There has been a huge controversy between what is defined as being child discipline and child abuse. Many people do not understand the difference between the two and face criminal charges of child abuse when disciplining their children. Adults who go beyond the boundaries of proper and acceptable discipline are considered child abusers and may face criminal charges.

Child Abuse is defined as when an individual harms a individual physically, sexually, emotionally. This abuse is behavior by a parent who either beats, spanks, smacks a child or does an act that emotionally tortures or harms the child.

What Is Legally Not Acceptable Discipline For My Child?

The actions that are legally not acceptable when disciplining a child are:

  • Physical abuse that is non-accidental and intentional
  • Sexual abuse of any kind between adult and child
  • Neglect- failure to provide for the child’s physical needs
  • Torturing the child in anyway that is unusual and criminal
  • Emotional Abuse- any behavior or act that interferes with the child’s mental or social development

What Is Legally Acceptable Discipline For My Child?

Most states recognize that a parent has the right to restrain or chastise a disobedient minor with moderate punishment.  In order to show any punishment was acceptable, you must show that:

  1. You are a parent, guardian, or a person entrusted with similar responsibilities of the child,
  2. The force you use is necessary to correct some disobedient behavior in the pursuit of looking out for the child’s best interest, and
  3. The force is not known to, or will not cause a risk of death, great bodily injury, disfigurement, extreme pain, or extreme mental distress.

What Level of Discipline Is Not Acceptable For My Child?

Any discipline that harms the child physically, sexually, or emotionally would not be considered acceptable and a person may face child abuse charges as a result. Any discipline that violates one of the steps above will generally be seen as improper punishment.  As a result, courts will generally treat the discipline as:

What Are the Consequences If a Court Finds That My Discipline Was Unacceptable?

If a court finds your level of discipline unacceptable and defines it as child abuse, endangerment, or assault and/or battery, you have generally committed a felony and  you could face:

  • Jail time, ranging from 2 to 15 years,
  • Fines,
  • Negative effects on child custody and other rights
  • Child endangerment charges
  • Loss of Custody of Child

Do I Need an Attorney If I Have Been Charged with Improperly Disciplining My Child?

If you are charged with child abuse, child neglect, child endangerment, or assault and/or battery of your child and you think what you did was acceptable discipline, then it is strongly recommended that you contact a criminal lawyer to help explain the situation and protect your rights.