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The Law & Child Discipline

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 20 Nov 2019 | 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 15 and has an ASD, he has been to five different schools, including a specialist resource and now attends a school for children with "challenging behaviour" and SEN, with staff who are supposedly trained to manage behaviour effectively. In spite of high staff to pupil ratio, specialist training and access to extra resources none of the schools have managed his behaviour successfully, some have exacerbated the problem and all have demanded my constant availability for repeated phone calls, official exclusions and returns home as their behaviour management strategy. Until around 5 years ago his "problem" behaviour was confined to school, but I gradually started to see more and more of it at home. For the past 3 years he has been demanding, disrespectful and aggressive towards me. He has repeatedly broken things, caused damage to the house and either destroyed or appropriated anything which belongs to me. He has threatened me and made derogatory comments to and about me on a daily basis. He refuses to clean up after himself, throws rubbish on the floor, takes plates, cups, cutlery etc. into his room and refuses to bring anything back downstairs, if he does bring it down then he won't clean it. If I ask him nicely to please pick up the rubbish/wash the dishes/return my things he walks away, if I ask too often (according to him) he screams abuse at me and proceeds to destroy as much of the house and contents as possible. The same outcome results from me saying no to any of his demands or doing or saying anything which he doesn't like. The police have been called and he has been arrested or spoken to on multiple occasions. Each time he has been referred to social services, each time they have contacted me I have explained the situation and they have offered me a parenting course! (Against government guidelines for child to parent abuse)They have told me that "as long as he is ONLY destroying the house it is not a family services issue, but IF he attacks me AND causes physical injuries I can call again". He has now taken things further, by causing damage and swearing that I did it myself, then suggesting "therapy" for my "delusions". This behaviour has all been witnessed by other people, yet I have still been refused any help, other than aforementioned parenting course. I have had no contact with any of my family or various friends in the past year, solely due to his behaviour. I am thousands of pounds in debt from replacing and/or repairing household items, including furniture, doors and damage to the house itself (which is rented). I have become more and more isolated and have been unable to work for years, as school still insists on calling and sending him home, even though I have made them fully aware of my situation. I am living in a state of constant awareness and find it difficult to relax enough to sleep or even eat a lot of the time. He is fully aware of and thoroughly enjoying the effect of his behaviour towards me. If he w
Sarky71 - 20-Nov-19 @ 4:59 AM
My grandson is 5. He has listening problems but acts like a normal 5 year old.His father punishes him by smacking him in the back of head and grounding him for a week to his bed. No TV, toys, ect. He gets up to eat and go to bathroom.I am not a biological grandmother. So I don't know what to do.His mother lets the father handle him. But I think it is abuse. I have confronted him and he says he is the father. Am I wrong? He is 5. He hasn't even started school yet.
Gilesd1974 - 12-Jun-19 @ 4:36 PM
I personally don’t think this punishment is bad . It makes me sick when parents are trying to punish children for bad behaviour school and social services try to tell you your doing wrong , but when the child becomes a big problem in the class it’s the parents fault . Let parents discipline their children the way they want as long as they don’t beat them or punish to extreme
Shazza - 5-Jun-19 @ 2:56 PM
I'm the child , I've been grounded for 4 months , don't get out , don't get my phone , have to sit in my room all day everyday . My dad smacks me . He smacked me the other day and it really hurt it was bright red for ages and he kicked me really hard the other day as well he is always screaming and swearing at me I don't like it :( , lucky I've found my old iPad to say this I don't know what to do because I just want to see my friends and to get out this house , it's the same with my brother but hes 16 now and he told me you can get a house from the council or something .... Bye
Tamzin - 4-May-19 @ 11:39 AM
UK law is not allowing parents to discipline their own children.As a result we are seeing useless, homeless and criminal minds kids everywhere. There are lack of skilled kids now a days, thats why UK needs to hire skill worker from the countries where there are free to discipline children as parents like. UK hire so called talented worker from country like India. The fact is they are jobless and useless in their country and UK count them as talented and highly skilled. In Asian and Other countries child are slapped, bitten and disciplined by their parents but child still loved their parents and support them till their death. Animals give birth to baby, feed them, care them till they are capable of themselves, and they seperate. Western Countries are following the same animal culture.
GB - 16-Nov-18 @ 11:36 PM
My mum shouts at me repeatedly and fines me money whenever I disagree with her of forget to do something... is it legal for her to take my money away even though I have no means of income
Blah - 28-Jul-18 @ 9:08 AM
Hi I really cannot understand the fuss about smacking your child and what is the need for removing it from schools. I got the cane from age 7 to 18 in school and it made me a better person. It made me respect my teachers, parents and myself. If I look at modern parents they look lost as they can't seem to control their kids (They bribe them with sweets or throw a tatrum). Kids do not respect laws anymore. I catch them continually stealing from stores swearing at shop owners and police when they get caught. Do we think this modern way of teaching our kids not to respect their parents or anyone else including themselves are a good thing. So, all I am trying to say is that children get abused in all forms.So don't think cause you are not smacking your child you are now not abusing them. We as parents need to understand that you can still be a loving parent and good parent even if you give your child a hiding. The conclusion to my story is that I still love my parents and still talk to my teachers as I know they all cared for me and made me a better me.
Mickey mouse - 6-Jul-18 @ 11:49 PM
Powell53 - Your Question:
Hi my son was misbehaving in class in which a teacher phone to explain when I'd went I did shouted at my son for misbehaving and told him that I'd take his game console out of his room and was grounded next day social services and police came to the door and said what I'd done was wrong but worst of all my son had only made lies up saying that I've hit his mam and I've thrown keys and plates at him I'm frightened I'm going to lose him has he been getting bullied in school as well in which I been asking for help for last three years I don't know who to turn to.

Our Response:
See if you can get some help from children's services at your local council - they may be willing to refer you for parenting classes etc. The Family Rights Group helpline is also a good place to get help.
LawAndParents - 12-Jun-18 @ 10:50 AM
Hi my son was misbehaving in class in which a teacher phone to explain when I'd went i did shouted at my son for misbehaving and told him that I'd take his game console out of his room and was grounded next day social services and police came to the door and said what I'd done was wrong but worst of all my son had only made lies up saying that I've hit his mam and I've thrown keys and plates at him I'm frightened I'm going to lose him has he been getting bullied in schoolas well in which I been asking for help for last three years I don't know who to turn to.
Powell53 - 9-Jun-18 @ 12:31 AM
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
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
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