For centuries, some level of physical violence against children has been normalized, prescribed and legally justified. It has long been argued that violence is not abusive if it is intended as punishment and does not injure the child physically. This proposition has heavily influenced our language, research methods, and approaches to intervention with the effect of perpetuating the belief that some level of violence is justifiable and acceptable in children’s lives. The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child precipitated a global recognition that the justification of punitive violence violates children’s fundamental protection rights. Yet, in the research literature, terminology, methods and approaches often minimize acts of violence if they are intended as punishment. This article summarizes progress made over the past 30 years and issues a call for transformative change in our conceptualizations of punitive violence.