Ask Sam letter


To Sam

Is physical punishment abuse?

I am not sure if this is abuse or normal, okay? So if I am wrong that's fine I am just wondering.

In short, I know I have really good parents - they take my bro and I on holidays, on trips and give us all we could ask for. I am not complaining about that in the slightest, and I am saying it beforehand so that my parents don't seem too bad later on.

What I was wondering about is their punishments. When I was younger my dad used to handle my punishments because then he had more time, whereas now it is more on my mum. He used to hit me or push me, and when I did something really bad or run away from him when he told me I was going to get a smack he often chased me around with a shoe or sandal or belt - often throwing the shoe at me when he got impatient. He hasn't done anything since two years ago, where I had to study for transferring schools when I was 11 or 12 and couldn't understand the work and got angry. That time he had smacked a bamboo stick across my thigh, and I had a purple bruise there for the next two days or so.  That was two years ago, and the last time he had punished me for anything.

Now, it is mostly on my mum to punish us because dad is away from 7 in the morning to 8-9 at night on weekdays, and works from home on Sunday. Mum mostly gets into arguments with me - just kicking my shins, pinching me and slapping me across the face as well as yelling the roof off the house. It is probably mostly my fault because I argue right back. It has gotten so bad that I tend to hibernate in my room for most of the time or else I will end up having no phone for a week if not anything worse. In our arguments (often nearing the end of them) she would start to get fed up. She has called me a "b**ch", "worthless", a "waste of space" on multiple occasions as well as telling me to get our of her face and to leave the house and not come back (or at least imply those things.) She says sorry after the arguments but does the same the next time.

My parents have been doing things like that for my entire life (it has gotten slightly better during the holidays though) so I had thought that it was completely normal, until last year when I got access to the internet and found out it could possibly be emotional or physical abuse. I asked my friend about it, and she said that it is normal though, because her parents hit her too. My third friend says this as well.

So I am really confused about it all (and even though if it is abuse you probably wont be able to do anything about it, and the other stuff was too long ago to matter) but I would just like to know if it could be considered abuse or not.

Sorry for any trouble,

Ask Sam


Hi there,

Parents may sometimes punish their children if they've done something wrong but it's important that it's a fair punishment. It's never okay for punishments to include anything that hurts you and you shouldn't be being punished all of the time. If you're constantly being punished, that's emotional abuse, while being kicked, smacked or slapped is physical abuse.

We all do things that are wrong sometimes and there are consequences. Sometimes this might mean being punished. The punishment should be something that helps us to become better people. It might be that being grounded from going out or having something we enjoy taken away for a short while give us time to think about what happened. Whatever happens the punishments should be fair and they shouldn't be abusive.

It's important to remember that punishments should be quite rare. You shouldn't be punished severely for everyday mistakes or things everyone does wrong. If you're being punished all of the time, even when you aren't doing anything wrong, this is emotional abuse. Getting angry or frustrated at school work is not something you should be punished for.

Physical punishment is never okay. You shouldn't be being hurt, smacked or hit with objects as punishment - nobody has the right to do that to you, no matter what has happened. If someone's hurting you physically, then this is abuse and it's wrong.

Arguments happen in families - nobody's perfect all of the time. Your mum seems to be punishing you for having arguments, which often take 2 people to create. Working on the relationships within families is difficult but coming to an understanding with your mum can lead to fewer arguments. Talking about how you feel and what you want things to be like at home is sometimes a good start, if you feel like your mum is open to that.

Sometimes things might be so bad at home that you don't feel like talking to parents about punishments is a safe idea. In those cases it's best to talk to a different adult you trust about what's happening at home. Someone at school can help, another relative or any adults you can rely on and feel comfortable with. If you don't feel you have anyone like that, you can talk to Childline and our counsellors can help you decide what to do next.

Thank you for sharing everything with me, I hope this has helped. Take care.


Need help straight away?

You can talk privately to a counsellor online or call 0800 1111 for free.

Ask me a question

You can ask me about anything you want, there's nothing too big or small. I read every single letter but I can only answer a few each week. My replies are published here on my page.

Write me a letter