Physical Punishment

We know that physical punishment or chastisement of children and young people can have a very detrimental effect on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Physical punishment, such as smacking, slapping, pushing or hitting with an implement can cause:

  • direct physical harm or injury such as bruises, cuts, reddening of the skin, scratches, swelling or even broken bones;
  • mental harm such as anxiety, isolation, feeling victimised, damage to self-esteem, or a reduction in confidence;
  • increased risk of anti-social behaviour from the child;
  • increased aggression in children including fighting with siblings, friends and using violence to seek attention;
  • increased violent and criminal behaviour in adulthood;
  • an acceptance that violence is OK and it is fine to use force to get your own way, if you are annoyed with someone or if they have hurt you;
  • breakdown in family relationships, with resentment that could affect the relationship between parents and children into their adulthood.

There is no justification for inflicting pain on a child or young person as a parent (or any other adult carer). Any form of physical punishment that leaves a mark on a child or young person is considered an assault and is illegal under the Section 58 of the Children Act 2004 (S47 of Offences Against the Person Act 1861) and can result in a conviction and custodial sentence of up to 5 years.  It is also against the UN Convention of the Rights of a Child (Article 19).

Behaviour Management and Discipline Strategies

We know that children and young people need:

  • love, affection and warmth;
  • talking, listening and positive praise;
  • guidance and understanding;

But we also know that they can behave in negative ways from time to time and need:

  • a safe and structured environment;
  • limits and boundaries; and
  • consistency and consequences.

There are some general positive discipline strategies which are alternatives to physically punishing a child or young person. These can include:

  • ignoring behaviour that you do not want to see (unless of course there is a safety reason) so a child doesn’t get rewarded with your attention;
  • having clear and consistent rules and boundaries, with consequences if they are broken which are stuck to!
  • rewarding positive behaviour with your attention, praise, a hug and small treats; and
  • being assertive and using statements such as “I feel really disappointed when you ….”.

Being a good example to your child is important. If you are violent either to them or another adult, this sends a message that this behaviour is OK and they are more likely to be violent themselves.  If you feel that you may lose your temper, don’t lash out but walk away, deep breathe and count up to 10.  Give yourself time to calm down and think about how else to tackle the negative behaviour that your child may be demonstrating.  If this happens frequently, or you are concerned,  seek advice and support from your GP or Health Visitor.

Parenting Programmes

There are a range of parenting programmes that can help parents with guidance, support and practical solutions to dealing with behavioural issues and other parenting issues.

The Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) parenting programme advocates parent-modelling and then, with younger children, moving through the following discipline strategies including giving clear instructions, positive attention for positive behaviour, ignoring negative behaviour, positive confrontation, family rule discussions, time out and incentive charts.

The Incredible Years Parenting Programme, for parents of children from the age of 3 to 12 years, use limit setting and ignoring behaviours techniques, time out to calm down, and natural and logical consequences.

Mellow Parenting places an emphasis on attachment theory that suggests our earliest relationships provide a model for later relationship.  The approaches focus on spotting trouble, so being identify triggers and understanding behaviour in order to anticipate and avoid difficulties; changing your child’s behaviour through the role of attention in reinforcing behaviour e.g. praise, play rewards; stopping behaviour you don’t want, such as temper tantrums, by using withdrawal of attention, etc.

How to seek help, advice and guidance

  • Children’s Centres in Redbridge provide access advice and guidance on bringing up small children (0 – 5 years). It locate your nearest Children’s Centre, call the FiND Helpline free of charge on 0800 587 7500 or e-mail .
  • Parenting workers within the Early Intervention & Family Support Service (EI&FSS) in the LB Redbridge Children and Families Service, deliver a range of parenting programmes to help and support parents to develop better relationships with their children. Find out more by contacting EI&FSS via 020 8708 2631 or e-mailing .
  • NHS Choices provides information on-line on dealing with child behaviour problems.
  • The charity, Family Lives, provides information and advice on coping with behaviour according across different ages and stages on their website and via a Helpline – 0808 800 2222