Families and Couples

Punishing Children With Force: Rules and Limits


In Canada, parents can punish children by making them stay home or taking away things like cell phones. In some cases, they can also use force, but they must follow very strict rules. If a parent does not respect these rules, the situation can be reported to the Director of Youth Protection (DYP). The parent could also face criminal charges.

Punishments never allowed

If a parent uses physical force to discipline a child, the level of force must be reasonable.

These kinds of physical force are never allowed, under any circumstances:

  • punishment using objects such as rulers or belts
  • punishment that might injure
  • slaps or punches to the head
  • inhuman or degrading punishment
  • physical punishment of a child under two
  • physical punishment of a teenager

Use of force: limits

Physical punishment can only be used if it is a way to discipline a child. Also, the child must be able to understand the reason for the punishment.

What is reasonable also depends on the child’s age, gender, state of health and the impact of the punishment.

Teachers, and anyone else acting in a parent’s place, must respect these same legal limits.

For example, teachers can’t physically punish students. But they can use reasonable force to hold or remove a student from the classroom when necessary and in specific situations.

Abusive physical punishment: risks and consequences

A parent or other person who uses too much force to punish a child can face serious consequences. Children have legal protections against mistreatment, such as physical, sexual or psychological abuse. The Director of Youth Protection (DYP) can intervene if the child’s development or safety is at risk.

The police might investigate when physical punishment has been used on a child. This could lead to the adult being charged with a crime.