Child Abuse & Discipline

How far is too far when disciplining a child? Washington’s laws include strict and narrow definitions of what type of physical punishment is permitted. What may have been acceptable physical discipline a generation ago is potentially criminal behavior now.

Physical discipline of a child, including corporal punishment, is not considered abuse when it is reasonable, moderate, and inflicted by a parent or guardian for the purposes of restraining or correcting the child. Ultimately, if a case of child discipline goes to trial, the jury will be charged with determining whether the forced used, when viewed objectively, was reasonable and moderate.

Abusive Discipline

Certain discipline tactics are presumed abusive. These include:

  • Throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child
  • Striking a child with a closed fist
  • Shaking a child under the age of 3
  • Interfering with a child’s breathing
  • Threatening a child with a deadly weapon
  • Leaving a mark on a child that is more than transitory