Striking the hand
Striking the hand is a method of corporal punishment in which the delinquent's hand is punished by slapping or striking it with one's own hand or an implement such as a switch, cane, strap, tawse, ferule, wooden spoon, palmatória or ruler. When a cane is used, it is called a hand caning; likewise it can be called a (hand) tawsing, (hand) strapping, (hand) switching, etc.
This punishment method is typically used on children in schools and by parents at home. It ranges from gently slapping a toddler's hand when he touches something forbidden (a case of punishment on the point of offense), up to severe punishment with very painful implements such as a Lochgelly tawse or an Irish school strap.
Usually when a hard implement is used, only the palms are the target of this punishment as they are better padded than the back of the hand. Sometimes the fingers are hit (which hurts more as they are more sensitive), and sometimes the tips of the fingers (which hurts most). If the backs of the hand(s) are hit, the pain is even more, but this can easily cause damage and injury because the bones and joints of the hand and fingers will be hit.
The delinquent child is usually ordered to hold out his hand(s) for the punishment and to keep it still for the announced number of strokes (typically three to six strokes per hand). Sometimes the child has to count the strokes, while other times the adult will speak out a lesson to the child (such as "Speech is silver; silence is golden") while striking the hand, one stroke per word.
Comparison to spanking
Compared to spanking, this punishment method may be less degrading, but hurts more and is also more likely to cause injury if the implement is heavy or many stroks are delivered. This punishment method may sting more than spanking if the weather is freezing. It is also quite cruel because the child has to actively cooperate and watch his hand being struck. This is also combined with the fact in school, the child will be expected to return to the task they were meant to be doing, such as writing, made much more difficult by their sore hands. However, striking the hand with a lighter implement and with a few stokes may be considered a punishment lighter than spanking.
In Chinese cultural zones (e.g. Taiwan), when the delinquent is a school-age or older girl instead of a boy, a disciplinarian tends to strike her hand(s) instead of her buttocks because striking a girl's buttocks is sometimes considered degrading, even worse, (sexually) abusive. In the same culture, if the disciplinarian is female and the delinquent is a school-age or older boy, the disciplinarian also tends to strike the delinquent's hand(s) instead of his buttocks, however, this is mostly for the disciplinarian's modesty, not the delinquent's dignity. Though a mother seldom hesitates to spank her son if the son is under the age of puberty.
The 1936 film The Devil is a Sissy shows two boys getting their palms severely smacked with a ruler by a school principal. The Seventh Veil (1945) has a flashback scene where a schoolgirl, played by Ann Todd, has her hands beaten with a cane.
Pupils being Punished by Francis William Edmonds (1850).
"The Village School" by William Henry Knight (1857).
Illustration by Francis S. Walker (c. 1890).
An example of a hand caning at a British School in film was shown in the television series Grange Hill.