Child Discipline

So, my wife an I have been discussing about discipline recently…

Growing up in Malaysia, it WAS a norm for teachers to punish us (i think its not the case anymore)…
I have gone through almost all of them - ranging from walking in school corridor with hands tied above our heads (public shaming) to caning (normally on palm or bum). and our parents WERE very supportive of teacher punishing us if we misbehaved at school. Our parents would also punish us when we misbehaved at home. In fact almost every households that i know of back then had at least 1 cane at home. Looking back, i never resent my parents or teachers. I felt that even though it didn't feel good, it made me a better person (at least that's what I think).

My wife on the other hand told me she resent her parents for hitting her when she was younger. Growing up in China, she described to me that it WAS NOT a norm and one of her friends actually had depression because his parents had beaten him for misbehaving. When the class found out that he was beaten by his dad, they actually felt VERY bad for him. So naturally my wife is against any form of physical punishment and insist on 100% verbal reasoning when bringing up our child.

Obviously I'm indifferent. To me I'd rather my son behave and I don't have to resort to choosing the right form of punishment. Buy my question is, what if verbal reasoning doesn't work?

Ignoring legality, what do you think about physical punishment (including caning).
Please note I am not supporting any form of punishment that resembles domestic violence or abuse.

P/S I quickly googled body punishment - and it appears that it was an influence from British (ie western culture) back then and hence commonality of "caning" in both Singapore and Malaysia.

Thanks everyone for your views. My wife and I were wrong to think that most people would be against physical punishment. I'm quite glad with the outcome of the poll to be frank for the fact its pretty even and I am not alone to think body punishment is OK. We as parents want the best for our kids. We get no joy seeing kids get spoiled which would ultimately harm their own future in my view. I told my wife - if she has a better way to get our kids to behave then I wouldn't be hitting my kids in the first place. Obviously it is a last resort. But I definitely got good tips on better parenting. Regardless of the outcome, good luck to everyone on parenting. Mine obviously has only just started.

Poll Options expired

  • 182
    Physical punishment is NOT OK
  • 278
    Physical punishment is OK


  • +17 votes

    You need a naughty corner in your house.

    • +7 votes

      I’ll just come and address this a bit.
      Exclusion via a naughty corner is a tactic that might work for infractions where there is an opportunity for the kid to reflect on their behaviour and how it affects their group. This can be super effective, but not always.
      It’s based on an idea from an academic called William Glasser who was considering mainly school discipline and was developed with an idea of an alternative to school caning etc. see: For an interview and plain language.

      I don’t think it can be effective if you are in a family setting where there isn’t an underlying relationship of inclusion or where there is an alternative social inclusion group who support the behaviour. What I mean is it isn’t suitable for very young children or older kids who no longer value their parents inclusion. This might mean a fail for blended families, teenagers or kids with undeveloped verbal skills.

      I agree a glasser system is a good framework for suitable kids, there are heaps of kids on the edges where it just does nothing but make them more frustrated. That doesn’t mean I support thumping them, just it isn’t one size fits all.

      • +19 votes

        This can be super effective, but not always.

        Is there a chart showing which types of punishment are effective for which types of children?

        I have fire, ice and poison at my disposal.


        Naughty chair/corner is only suitable for children 2-6ish.

        Old enough to comprehend good and bad, but too young to properly understand punishment - meaning that the penalty needs to be immediate and short.

    • +11 votes

      this is for humour only, not a tactic i endorse

      what about the naughty toilet

      kid might be more inclined to behave , especially after grandpa bill has snapped one off just before.

    • +9 votes

      I think my kids used their time on the naughty cushion to plot their revenge on me for putting them there rather than reflecting on the behaviour that led them there.

  • +10 votes

    My first kids reacted to minor smacks and it was never an issue.
    My 3rd kid kept pushing, escalating when he was considerably older.
    I didn’t like giving him a smack at all, and stopped later than I should have. Would you really beat your child if they disobey/disrespect? If you aren’t a bad parent the reality of physical punishment can get majorly uncomfortable after 1 or 2 escalations.
    I did not physically discipline my 4th child at all (who admittedly is well behaved).
    The only way I have reached my 3rd child is threats of shaming (e.g. you refuse to get dressed for school? I’ll take you in your pyjamas!).

    • +1 vote

      What about your 5th child?

    • +16 votes

      I should also say I think there is a place for somewhat gentle corporal punishment - a swat on a toddler reaching for something hot, a grab to snatch a running little kid heading for the road. I do see there is a level of young kids for whom words are wasted.

      I also think some of this is economic class based. If you have 20mins to get to work, and a 3yro refusing to dress, and the rent needs to be paid (and won’t be if I’m late again) and you need to get to daycare, I understand using physical advantage to buckle them in the car and drag them to the door. I sympathise. I did the same with less pressure on me. People who don’t have many fewer pressures. But it doesn’t work that if you are a bit later, be rougher. Losing temper and being actually rough gets nowhere.

      • +6 votes

        swat on a toddler reaching for something hot, a grab to snatch a running little kid heading for the road

        Except that this is not really punishment but rather a physical intervention from immediate harm, and is appropriate for anybody in your responsibility, not just kids.


          You’d be surprised by the reactions I’ve received for stating that I have smacked my child’s hands to prevent them from grabbing something hot or a knife. I have found that most people against physical punishment are against “ALL” kinds of physical activity.

          I agree with mskeggs (not uncommon!). Minor smacks (and the word No) have been very successful with my kids when young. My eldest just turned 7 and minor smacks mean nothing to her and I don’t feel comfortable with escalating it. At 7 though, the threat of 0 time on a screen has been working wonders so far.

          I don’t resent my parents for using smacks/belts/etc as punishments, but my biggest grievances was that the level of punishment (from my mom) was always emotional based. You could get 1 or 5 belts for the same infraction, but the number would depend on whether she was having a good or bad day. I feel like punishments must fit the crime and should come out of wanting the child to face the consequence of their action and prevent them from doing it again. It should not come out of your anger for the crime having occurred.

          We also got punished for accidentally breaking a cup or losing a phone (that I bought with my own money), but not for lying. So obviously my parents were not perfect, and even then we’ve turned out with 0 issues and have stepped it up quite a bit as parents.

    • +33 votes

      When I was growing up, I got caned… a lot. To be honest, I thought it was gruesome but in retrospect, it was hardly a beating.

      No scars… and I definitely deserved my dues.

      I'm sure there are many useless parents here that will argue about "where to draw the line". If as a parent, you cannot differentiate dishing out pain and causing damage, go right ahead and neg. I'm sure your kids will turn out just fine.

      Children who grow up thinking that words are the only punishment are probably the ones who think verbal assault is like real assault. The only ones that victimised these snowflakes are crappy parents.

      • +7 votes

        The data seems to show nothing but negative effects on children who were 'spanked'. Increased chance of: antisocial behavior, substance abuse, depression, spousal and child abuse when they are an adult, and higher defiance in the long term!

        Children who grow up thinking that words are the only punishment are probably the ones who think verbal assault is like real assault. The only ones that victimised these snowflakes are crappy parents.

        My theory is that these parents confuse aggression with assertiveness or have no assertiveness to begin with, so what they are usually left with is manipulation. The child learns this framework and is either good at being manipulative or has normalized being manipulated.

        • +1 vote

          show nothing but negative effects


          A little extreme maybe…

          One study quoted on the internet says

          Spanking on its own, and abuse on its own, were both associated with a higher risk of antisocial behavior in adulthood, the analysis found. And kids who experienced both harsh physical punishment and some form of abuse or neglect were even more likely to develop antisocial behaviors as adults than children who only encountered only one type of mistreatment.

          Combined, these childhood experiences might explain about 46 percent of antisocial behavior among men and about 47 percent of antisocial behavior among women, the study concludes.

          That MIGHT explain 46-47% of anti social behaviour. (could one then conclude that it also explains 53% social behaviour)
          The report on the study lumps "spanking" with "abuse on it's own" and doesnt break out the numbers separately.

          BTW read my position on this further down. I am not advocating beatings etc, just questioning the quoting of this "data"

          Just like saying speeding kills people when speeding is defined at 1-100km above the speed limit, and when speeding while drinking/ fatigued/texting is mixed in

          • +3 votes

            @RockyRaccoon: It's obviously BS data.

            People who quote data like this have no appreciation for data. What counts as spanking, longitudinal possibility, honesty in reporting, study dropouts… These are all very significant biasing factors when conducting studying a subject like this.

            This isn't data. It's self fulfilling prophecy.

          • +2 votes

            @RockyRaccoon: "could one then conclude that it also explains 53% social behaviour"

            Lolwut. No that is not how statistics works. You have to stick with the dependent variable you're predicting, and you can't assume that antiprosocial and prosocial behaviour are on a single dimension without evidence. For example, positive and negative emotion are 2 separate dimensions, not two poles of the one dimension.


              @ozbjunkie: True, but without the raw data we have no idea if the article is not already falling into that trap

              • +3 votes

                @RockyRaccoon: Yeah exactly. And the vast majority of psychology research is so flawed I can barely stand to read it anymore. Source - teaching research methods in psychology for about 10 years. Boring, useless, my speciality. Life is strange.

                • +1 vote

                  @ozbjunkie: Well, glad you've decided to rely on anecdotal evidence in a toxic OzBargain feed instead then. Phew! Source: practicing psychologist who uses evidence based interventions daily with families struggling with discipline issues.


                    @ronafios: Who said I was relying on anecdotes to make my decisions?

                    Also, anecdotal evidence is an oxymoron.

                    Toxic is ad hominem and fails to argue against any points raised in this thread.

                    You sound a little salty, is that intentional or have you just had a tough week?

                    • +1 vote

                      @ozbjunkie: My concern is that you said, "the vast majority of psychology research is so flawed…" etc. I know what you mean. I know there's a replication crisis within psychology. I know there are plenty of dodgy studies. A layperson who has not studied psychology probably doesn't. In this forum they hear "you can safely ignore studies that suggest smacking is wrong." They also hear, "and trust me, I'm an expert who's been looking in to this for 10 years". Why would you contribute to that view in a forum full of strangers, some of whom have indicated they have been abused or are currently abusing their own children? What is your ethical obligation in this situation? I might be overly defensive, and I'll take that.

                      To be clear to the general public, you won't find a practicing education/developmental psychologist who recommends hitting children as a parenting strategy. The reason is because the evidence doesn't support it. The evidence is overwhelming.


        Children who grow up thinking that words are the only punishment

        The words aren't punishment, they're instructional and/or rebukative. If a punishment is deemed necessary that is a separate matter and need not involve harsh violence - physical or verbal.

        • -2 votes

          If a punishment is deemed necessary that is a separate matter and need not involve harsh violence - physical or verbal.

          Harsh violence. 🤣

          Physical or verbal. 😂

          Verbal violence. 🤣

          Omg. Stop. Can't breathe. Violent laughter.


            @tshow: Seems you've lived a sheltered life. I'm guessing you don't think that psychological violence exists either, and that people with mental illnesses should just snap out of it.

            • +2 votes

              @thevofa: I live a sheltered life?

              Tell me more about me.

              mental illnesses should just snap out of it.

              No need to rope random things in. Went from violence to psychology now to mental illness. What a stretch.

  • +18 votes

    I think its fine if its used sparingly, not harshly and not because you're angry and want to get them back. It also depends highly on the kid and how they respond to the punishment.

  • +3 votes

    I only got caned when I showed complete disrespect for other human beings.

    • +2 votes

      my grandma did get real angry and gave me a good beating (not really but it did hurt at the time) when I disrespected other adults who were doing their jobs (be it janitor or something similar, you get the gist). Honestly sometimes you just need to be in physical pain to understand a little bit of emotional pain. She was great and I miss her.

  • +17 votes

    There were a lot less pricks in the world when spanking was allowed.

    • +8 votes

      You'd have to be thumping kids pretty hard to counteract population growth over time.

      Each to their own though. I guess.

      • +2 votes

        All the negative feedback of "physical discipline" comes from:

        -parents that take things too far
        -parents who do not encourage children when they behave well/counter-balance/not leveled
        -has negative propaganda of it through media
        -combination of the three

        Too little disciple will lead to a horrible human, and too much will lead to depression/suicide. I think society has forgotten that it's a balance, and not a victimhood.

        • +1 vote

          Sure as in my response below, perhaps some very mild physical punishment is acceptable, but as a last resort.

          The studies I'm referring to are about punishment in general, rather than reward. I think reward is better, as it doesn't turn the learner against the teacher. I guess that would come under your point of "parents who don't encourage".


            @ozbjunkie: It’s frustrating when people suggest it is the best, last, resort - because that indicates it’s the most effective but should be ‘saved’ for when things matter most. That’s just completely untrue. It should never be used.


              @ronafios: I didn't say it was the best last resort.

              I said it was a last resort.

              I don't know what language you speak, but in my language, a last resort is the least preferable option. Like "I'd drink my own piss if I was going to die of dehydration, but only as a last resort".

              I'd add that I used the word perhaps to indicate my uncertainty, and have expounded on the reason for my uncertainty in my longer post below - I'm neither a parent nor an expert in developmental psychology, so my opinion counts but my understanding is admittedly limited.


                @ozbjunkie: Well, my view is that if the other methods haven't worked, you will worsen things by hitting a child. If a parent has tried other strategies and is considering hitting their child, I would advise they seek advice from a psychologist, family counsellor or social worker. They can obtain a referral through their GP. What I had trouble with was you saying "perhaps some very mild physical punishment is acceptable". We differ on that. My view is that parents should be discouraged from incorporating that strategy into their suite of options.


                  @ronafios: Great, I see we agree on the vast majority of issues. And the time where we disagree is where I claim limits to my understanding and you claim particular expertise.

                  I'm happy to read this far more palatable reply to this thread, you seem to be having a better day today.

                  For what it's worth, I think it's great that you passionately advocate for nonviolent means of disciplining children. However, some of your replies are a little hostile. Remember you can't alienate and educate others at the same time. Even when you're right and the other person is wrong, try not to talk down to them. It's not constructive.


                    @ozbjunkie: Perhaps you didn't see the inflammatory remarks that have been deleted by moderators, advocating beating children with bags of oranges, hitting girlfriends, etc. I apologise if I was hostile. My view is that this thread doesn't belong on ozbargain and probably can't be expertly moderated so should be deleted. The mods seem to disagree.

                    • +2 votes

                      @ronafios: Every topic is sensitive to someone, so I respect your protest that some things should not be joked about.

                      But I'm sure nobody that really beats their child made the decision to do so because they read it as a viable parenting strategy on ozbargain.


                        @ozbjunkie: I wouldn't underestimate the power of minimising things through humour, in a forum that was proposed seriously (not as a joke). As I explained above. But, agree to disagree. I'm glad you're confident in your conclusion that this forum isn't initiating or perpetuating any negative behaviours, because it's only ozbargain advice. I hope you're right.

                        I've asked the mods to remove this feed, they have said no. This is largely the blind leading the blind, I've done all I can, so I'm exiting.

                        • +1 vote

                          @ronafios: Blind leading the blind is hostile and passive aggressive. You'll need to work on that. Disagreeing without name-calling is a vital skill, particularly for a practicing psychologist.


                            @ozbjunkie: Like calling someone 'salty'? It's been fun, take care.

                            • +1 vote

                              @ronafios: Whataboutery - I'm starting to think you're not objective or in control enough to be a psychologist. You'll apologise for hostility and then be hostile. You did sound salty, ie upset, and that's not an insult in the same way blind is an insult.

                              You come off as lacking emotional composure, and I feel it detracts from the very valid points you would like to make.

                              I'm sure the emotional maturity to stop yourself from lashing out when you feel threatened will come with time and experience. All the best.


                                @ozbjunkie: Thanks for the free psychoanalysis!

                                I've apologised several times for where I've been perceived as hostile. I think if you reflect honestly on the above, you'll notice that you are not applying your advice to yourself and you're not being fair. I am not your clinician, and we are not in session. I'm a concerned citizen discussing the use of corporal punishment, and presenting a view.

                                You never responded to my original concern about your statmenent about psychological research, and my view on how it would be perceived on a forum like this. If I have been front-footed, it's because you made a claim that I find frustrating and indefensible in this kind of public forum.

                                But I can tell you aren't going to back away from those comments. I've made my comments, and I've made them again. And probably again. If you choose to continue to reply, perhaps you could focus on my original concern. Otherwise, no hard feelings.

        • -4 votes

          The data doesn’t support this view. Physical punishment simply isn’t effective, and has too many downsides that override any perceived positives.


      There is no evidence this is true. There have always and will always be pricks. Maybe if adults restrained themselves from hitting children, there’d be a few less.

  • +17 votes

    My dad smacked me once when I was a kid. He freaked out from the hand mark left said we couldn't go to the beach in case someone saw and then bought me a Sega Game and KFC (he doesn't eat chicken so significant).
    He's never hit any of his kids since. Funnily enough that didn't affect me, the constant yelling and harsh words when I'd screw up were much worse. Words can do as much if not more long term damage than a wooden spoon, which Mum was partial to.
    Not a parent, but this is my two cents as a kid once.


      Lol. Your dad is awesome.


      Agreed. Harsh words, yelling and/or emotional manipulation are a lot worse than minor physical punishments.

      Every child is different and everything in moderation. Pay attention to how your child is reacting and adjust. People might be more wimpy and fragile now, but the quality of parenting has definitely increased.


      I'm not criticising. I'm curious.
      What are you trying to say here? That your mom's words were damaging to you or that they were the discipline that's stuck with you?
      And your dad stopped hitting you after the first time, but how did he continue to discipline after that?


      So your dad physically hit you, hid it. Then continued to verbally abuse you ongoingly? Sorry for your experience. Are you saying you’d prefer to have been hit than verbally abused? How about neither as an option?

  • +14 votes

    This is a really tough 1 to answer.

    As a kid, mum's temper would go off at any stage, that meant constant yelling etc and we weren't bad kids, not at all! That resulted in me being a very shy, introverted kid.

    I'm a parent of 2 girls under 7yo and they very rarely need telling off, and any discipline was minor (hits on the hand, put into their room for time out etc). They're 2 very well behaved girls (to the point that I took them into a big lolly shop recently and they didn't pick anything up without asking).

    No one is a perfect parent and no one knows how your kid will grow up to be.

    But if your kid is running around screaming, or you see them bullying someone, or just not being a good kid, for god sake do something, don't just sit back and let them run wild.

    Kids need guidelines, that's all. They can't have total freedom.

    • +18 votes

      How do you go from "very shy, introverted kid" to car salesman?

    • -1 vote

      Boys tend to have more behavioural problems than girls which can be seen from early childhood.

    • +1 vote

      It was a serious question. Was it a conscious decision to go out of your comfort zone? If it was, the first day on the job would have been pretty scary.

      Or did the shy duckling grow up to become a tall, hansome man with loads of charisma and the gift of the gab? Good looks does wonders for one's self-confidence, I've found.

      Edit: While on the subject of self-confidence , has anyone else seen this clip from guava island? [Donald Glover takes self-confidence to a whole new height 😲

      • +3 votes

        Was working hospitality so while I'd come out of my shell a bit, car sales certainly taught me more!

  • +11 votes

    TL:DR never thump your kids.
    Getting them to comply might take a lot of time and creativity.
    Consider if your need for compliance is worth undue feelings manipulation, which might hurt as much as a thumping in time.
    Love your kids, and they will ultimately at least feel loved.
    As a rule, more love helps kids want to please and comply.
    I look back on some of the stuff I did to demand compliance (not always successfully) and don’t know what I was prioritising.

    • +12 votes

      Sorry to thread sit, but I forgot a key item. You need to exhibit consistency.
      It is not ok to only care sometimes, it is necessary to provide a consistent set of values that your kid can live up to.
      If you chop and change the kid won’t be able to behave appropriately. Pick what is important and stick to it. Don’t ask for meaningless compliance but impress the need for ongoing, consistent performance for the things that matter.

      • +3 votes

        This needs reinforcement. Consistency is the key. As much as you can and in as many ways as you can.

        Not all offences or situations are equal, but don’t go backwards and forwards on your punishments. One day lying gets you a harsh punishment and the next day nothing.

        If you said no ice cream, for the love of god do not give them ice cream no matter how much they whine. Stick to your word.

  • +6 votes

    I think sugar reward parenting is more socially acceptable but probably worse.

  • +13 votes

    i smack my kids when their really naughty, usually when i raise my voice its enough for them to quiet down and listen to me.

    my friend never smacks his kids, when their naughty and he tries to tell them to behave, the kids yell back at and sometimes even hit the parents.
    i'm so glad their not my kids.

    • +3 votes


    • +2 votes

      In my opinion, however you choose to do it, you need to establish a sense of authority with your children when they are young.

      You can (and should) be loving, generous and fun as a parent. It’d be great to also be friends with your child, but don’t let that prevent you from teaching them that you are the parent and they are the child. And, again imo, I feel like this carries as an adult.

      If your kids hit you and yell at you, they are showing that they do not respect you and this will only get worse and worse as they get older.

  • +3 votes

    I grew up with physical punishment being the result of infractions against authority (Parents!)…. I hated it and although it was never done out of anger and was a result of us(siblings) doing something wrong, I vowed to never do it to my children and I did not.

    It is not necessary to hit a child ever, teach your children right from wrong and spend time with them and you will have respectful children who suffer from less fear than I did growing up, less fear means they can explore and learn more without worry.

    Parents with unruly children causing problems is 99% of the time not because of the child, it is because of the parents…… But we don't like to accept responsibility for what we do and we blame other influences, people, etc etc.

    • +1 vote

      I'm sorry that your parents smacks have had such an impact on you.

      I do agree that it is not necessary to hit a child. I just don't think it is an objectively negative behaviour and something that should be avoided. It's a tool in the tool kit of parenting. Different parents; different kids ; different tools.

      My 2yo gets a fair few smacks from me, hi 5yo brother hardly any. In my experience when they are little, these can be very useful along egg a stern voice for behaviour which needs an immediate response and you don't feel words will be understood. There are other approaches (my wife doesn't smack) sure, I just don't think they're objectively better. I don't 'beat' my kids, I wouldn't even say 'hit' them (as yet) but I will give a smack on the hand, leg, bum.

      Only given as part of the complete parenting package (love, attention, respect). While you never know how they really feel at this age, I don't think they feel scarred by it. I'm sure they like losing screen time worse.

      I think it's too easy on this world to see things as absolutes. Always good. Always bad. Must do. Never do. Especially with kids which we all place such importance on. The reality I think is that one persons experience does not define anothers. One definition/practice/behaviour of 'hitting' is not the same as anothers. I would frankly be very upset at someone telling me how I should raise my kids, which I see as the most important job I'll ever have. [Within boundaries] I would like the power to raise my kids in the best way I know how; not how you think I should raise my kids. I don't want the 'do-gooding' of others to interfere with my efforts to create the best possible people I can.

      This went a lot longer than intended. Sorry.

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