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Child Discipline Laws by State 2022

Disciplining children is undoubtedly one of the most controversial subjects among parents. It could become confusing in determining what is considered discipline and what is considered abuse. Therefore, parents could grow weary of what form of punishment to use. To understand more about the topic, here are the laws surrounding child discipline.

Discipline or Abuse?

Currently, all states allow some form of punishment that isn't too harsh for children. However, that's another issue that arises: What is considered too harsh or intense? Thanks to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), these guidelines all depend on the state that people reside. Spankings are one form of punishment that is considered exceptional among states. This is because they are unable to cause any bruises that will impact the child in a significant way. These are the only guidelines that are followed throughout the country. There are other states, however, that have special laws about discipline, which range from lenient to strict. Lenient means parents can spank their children if there will be no physical harm to the child(ren). Strict means parents can only gently spank their child(ren) and cannot strike, kick, burn, cut, or shake them.

Other Individuals

In addition to having laws about disciplining children, some laws cover other people disciplining children. These laws specifically include individuals like teachers and strangers. As it pertains to teachers, 19 states allow teachers to initiate corporal punishment on students when necessary to correct their behavior. Punishments can include mostly spankings and paddling. Strangers disciplining other people's children, on the other hand, isn't explicitly mentioned in any state. Therefore, it would be up to the parent to decide whether they want another person to discipline their child for them. These other individuals include people like a parent of their child's friend and others.


For states that don't allow any form of corporal punishment, there are significant consequences for the parents to deal with if they break the law. The more extreme the kind of punishment, the more likely the charges brought against a parent will be severe. Many states will charge parents with assault or even child abuse if they have caused physical marks on their bodies. There have been many instances where this was the case. One case, for example, is that of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who was arrested in 2014 for punishing his son with a switch and causing bruises on his back.

Child Discipline Laws by State 2022

Child Discipline Laws by State 2022