Both in the Scandinavian countries and elsewhere, inquiries have been carried out into the treatment children in out-of-home care received in our recent past. Based on inquiries made in Norway, the author describes and discusses the punitive repertoire in Norwegian children's homes and reformatories in the last half of the twentieth century. What methods of punishment were used? What was the 'logic' behind them? Were the methods exclusive to children's homes and reformatories, or could they be considered part of a 'cultural reservoir' of punitive practices that were circulated across institutional borders? In conclusion the author discusses the ambiguous cultural construction of children in the twentieth century and its possible implications for the punitive methods used on children, particularly corporal punishment. Abstract published by arrangement with Taylor and Francis.