When Parenting Becomes Abuse

Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs, and one of the only jobs that doesn't come with training. How do you know when your actions toward your child cross the line and become abusive? The ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline offers parents these tips for learning the boundaries of abuse:

Leaving a Child in a Car 

  • Parents should never leave children in a car unattended especially if they're at an age where they can get out of their car seat or do something to hurt themselves.

Leaving a Child Home Alone

  • The laws differ from state to state, but the following must be considered:
    - Age of the child
    - Maturity level
    - Support from neighbors and extended family
    - Safety of neighborhood
    - Is the child able to talk on the phone and call 911


  • Spanking is a cause for concern when it leaves a visible mark on the child. If there are marks or bruises left on the child, it should be reported.


  • The recommendation for time-out is one minute per year of age. Time-outs cross the line into neglect when they are excessive, lead to missed meals or prevent the child from using the rest room.

Sending a Child to His/Her Room without Dinner

  • This crosses into neglect if your child is not being fed enough to sustain his/her health. However, it's not in the child's best interest to be sent to his/her room without dinner.


  • What you say is important. Don't say things to your child that are demeaning, this includes calling your child names.

For more information, please visit: ChildHelp, or call The ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline at: (800) 4-A-CHILD, (800) 422-4453

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