​Children and Young People

What kind of discipline can a parent give their child under the law?

A parent can use physical force to punish a child, but the force must be ‘reasonable’. What is reasonable will depend on the child’s age, health, maturity, and how badly the child was misbehaving.

You can’t use force on any part of a child’s head or neck.
If you choose to physically discipline your child, such as with a smack — the harm you cause must only last for a short time. For example, if you hit your child and it creates a bruise, that force will not be reasonable.

Discipline is not child abuse. However, if someone thinks that the discipline is excessive and harmful to the child, or puts them at risk of harm, they can report it to Family and Community Services.

What is bullying at school?

Bullying is repeated behaviour that:
  • can cause harm
  • targets a certain person or group of people
  • embarrasses or intimidates the person being bulled.
Bullying can be:

  • verbal — like insults, teasing, name‑calling
  • physical behaviour — like hitting, kicking, pushing
  • social — behaviours like exclusion, gossip, spreading rumours or offensive gestures
  • in person or online — like sending offensive SMS and emails and ‘cyber bullying’ on social media or in chat rooms.
All public schools in New South Wales must have an anti‑bullying plan to deal with bullying and cyber‑bullying. You can ask the school about their anti‑bullying plan.

Site content is current as at November 2018

For more information

There are many parenting resources that can help and support parents to discipline their children appropriately in a safe and caring relationship and provide information about bullying:

Raising children network

Resourcing parents

NSW Department of Education - NSW Anti-bullying website

Children can also get help from:

Kids helpline 1800 55 1800

Guide for community workers

Download the PDF version of the Community Workers Guide [PDF 871kb]