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Anger can help define the line between discipline and abuse

It can be very hard to define the line between abuse and discipline when looking at parents and their kids.

For example, some would say that spanking children is a fine way to discipline them and teach them right from wrong. Others would say that it is never all right, as they believe striking a child at any time is abuse and possibly domestic violence.

Some of the difference is just in parenting styles. While everyone often has strong opinions, people's styles differ.

One thing that experts use to try to find the line is to examine the parent's mindset at the time that the event takes place. Is a parent who spanks a child angry when the discipline happens? That could mean the parent is stepping over the line.

The goal of discipline, after all, should be instruction. The parent should be attempting to teach the child and alter his or her behavior. If the parent has lost the focus on teaching and is just trying to show the child how angry he or she is, that could push the action into the realm of abuse. A parent who tries to vent and express anger while punishing the child could go too far and may be doing it for all the wrong reasons.

Again, people have different parenting styles and come from different backgrounds, but that's just part of the reason the lines can be so hard even for experts to define.

It's crucial for parents to know their legal rights, their children's rights, and what options they have when discipline leads to allegations of domestic violence.

Source: Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, "Discipline, Parenting Styles and Abuse," accessed Sep. 28, 2017

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