Reisinger Booth & Associates, P.C., L.L.O.

Could your way of disciplining your child be considered abusive?

Parenting skills often come into question during custody disputes. This means that you can be called on to justify how you discipline your child. If your version of discipline seems abusive to the court, you can forget about getting custody. You might even be forced to endure supervised visitation.

What does Nebraska consider abusive treatment of a child? What is merely discipline when a child misbehaves? Here's some advice.

Forget about corporal punishment

Nebraska is among the states that forbid corporal punishment in schools -- which means that parents need to think twice before using it at home. Spanking and paddling have generally ceased to be socially acceptable. It's simply too easy to injure a child, and there's a lot of evidence that it's psychologically damaging and emotionally humiliating. Revoking privileges, time out, limiting electronics and other methods of punishing a child's misbehavior are usually much better options.

Be careful about creative punishments

Some parents get creative when they're disciplining a child. That can be okay, as long as you're cautious. Anything that deprives a child of clothing, food or shelter is legally abusive. For example, if your teenager is coming home late all the time, it's not a good idea to lock him or her out of the house for the night as a punishment.

Don't use public shaming

Public shaming has taken on new life in American culture, especially on the internet. Parents have filmed themselves humiliating their disobedient children in various ways -- everything from cutting off a daughter's hair to making a child hold up a failing report card for the camera -- and then posted the videos online.

That's a terribly bad idea. Those videos spread quickly and can't completely removed. Under the law, anything that can be interpreted as cruel or dangerous to a child's mental health is considered abusive under Nebraska's law.

If you're having trouble figuring out how to discipline an unruly child, don't let your frustration cost you custody. Talk with your family law attorney about what's acceptable or make an appointment with a family therapist for help.

Source: Nebraska Legislature, "Nebraska Revised Statute 28-707," accessed April 12, 2018

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