Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.2 Supervision and Discipline

2.2.0 Prohibited Caregiver/Teacher Behaviors

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/22/2018

Child care programs must not tolerate, or in any manner condone, an act of abuse or neglect of a child. The following behaviors by an older child, caregiver/teacher, substitute or any other person employed by the facility, volunteer, or visitor should be prohibited in all child care settings:

  1. The use of corporal punishment/physical abuse (1) (punishment inflicted directly on the body), including, but not limited to
    1. Hitting, spanking (striking a child with an open hand or instrument on the buttocks or extremities with the intention of modifying behavior without causing physical injury), shaking, slapping, twisting, pulling, squeezing, or biting
    2. Demanding excessive physical exercise, excessive rest, or strenuous or bizarre postures
    3. Forcing and/or demanding physical touch from the child
    4. Compelling a child to eat or have soap, food, spices, or foreign substances in his or her mouth
    5. Exposing a child to extreme temperatures
  2. Isolating a child in an adjacent room, hallway, closet, darkened area, play area, or any other area where the child cannot be seen or supervised
  3. Binding or tying to restrict movement, such as in a car seat (except when traveling) or taping the mouth
  4. Using or withholding food as a punishment or reward
  5. Toilet learning/training methods that punish, demean, or humiliate a child
  6. Any form of emotional abuse, including rejecting, terrorizing, extended ignoring, isolating, or corrupting a child
  7. Any form of sexual abuse (Sexual abuse in the form of inappropriate touching is an act that induces or coerces children in a sexually suggestive manner or for the sexual gratification of the adult, such as sexual penetration and/or overall inappropriate touching or kissing.)
  8. Abusive, profane, or sarcastic language or verbal abuse, threats, or derogatory remarks about the child or child’s family
  9. Any form of public or private humiliation, including threats of physical punishment (2)
  10. Physical activity/outdoor time taken away as punishment

Children should not see hitting, ridicule, and/or similar types of behavior among staff members.


The behaviors mentioned in the standard threaten the safety and security of children. This would include behaviors that occur among or between staff. Even though adults may state that the behaviors are “playful,” children cannot distinguish this. Corporal punishment may be physical abuse or may easily become abusive. Corporal punishment is clearly prohibited in family child care homes and centers in most states (3). Research links corporal punishment with negative effects such as later aggression, behavior problems in school, antisocial and criminal behavior, and learning impairment (3-6).

 The American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to the use of corporal punishment (7). Factors supporting prohibition of certain methods of discipline include current child development theory and practice, legal aspects (namely, that a caregiver/teacher does not foster a relationship with the child in place of the parents/guardians to prevent the development of an inappropriate adult-child relationship), and increasing liability suits.

Appropriate alternatives to corporal punishment vary as children grow and develop. As infants become more mobile, the caregiver/teacher must create a safe space and redirect children’s difficult or emotional outbursts when necessary. Recognizing a child’s desires and offering a brief explanation of the rules to support infants and toddlers in developing increased understanding over time as developmentally appropriate. Preschoolers can beginning to develop an understanding of rules; therefore brief verbal expressions help prepare reasoning skills in infants and toddlers. School-aged children begin to develop a sense of personal responsibility and self-control and can learn using healthy and safe incentives (8).  In the wake of well-publicized allegations of child abuse in out-of-home settings and increased concerns about liability, some programs have instituted no-touch policies, either explicitly or implicitly. No-touch policies are misguided efforts that fail to recognize the importance of touch to children’s healthy development. Touch is especially important for infants and toddlers. Warm, responsive, safe, and appropriate touches convey regard and concern for children of any age. Adults should be sensitive to ensure their touches (eg, pats on the back, hugs, ruffling a child’s hair) are welcomed by the children and appropriate to their individual characteristics and cultural experience. Careful, open communication between the program and families about the value of touch in children’s development can help to achieve consensus on the acceptable ways for adults to show their respect and support for children in the program (5).

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Discipline Measures Handling Physical Aggression, Biting, and Hitting Using Physical Restraint Recognizing and Reporting Suspected Child Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Immunity for Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect Preventing and Identifying Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma Care for Children Who Have Experienced Abuse/Neglect Facility Layout to Reduce Risk of Child Abuse and Neglect Prohibited Uses of Food Written Discipline Policies
  1. Gershoff ET, Purtell KM, Holas I. Education and advocacy efforts to reduce school corporal punishment. In: Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools: Legal Precedents, Current Practices, and Future Policy. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing; 2015:87–98

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Violence prevention. Child abuse and neglect: definitions. Updated April 5, 2016. Accessed January 11, 2018

  3. Fréchette S, Zoratti M, Romano E. What is the link between corporal punishment and child physical abuse? J Fam Violence. 2015;30(2):135–148

  4. Zolotor AJ. Corporal punishment. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2014;61(5):971–978

  5. Hornor G, Bretl D, Chapman E, et al. Corporal punishment: evaluation of an intervention by PNPs. J Pediatr Health Care. 2015;29(6):526–535

  6. Afifi TO, Ford D, Gershoff ET, et al. Spanking and adult mental health impairment: The case for the designation of spanking as an adverse childhood experience. Child Abuse Negl. 2017;(71):24-31  

  7. American Academy of Pediatrics Councils on Early Childhood and School Health. The pediatrician’s role in school readiness. Pediatrics. 2016;138(3):1-7

  8. Carr A. The Handbook of Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Routledge; 2016

  9. Ferguson CJ. Spanking, corporal punishment and negative long-term outcomes: a meta-analytic review of longitudinal studies. Clin Psychol Rev. 2013;33(1):196–208


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/22/2018