining your child, it is worth visiting the website of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) who offer practical advice and support on this rather tentative subject. Your local authority’s child welfare department can also offer advice as well as parental training classes for those parents who might prefer some additional help.

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My son is 16, and has an ASD.Over the past 2 years his use of the computer has become more and more excessive, Skyping with an older girl in the US and her friends.Tried every way I could think of to manage his computer use, agreed limits, which he ignored, parental controls which he bypassed with the help of his father who gave him data (we are divorced, documented history of violence and abuse) locking devices up overnight, he broke into the cupboard.Finally I locked his computer and phone in a safe.The result was the girl in the US reported me to the NSPCC.I am accused of having extreme political views (I am a card carrying Liberal Democrat), withholding his schizophrenia medication (he is not schizophrenic), calling him names (he lied to me, and I told him so) not giving him a house key (true, there is always someone to let him in) withholding his computer, this was repeated throughout the report and is absolutely true.NSPCC reported me to SS, and SS recommended he stay with his father, where there were no parental controls, and he had 24/7 access to the computer - at that point I was completely unaware SS had become involved, or of the NSPCC report. My ex simply told me my son would not come home from contact.I did not become aware of NSPCC Report or SS involvement until last week. I did write to CAMHS on 2 March, because I was concerned for my son, and to say my former husband was emailing me saying SS considered me an unfit mother, copying CAMHS the correspondence from ex on that.I obtained a copy of the report from the NSPCC Data Protection (they provide redacted reports in line with freedom of information law) and I immediately knew it was malicious and the work of this girl in the US.SS are now very excited about the fact that I got a copy of the NSPCC report, they are not happy about it at all.I have spoken with my son and learned the girl has indecent images of him, I have reported the matter to CEOPS, and taken the computers to the Police.SS want to interview me, the SS officer was yelling at me on the phone today, turns out that they did nothing to safeguard my son when they recommend he stay with his father, nothing to ensure any computer parental controls were in place, possibly they are also worried about not letting me know about the NSPCC report or the fact that they were involved for 2 months, during which the ex was met several times, as was my son, (son told not to tell me about meetings by SS).SS focussed entirely on investigating me for abuse.....Which is horrifying. In short, SS are gunning for me, and circling their wagons, I have tried to protect my son, they have failed to protect him by recommending he stay with a parent who has no computer safeguarding in place, and I have reported to CEOPS while SS are searching for evidence that I am abusive...Which they won't find unless telling your son lying is wrong, being a Liberal Democrat, and not giving a child who schizophrenia medication w
SSagain - 27-Mar-18 @ 6:37 PM
When your 11 year old step son will not do anything he is told. Do what he wants. Will not stay in when grounded. Go to bed when told. Stop you sleeping by standing in your room talking or being noisey. Rips up things. Laughs in your face. Says his mum is stupid. Nothing she can do. Calls me rude names. Simply got used to doing what he wants.Saying you can't touch me. You can't make me do anything. We try to take Xbox or phone away as punishment. But he will not let us take it and can't risk touching him. As he says he will call the police. All he wants tobdo is eat crisps chocolate. Chips. Play on his xbox. Playing fortnite, gets violent if we try to turn it off. What do we do?
Backinourday - 21-Mar-18 @ 10:34 AM
Smackedmy son he told the he today the social workers and they came to take my 4 kids away so I am going to court tomorrow
My - 15-Mar-18 @ 6:14 AM
I have a 5 children, ranging from 3 to 9, The school they attend have told me it is "illegal" for me to make my child stand with their hands on their heads instead of smacking them and i am "abusing" my children. Everything i have seen regarding child laws ect seam to say the light smack back of the legs , no marks, and 'reasonable chastisement' . Is what the school told me purely waffle or is there actually some stand point to this? They are not made to bend knee and form a stress position, simply stand straight and place your hands on your head and do not talk or fidget, If they ask to/say they need the toilet , they go, theres no stopping them from going to the toilet and if its a short time before a meal , they still sit and join in the meal, after they return to hands on heads. I rarely find my self having to shout and just have to say "how do you think "blah" feels?" And with them all being young girls the answer is usually "sad" , sorrys hugs are said ect and life returns
TThe TTribe - 23-Feb-18 @ 1:28 PM
Jordan - Your Question:
My girlfriend ended up ditching about a week in total time over the span of 5 months. She have been grounded for the past 5-6 months and has about 1-3 months left. On top of being grounded she has been treated like crap by her mom and dad. Her mom consistently yells at her even when I'm standing right next the her. She is afraid to go home everyday because of her dad but she won't tell me why. Is it legal to do that?

Our Response:
It is legal to "ground" a child but if you think there is something untoward going on in the home, encourage her to call Childline and talk about it.
LawAndParents - 13-Feb-18 @ 10:12 AM
My girlfriend ended up ditching about a week in total time over the span of 5 months. She have been grounded for the past 5-6 months and has about 1-3 months left. On top of being grounded she has been treated like crap by her mom and dad. Her mom consistently yells at her even when I'm standing right next the her. She is afraid to go home everyday because of her dad but she won't tell me why. Is it legal to do that?
Jordan - 11-Feb-18 @ 4:51 AM
Da Best In Da World- Your Question:
My mother made me leave all my friends to go to netball or otherwise I had to go straight home, be grounded for a month and give her £25 is that illegal?

Our Response:
Yes, she's your mother, it's not illegal for a parent to ensure a child's actions have consequences.
LawAndParents - 2-Feb-18 @ 2:49 PM
My mother made me leave all my friends to go to netball or otherwise I had to go straight home, be grounded for a month and give her £25 is that illegal?
Da Best In Da World - 1-Feb-18 @ 6:33 AM
Mo - Your Question:
I have smacked my 13 years old daughter for bad behaviour and been charged by police I have court in two days do I have any rights taking in account it’s the first time ever I have done such a thing without the intention of causing harm and didn’t leave a mark ?

Our Response:
You will need to argue your case in the courts, we can't really comment on this.
LawAndParents - 15-Dec-17 @ 12:22 PM
I have smacked my 13 years old daughter for bad behaviour and been charged by police I have court in two days do I have any rights taking in account it’s the first time ever I have done such a thing without the intention of causing harm and didn’t leave a mark ?
Mo - 12-Dec-17 @ 6:31 PM
Mother in need - Your Question:
My daughter was late home after she had a sleepover with her friends now she told me she was up all night and woke up late so we had a argument and now all of her technology has been taken away from her and she has been grounded for about a month now is this the right thing that I have done?

Our Response:
We can't tell you what's right and what's wrong as all situations and children are different. As long as you child knew that she wasn't supposed to stay up late etc and/or why she's has to put up with the consequences of that, it should all work out. Oh...and make sure she knows you love her unconditionally, know matter what :-)
LawAndParents - 1-Nov-17 @ 10:56 AM
My daughter was late home after she had a sleepover with her friends now she told me she was up all night and woke up late so we had a argument and now all of her technology has been taken away from her and she has been grounded for about a month now is this the right thing that I have done?
Mother in need - 29-Oct-17 @ 12:30 PM
My ex patters new boyfriend smacked my 2year old son on the hand for making a mess when he was playing so I wan to if there is any thing I can do as a father
Daddy daycare - 22-May-17 @ 7:42 PM
Aj - Your Question:
Last night I was shouting at my daughter for leaving rubbish and dishes in the kitchen. She is 19 and is home from university for the summer. She proceeded to scream and shout and smash her room up. SHE called the police and said I was screaming at her for not doing her chores. The police arrived. I was downstairs she was up no physical contact had happened just a mother and daughter shouting at each other from a distance. The police arrived and threatened to arrest and remove me from my home because I was Breaching the peace. They made matters much worse. Can I complain because this can't be right.

Our Response:
Who do you want to complain about?
LawAndParents - 5-Aug-16 @ 2:40 PM
Last night I was shouting at my daughter for leaving rubbish and dishes in the kitchen. She is 19 and is home from university for the summer. She proceeded to scream and shout and smash her room up. SHE called the police and said I was screaming at her for not doing her chores . The police arrived . I was downstairs she was up no physical contact had happened just a mother and daughter shouting at each other from a distance . The police arrived and threatened to arrest and remove me from my home because I was Breaching the peace .. They made matters much worse . Can I complain because this can't be right ..
Aj - 5-Aug-16 @ 8:01 AM
I seem someone smack a child In the face is that right?
Dndee - 16-May-16 @ 12:15 AM
I grounded my son for life once when he'd driven me mad. His friends came and campedout at tbe garden gate. He's 29now and still grounded
Jane - 1-Aug-15 @ 10:32 PM
@mumof8. They may stay in contact to keep an eye on any future developments.
LawAndParents - 19-Jun-15 @ 12:12 PM
Ok so my 13 yr old has aquised my husband his stepdad of battering him which never happened as i was there Anyway he went and told his school who contacted ss and police he wasnt allowed home coz my husbanf was here my question is when the case is unproven do i have to still have ss contact
mumof8 - 15-Jun-15 @ 6:20 PM
My daughter and the father of my grandchild separated late last year so my 2yr old grandson sees his dad every Tuesday and every other weekend. For the last few times he has come home from being with his dad he has been upset and told his mum (my daughter) that his daddy smacks him and it hurts. Now I know children of all ages can be naughty,but it seems my grandson is being smacked for not saying goodbye to his other nana and granddad and his dad's new girlfriend, am I wrong in thinking that he's just too young to understand this new change in his life and his dad should not be smacking him for such small things? It's breaking my heart.
dancingtt - 24-May-15 @ 6:37 PM
@Nan. If both parents have PR - something as important as changing the child's school should have the consent of them both. Your daughter can follow this up via the courts.
LawAndParents - 18-Feb-15 @ 2:48 PM
Is it legal for my daughters estranged husband to change their son's school without my daughter being notified?
Nan - 17-Feb-15 @ 6:39 PM
@Legendisthename. No there are no laws on this, all parents decide on these things according to the circumstances. This person should speak with their parents to negotiate an outcome so that the parent knows they can trust them enough to remove some of the grounding restrictions.
LawAndParents - 7-Jan-15 @ 10:53 AM
I was wondering, is there a certain time you can ground your child for as I know someone that has been grounded for a very long time and she has no social life what so ever? Just wondering if there is or not as I can't find anything on the Internet about it...
Legendisthename - 4-Jan-15 @ 2:00 AM
my son is sixteen and keeps letting me know it ,, do i have any say in what he is allowed to do and not to do i am his mum and just dont know which way to turn please advice or give me a link were i can get information from thank you Tracey
floppie - 6-Nov-13 @ 5:06 PM
I'm sorry to hear about what your kids are suffering if this true you have a duty of care to your children to keep them safe what I would do apart from giving him a warning with strong words is keep your kids don't let them go back to there mum this is not illegal nor criminal so the police have no legal right to remove them from your care is all they can do at most is check the kids are safe and well the second thing you need to do is get a solicitor and take it to court so the children stay with you and if your ex turns up and starts call the police as that is illegal for her to do I wish you the best and hope it all goes well
Nick - 9-Aug-13 @ 2:21 PM
my girlfriend has a eight year old girl , an recently her daughter had a episode an began hitting her mother . after several attempts to put the child in time out an trying to reason with her, my my girlfriend reluctantly spanked the child with her hand. no marks or bruises where left on the child. is this acceptable when all other attempts to deal with the child had no effect and actually just made the girl act out worse.
phish - 28-Jan-13 @ 11:08 PM
My grandson is driving my daughter crazy.He is extremely unruly to the point that she just moved to an apartment complex and the management is writing a letter with complaints.He is aggressive, vulgar, disrespectful and does what he wants whenever.He has been getting counseling for years including seeing a psychiatrist.He smokes potand for that reason the medication given to him for his possible manic depression is ineffective.My daughter wants to turn him over as a ward of the state because she seems that to get support from any of the agencies she has gone to.Should she get an attorney or what agency can she contact.We are from the state of Ohio.
lalila - 10-Sep-12 @ 4:10 AM
first of all, as a parent you are allowed to chastise your child by smacking. absolutely NO-ONE else is allowed to smack your child no matter how hard or soft. my only advice to you is to report the abuse to the police, if possible take your children to the police station and get them to tell them. by law they have to investigate it. if you notice any marks, reddening, bruises etc. photograph them and keep as evidence. you could try the social services, but generally they're f*****g useless and never listen. you are finding it hard because you are male, unfortunately the system always favours women. i bet if you had to smack your child and you ex reported it, you would be arrested like a shot. but seriously if you are concerned go to the police, make and keep records of everyone you speak to and everything that is said. dont accept no, if the officer you speak to does nothing, ask to see a superior officer and so on. you could try the social services first, but if this person is smacking your child, then that is a criminal offense and the police must act, if they only go and question him that will be a start, and send a message to watch out. hope this helps best of luck steve
chunky monkey - 20-Jul-12 @ 7:45 PM
Hi, long story made short. I have suffered 5 years of the worst kind of emotional abuse from my ex wife, who is a cruel, uncaring,manipulative control freak. The stories I could tell you would make your hair curl, and how she has manipulated the authorities,and basically anyone who will listen to make HER appear as the victim. Last year, after much to'ing and fro'ing, after myself and my mother were abused on a 4 day short break holiday, I was left with no choice after her final, despicable deed, I left her. Just one week later, she went to a nightclub and met another guy, 1 week after that, my kids are sleeping at his house, 3 month's after that, she has moved in with him. My 4 year old daughter reportedto me on pick up for access one Saturday " Daddy, *** called mummy a bully and slapped her REALLY hard on her hand,and mummy was crying" My 3 year old son was playing with toys in my flat, he accidentally knocked a tv remote from a low coffee table, he immediately stood bolt upright, lowered his head, looking down at the floor and said " Sorry" in a very timid voice-he had never behaved like this before, I cuddled him and told him not to worry. I emailed my ex, asking her why my daughter had said those things, she said, " No, it was *** (new b/f) He smacked my daughter as she was winding up her brother. It would appear to me that this in itself is wrong anyway, but has tried to deny my daughter had said her boyfriend had slapped mummy on the hand. I am extremely concerned for my children's welfare, my ex wife has profound psycholgical problems, and is always yelling at someone for no good reason, always either manically happy, or incerdibly angry, her moods have always vascillated like this, that's the reason I left as I had taken all I could. I have met a lovely girl and we have a great relationship, she is gentle, kind and secure, a complete contrast to my ex. I can assure you I am no vindictive ex, I am just so worried about my children living with her, and now it seems another man is smacking my kids too. I have full PR, but no one listens to me, my concerns are ignored, no one helps. Please, just someone listen to my concerns and tell me what I can do????
Worried_dad - 30-Jun-12 @ 12:18 PM
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