Discipline Practices in Different Cultures

Although this article is going to sound stereotypical, certain cultures are more likely to subscribe to different discipline practices. This is by no means a bible as to how different cultures act. It is just my experience as an educator dealing with parents and students for the past 19 years is that there is a wide variety of discipline practices in different cultures.

Of course, every family has its own unique way of disciplining but you can start seeing similarities across cultures. People discipline based on the way they were raised and obviously, people are raised differently across different cultures.

Also, be sure to understand the difference between culture and ethnicity. I was born in Egypt but came to the United States when I was two years old. My culture is as American as it gets even though my ethnicity is Egyptian.

I’m not here to state which parenting style is better than another but simple to state my objective observations over the years.

Discipline Practices in Different Cultures

American Culture Discipline Practices

American discipline practices are notorious for being one of the laxest styles, especially among parents. We tend to discipline by removing luxuries from the child’s life rather than corporal punishment.

For example, an American parent is more likely to take a child’s phone rather than spank them. American’s style of discipline is more geared toward maintaining a relationship rather than fear.

A child comes home with a bad report card. If an American student were to come home with poor grades the parents are most likely going to confiscate their phone.

In many American households hitting your child is actually frowned upon as a form of discipline. The threat of physical punishment may be there but statistically American parents do not use physical punishment nearly as much as other cultures.


A very common form of discipline in American culture is grounding. If you are unfamiliar with grounding, grounding is typically the parents removing the child’s freedom of extracurricular activities for a certain period of time.

So for the average student, that would mean they can only go to school then back home. Grounding is arguably the most common kind of discipline for teens within American households

Time Out

For younger children, the timeout is a very common way American parents discipline. If you live under a rock and don’t know what a timeout is, a timeout is a type of discipline which involves the person to sit in a certain area or face a certain direction for a certain period of time.

The primary focus of this type of punishment is for the other person to have time to think about their actions and hopefully for them not to repeat it again. You can see the time out used in schools and daycares all across the country.

This style of parenting is heavily criticized by other cultures as not being tough enough of their children but on the other hand, American parents are known for having a strong relationship with their children.

Asian Culture Discipline Practices

Asian parenting practices tend to be more strict than American practices. Many times they are known as being polar opposites of American practices.

In Asian households, standards are set high and are expected to be met. If not, corporal punishment is often the result. Parents have been known to hit their children for not meeting the parent’s expectations.

Although this may be considered abuse in the American culture most other cultures in the world consider hitting your child to be a normal form of discipline and practice it regularly.

Interestingly enough, Asian-American households are much less likely to use corporal punishment than a purely Asian household. This can show that become a part of another culture has a real impact on the types of discipline.

Arguably Asian discipline practices are the reason you see Asian-Americans overrepresented in high-achieving and high-earning fields such as medicine and comprise a large percentage of prestigious schools all around the world.

European Culture Discipline Practices

Discipline in European cultures seam to be divided in Eastern European discipline practices and the remainder of Europe’s discipline practices.

Eastern European Culture Discipline Practices

Eastern Europe has very similar discipline practices as Asian households. They are very strict with their expectations and the result of not meeting those expectations is likely going to be physical punishment.

It is also quite common that the mother threatens to hit but rarely will on the other hand the father will never threaten to hit but will do it at a moment’s notice.

Western Europe’s Culture Discipline Practices

On the other hand, Western Europe has been known to operate similarly to America when it comes to punishing children. They are more likely to take away luxuries from the child but won’t hesitate to hit as a form of punishment if it is deserved.

Western Europe has taken a healthy mix of American compassion with Asian toughness. Physical punishment is typically only limited to the kids and is rare to see physical punishment between spouses.

Middle Eastern & African Culture Discipline Practices

Middle Eastern and African discipline practices are primarily focused on corporal punishment. But unlike Asian discipline where corporal punishment is typical to correct a behavior, it is common to see Middle Eastern and African corporal punishment for the purpose of displaying dominance.

Also, in most other countries corporal punishment is primarily focused on parent-to-child punishment but in middle eastern culture, it is actually quite common to see spousal corporal punishment as well.

Yelling is also quite common in these cultures. Although yelling is common in all cultures, it really stands out as a form of reprimanding in the middle east and other parts of Africa.

Many parts of the world criticize middle eastern punishment practices. As severe and constant corporal punishment commonly leads to anxiety and other mental health issues.

Corporal punishment is even still being used in schools as a form of punishment for students who misbehave in many parts of the middle east.

Child getting corporal punishment

Final Thoughts

Discipline practices vary around the world. It is difficult to state which one is better than another.

Again, these are just my objective observations of the various disciplining styles from teaching and tutoring thousands of children of many years. Obviously, there are exceptions. Some American families use corporal punishment and some Asian families do not. These are not rules.

As long as there is no danger to the health of the individual being disciplined, we should allow all parties to discipline as they see fit. The difficult part as an educator is identifying where someone has crossed the line in their form of discipline.