Parents have a right to control the care and upbringing of their children. This gives parents the power to make various decisions affecting the child, including where to live, what school to attend, what religion to follow, and what medical treatment to obtain.
Normally the state may not interfere in these decisions. Only in life-threatening or extreme situations will the courts step in to over-rule parents. For example, when a child might die without the medical care that the parents refuse to provide, a judge may make the child a ward of the court (or the state) and order that the care be provided. Parents have been prosecuted for withholding medical treatment from seriously ill children. This has occurred even in situations where parents have followed their religious beliefs.
Although children can be hard to control (particularly adolescents), parents have the legal authority to control their children’s behavior and social lives. Parents may discipline or punish their children appropriately. They may not, however, use cruel methods or excessive force; that constitutes child abuse.