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Smacking Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 18 May 2018 |
 
Law Smack Child Discipline Assault

You may already know that it is illegal for a teacher to smack your child. But a change in the law will mean that they are able to use 'reasonable force' to restrain children if they are being disruptive, committing a crime, harming someone or damaging something. The changes will also give teachers a new general right to search children on school premises. This is in order to search for anything banned by the school.

Smacking Your Own Child

It is not illegal for a parent to hit their child as long as the ‘smack’ amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’. There is, therefore, a difference between punishment and what can feasibly be termed ‘abuse’. Unreasonable punishment is classed as a smack that leaves a mark on the child, or the use of an implement to hit the child, such as a belt or cane. A parent can give another person consent to use reasonable punishment on their child, such as a babysitter or grandparent.

Criminal Offences

So where do you draw the line between assault – a criminal offence – and reasonable punishment? And what happens if the discipline is seen as Child Cruelty in criminal legal terms? Common assault is chargeable by the Crown Prosecution Service if it amounts to scratches, minor bruising, grazes, red skin, a black eye or superficial cuts.

Actual bodily harm could be a broken or lost tooth, broken nose, minor cuts (more than merely superficial), a loss of consciousness, serious bruising, or minor bone fractures, as well as emotional damage that amounts to a psychiatric injury.

Grievous bodily harm requires a compound fracture, injuries that cause a substantial amount of blood loss (requiring a transfusion), a visual disfigurement, injuries that result in permanent disability, or ‘wounding’ that breaks both the inner and outer layers of the skin. Again, this could include psychiatric injury.

Grievous bodily harm with intent is the most serious (before attempted murder) and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. This would be the right charge if a parent wounded their child with intent, unlawfully, maliciously and intentionally, or caused grievous bodily harm to another person.

Will Smacking Be Banned?

The NSPCC and other children’s charities have been rigorously campaigning for a total ban on smacking. This has not yet come in to force and is unlikely to do so for the foreseeable future. It would also be very hard to enforce within private homes, and reinforces recent government criticism about the ‘nanny state’. Views are divided, but critics of the current law say that it violates the rights of a child not to have recourse to having suffered an assault.

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[Add a Comment]
TJ - Your Question:
I've been physically smacked by my parents all my life while being called all sorts of swear words which has affected my mental health a lot while having my ribs punched straggled by my dad when I was eating food and started to choke on it to then be thrown in my room along with having my head banged into a door and I'm now 17 with it still happening I have 2 younger brothers who get beaten if they do something wrong like not walking my dog when he's supposed to do and I'm fearing that it will only be getting worse what should I do as I've almost lashed out at my parents before but I know that's wrong.

Our Response:
Contact Childline on 080 1111 and tell them about your own experiences and those of your younger siblings.
LawAndParents - 21-May-18 @ 10:40 AM
I've been physically smacked by my parents all my life while being called all sorts of swear words which has affected my mental health a lot while having my ribs punched straggled by my dad when i was eating food and started to choke on it to then be thrown in my room along with having my head banged into a door and i'm now 17 with it still happening i have 2 younger brothers who get beaten if they do something wrong like not walking my dog when he's supposed to do and i'm fearing that it will only be getting worse what should I do as I've almost lashed out at my parents before but I know that's wrong.
TJ - 18-May-18 @ 6:02 PM
Hi, 2 days back my 5 yo son was playing with me, kind of pushing me in fun. And I have ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune of joints. I was in pain and telling him to stop but he dint listened. I lost my cool and slapped on his both cheeks, now he has got my 3 fingers mark on face. I said sorry to him. He is very nice child and we both are like friends but this mark is worrying me as we are not in UK for permanent and here I have heard child is taken away from you in some cases. Could you pls help. I haven't send him to school for 2 days.pls guide.
Nak - 9-May-18 @ 9:20 AM
Unknown - Your Question:
My daughter was given chores as a punishment for lying, stealing and hurting people. We have also got her counselling and help for why she done it. Yesterday she started writing nasty stuff down on paper to upset me and wouldn't do her chore. My partner took the papa way from her and said that it's not nice and there is no need for it and he would give her her pen etc once she was done with her chore. She then attacked him, she was punching and kicking him and he tried to restrain her but couldn't. I'm in a wheelchair and tried to pull her away to stop, she then beat me up. She is 15 and due to bullying we sent her to martial arts so she could protect herself, we never thought she would ever use in on us. She has said a simple sorry and has stayed in her room since. I know it sounds horrible but I actually don't want to see her at all atm. I want her to be OK and will never stop helping her but I don't know what to do about her hurting me. I will be bed bound for a long time due to this, any advice on how to help her and stop her doing this.

Our Response:
Talk to school staff and/or your GP. They will be able to refer her to further counselling, therapy etc. Perhaps there is something worrying her a great deal to make her behave this way and you will also need to rule out any involvement with drugs etc.
LawAndParents - 8-May-18 @ 2:21 PM
My daughter was given chores as a punishment for lying, stealing and hurting people. We have also got her counselling and help for why she done it. Yesterday she started writing nasty stuff down on paper to upset me and wouldn't do her chore. My partner took the papa way from her and said that it's not nice and there is no need for it and he would give her her pen etc once she was done with her chore. She then attacked him, she was punching and kicking him and he tried to restrain her but couldn't. I'm in a wheelchair and tried to pull her away to stop, she then beat me up. She is 15 and due to bullying we sent her to martial arts so she could protect herself, we never thought she would ever use in on us. She has said a simple sorry and has stayed in her room since. I know it sounds horrible but I actually don't want to see her at all atm. I want her to be OK and will never stop helping her but I don't know what to do about her hurting me. I will be bed bound for a long time due to this,any advice on how to help her and stop her doing this.
Unknown - 6-May-18 @ 11:12 AM
nameless - Your Question:
I am 16. I just left home because of what my parents have done to me. my dad was worse. This has happened most of my life. I never told anyone because my dad said no one would believe me. but my 2 younger sisters still live with my father and it worries me so much. My dad hit me all the time. He also pinched me, pulled my hair, dragged me, Kicked me, chased me, threw things at me. I had many bruises on my legs, thighs and arms from him. I never had a good relationship with him and he is a very very controlling man. He said things to me like you are not allowed sex before marriage and you are not allowed a black boyfriend. Sometimes he could be nice but he could not control his anger and he was mostly very cruel to me. He used to beat me with a wooden spoon. which left many bruises. He also used to come into my room at night and 'tickle' me. He would sit on me and pin down my hands whilst doing it so I couldn't do anything. But it wasn't tickling because it hurt so so bad. I screamed and cried and I told him that it was hurting and I begged him to stop but he didn't and I had bruises on my chest and down my ribs. It wasn't tickling at all. He would dig his nails into the side of my ribs and push. He also slapped and grabbed my butt often. on a few occasions he has started hitting me with a wooden spoon and then pulled down my trousers and pants. I was trying to get away from him but I couldn't. He then started biting my butt. He has also chased me to my room and he cramped me into a corner and ripped my shirt off of me. There is a lot more he has done to me. He called me fat all of the time which I believed and when I was 13 I was making my self be sick and I cut my self because I hated my body so much (I was never actually fat at all, in fact, I was very skinny) but because he told me that I was so much, I believed him. Is this sexual abuse as well as physical and emotional?I am now in a foster home and I'm happier but I always get flashbacks and nightmares. Its horrible and I cant get it out of my head. can someone please help me. How bad is this?I am safe now.

Our Response:
Talk to your foster carer or social workers, they might be able to find you some counselling or therapy. You've made a great start by describing everything here. If you're worried that the same thing is happening to your sisters, please do tell someone - a social worker or Childline on 0800 1111.
LawAndParents - 4-May-18 @ 11:34 AM
To the user called nameless I hope I can talk to you what you have been through is very smiler to my story your not alone and I would love to talk to you you made me cry and I hope your happy and you are beautiful the way you are and don’t tell anyone tell you otherwise please if you can reply and maybe we can talk
Rose1234 - 3-May-18 @ 9:18 PM
I am 16.I just left home because of what my parents have done to me. my dad was worse. This has happened most of my life. i never told anyone because my dad said no one would believe me. but my 2 younger sisters still live with my father and it worries me so much. My dad hit me all the time. He also pinched me, pulled my hair, dragged me, Kicked me, chased me, threw things at me. I had many bruises on my legs, thighs and arms from him. I never had a good relationship with him and he is a very very controlling man. He said things to me like you are not allowed sex before marriage and you are not allowed a black boyfriend.Sometimes he could be nice but he could not control his anger and he was mostly very cruel to me. He used to beat me with a wooden spoon. which left many bruises. He also used to come into my room at night and 'tickle' me. He would sit on me and pin down my hands whilst doing it so I couldn't do anything. But it wasn't tickling because it hurt so so bad. I screamed and cried and I told him that it was hurting and I begged him to stop but he didn't and I had bruises on my chest and down my ribs. It wasn't tickling at all. He would dig his nails into the side of my ribs and push. He also slapped and grabbed my butt often. on a few occasions he has started hitting me with a wooden spoon and then pulled down my trousers and pants. I was trying to get away from him but I couldn't. He then started biting my butt. He has also chased me to my room and he cramped me into a corner and ripped my shirt off of me. There is a lot more he has done to me. He called me fat all of the time which I believed and when I was 13 I was making my self be sick and I cut my self because I hated my body so much (I was never actually fat at all, in fact, I was very skinny)but because he told me that I was so much, I believed him. Is this sexual abuse as well as physical and emotional? I am now in a foster home and I'm happier but I always get flashbacks and nightm ares. Its horrible and i cant get it out of my head. can someone please help me. How bad is this? I am safe now.
nameless - 2-May-18 @ 10:59 AM
My son (5) has come home telling me his dad has slapped him, to cut a long story short, the school took over with questioning my son & referred it to social services. They rang me basically saying no further action is needed as it doesnt meet their threshold. They also said as theres an order in place, i cant just stop him from going (i wouldnt want to but also cant allow this) and would need to seek legal advice if it continues. It was left that they will send him a letter asking him to contact them as he was away. I rang them on mon & no one called back so chased it up today to advise that he was slapped on his last visit. She has now reopened a case & but they havent spoken to my ex & she said she needs to check with admin if they sent the letter (it doesnt sound like they did). Kids are due to go tmrw & i am very unsure of what to do?
Singlemum - 12-Apr-18 @ 9:31 PM
Leah - Your Question:
My mum smacks and hits me around the face everyday and I can’t take anymore

Our Response:
You should tell a teacher or trusted adult about this, or call Childline
LawAndParents - 9-Apr-18 @ 1:55 PM
my mum smacks and hits me around the face everyday and I can’t take anymore
Leah - 7-Apr-18 @ 5:54 PM
is my mam allowed to smack me across the head coz i dropped something on the floor
unicorn2000 - 28-Mar-18 @ 4:17 PM
Crisco - Your Question:
My son in law which is my grandkids mothers boyfriend is always accusing my grandaughter of doing things to him he has walked in in her in bathroom slapped her in face always starting stuff with her she is 12 yrs old and always getting the blunt or accused if stuff thank you Nana

Our Response:
You should report this to NSPCC or social services.
LawAndParents - 9-Feb-18 @ 9:33 AM
My son in law which is my grandkids mothers boyfriend is always accusing my grandaughter of doing things to him he has walked in in her in bathroom slapped her in face always starting stuff with her she is 12 yrs old and always getting the blunt or accused if stuff thank you Nana
Crisco - 8-Feb-18 @ 12:26 AM
It's NEVER okay to hit a child. Hitting teaches hitting period, what else is it going to teach. If you, or someone else raise their hands out of anger & cross the boundary by striking anyone they're completely out of control & need to remove themselves immediately. There is no justifiable reason to ever hit anyone. Because someone is frustrated, tired, upset etc... Go take a walk, go work out, Go outside, there's productive & postive ways to rid your frustrations in a healthy way, that's what adults do & if you don't know how to get a handle on your temper go get some help, go take parenting classes. Do NOT under any circumstances hit your child or allow anyone else to hit your child ever. Hitting is one of the worst things that people do & inorder to create peace & get a handle on violence in society, the hitting & all forms of abuse need to come to an end.
Badlandsbabe - 5-Feb-18 @ 9:40 AM
My ex partner that has always been fine with our children has recently changed since his mother died, he’s acting very angry around our 2 sons and has recently griped our 13yr old around the throat and smashed his phone because he wanted to come home to me as he was scared. Prior to this my son hasn’t wanted to spend time with his father for 7 months, where our other son is wanting to see his dad. He’s also accused our son of causing his depression which should never be put on a child, he was devastated. There’s plent more that been said and happened recently and I’m very concerned. Do you think it’s wise to tell social services
Worried mum - 17-Jan-18 @ 11:40 PM
My patents hit me what should I do about it
Abu - 17-Jan-18 @ 4:31 PM
My dad always abuse me likeprostitute shout on meand hit meifI got a late fromclass15-20min start abusingcoz I'm a girl I'm tied from dis lifepls Pls help me I really need help what to do
Deepu - 22-Dec-17 @ 12:56 PM
My brother once used a nylon belt to hit his child and it wasn't that forceful, this left no marks whatsoever and the child was fine afterwards. Prior to this, the child was shouting, swearing and hitting him. My brother has only just realised that a law has been passed which changes the way we deal with our children. He was none the wiser to this change. Since then, he has never used a belt.
Area - 16-Dec-17 @ 4:48 PM
When I was 10 year old my mum had drink problem she will beat me up I was black and blue teacher's at my boarding school saw marks on my body and called social services after that social worker called every week to school and my home my dad try to protect me against my mum my partner hit our 3 year old daughter because won't get dressed for school on her leg he hit her she steam cry I don't like my partner hit our 3 year old daughter and told her to keep out of his way I'm worried for her when I go in hospital to have my 2nd baby the way my partner was with our daughter my dont live near me my parents died a long time ago I don't know what to do ive been with my partner nearly 5 years I can see a social worker calling here sometime because our nosy neighbour who lives above us we live block of flats always phones to report other tenants about what goes on when she is noisy nuisance with her music on Lond in kitchen and dogs barking and moving table and chairs at 1am 1.30 am
Lou - 13-Dec-17 @ 10:25 PM
Batgirl- Your Question:
I really concern about this that has been going on for couple month If my boyfriend slap in the face and head and kicks him in his bottom Is a crime I was worried And I have told him to stop and he never listen Is it a crime that boyfriend hurts my child in that sort of way Especial he is not the father of this child I am really I am concern and worried about my child being scare and trauma by him

Our Response:
Yes it's a crime and you should make sure your child is safe. Call Childline on 0800 1111 or NSPCC 0808 800 5000
LawAndParents - 12-Dec-17 @ 11:55 AM
I really concern about this that has been going on for couple month If my boyfriend slap in the face and head and kicks him in his bottom Is a crime i was worried And I have told him to stop and he never listen Is it a crime that boyfriend hurts my child in that sort of way Especial he is not the father of this child I am really I am concern and worried about my child being scare and trauma by him
Batgirl - 9-Dec-17 @ 10:37 PM
If any teacher thinks they can even put there hands on my child then I'll assume it's ok for me to do the same .? That's what I am for I reprimand my child and if a teacher thinks they can I will do what I thinks nessecary to reprimand that teacher.same difference right?
Zoeybee - 18-Nov-17 @ 2:45 PM
What would be the next step to take if the social services do not investigate fully. With what is happening to my grandsons due to my daughters boyfriend. I phoned nspcc about it they got in touch with social services. But closed the case in 3 days to what I have been told. I did ring them on Wednesday morning this week and no one as rang me back about it. It was lunch time on Wednesday that my daughter rang and said the case us closed. What can I do now, how else can I get evidence of what is happening.
junie - 13-Oct-17 @ 5:46 PM
Scared - Your Question:
Divorce Feb due to verbal domestic violence. My ex fort for shared care of our 4 year old who has mild disabilities and delayed development (attending mainstream school). The ex used to drink but through divorce did 3 month rehab to stop and declared he would never drink whilst looking after our son. This weekend our son was with his dad. I received a call from his dad to say our son had kicked another child so from instinct he slapped our son, his check was red but when I spoke to him it had settled. I am scared for my son, I know my ex has a temper he cannot control. He never touched me physically but broke things in the house and was abusive. I raised this in the divorce but he was not seen a threat to our child. Should I report to social services, I don't want to add any more friction than already there so only want to report if action will be taken. Thank you

Our Response:
We can't really advise on individual issues like this. It's really your call, you know your son and you know your ex partner. He phoned you and told you about it, so at least you know he's not trying to hide it from you.
LawAndParents - 9-Oct-17 @ 3:03 PM
Divorce Feb due to verbal domestic violence. My ex fort for shared care of our 4 year old who has mild disabilities and delayed development (attending mainstream school). The ex used to drink but through divorce did 3 month rehab to stop and declared he would never drink whilst looking after our son. This weekend our son was with his dad. I received a call from his dad to say our son had kicked another child so from instinct he slapped our son, his check was red but when I spoke to him it had settled. I am scared for my son, I know my ex has a temper he cannot control. He never touched me physically but broke things in the house and was abusive. I raised this in the divorce but he was not seen a threat to our child. Should I report to social services, I don't want to add any more friction than already there so only want to report if action will be taken. Thank you
Scared - 8-Oct-17 @ 9:04 PM
junie - Your Question:
Is it against the law for my daughters boyfriend to pull down my grandson trousers and under wear and then hit him with a slipper, after he has been told off and starts crying for his nanna and hits him harder fir crying.

Our Response:
The law on smacking is vague ("It is unlawful for a parent or carer to smack their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’"), but it's likely that an adult smacking a child's bare bottom would be considered indecent assault especially if he is not the biological father. Call the NSPCC helpline for advice.
LawAndParents - 12-Sep-17 @ 12:16 PM
Is it against the law for my daughters boyfriend to pull down my grandson trousers and under wear and then hit him with a slipper, after he has been told off and starts crying for his nanna and hits him harder fir crying.
junie - 11-Sep-17 @ 5:23 AM
I smacked my child on the backside, social work are trying to say I'm abusing her. The whole reason for social work involvement is because my brother sexually abused me when I was 7. It took me a long time to tell anyone and when I did, I eventually called the police. So really the social worker was allocated in January but didn't come out until June.What can I do?
Kelz16 - 13-Jul-17 @ 11:35 PM
Is it legal to restrain a child who has asd and becomes violent? My husband sons stepdad had to do this on my part recently as i was recovering from major surgery our son then ran off and has since told the police my husband beat him (i was in the room when this allegedly happened and he didnt at all) the police have now interviewed my husband under caution and told him he can be charged with assault for restraining him as it is illegal?? Where do we stand?
Km86 - 8-Jul-17 @ 11:26 PM
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