Is it OK to use Corporal Punishment on Small Children
March 15, 2019
Rabbi Yossi Paltiel in #1158, Chinuch, Halacha 2 Go

?Education and discipline are two totally different objectives.

I want to relate two stories from the era when this method was used more often, which I believe can teach us an important thing or two about parenting and educating in this day and age, especially on the usefulness of spanking.

The Frierdiker Rebbes Only Patch

The first story is of the Frierdiker Rebbe. The Frierdiker Rebbe himself related the following story of the only patch (slap) he ever received from his father, the Rebbe Rashab:

Once, when I was about six years old, my father found me eating breakfast and he asked me whether I made a bracha on my tzitzis. I repliedyes”. “Nevertheless, make a bracha,” said my father. I refused.

So my father gave me a light slap [indicating the crying was not out of pain, rather out of humiliation] and I cried. I later asked my father with tears in my eyes: “Do we make a bracha on the tzitzis because Hashem said, or because Tate said? If one must recite the bracha for Hashem, then I have already done so; and if one must recite the blessing because of your command, well…”

My father replied: “One must recite the bracha for Hashem. But every father has been entrusted with the task to educate his children, and he must be obeyed.”

The aspects of the story which I want to draws attention to are:

A) That the patch humiliated him rather than hurt him, the slap was not aggressive and intimidating.

B) That he was comfortable to “confront” his father. I.e., the patch usually shuts a child down not allowing questions, but In this case, the patch actually elicited something which turned out to be educational.

But Rebbi, I Deserved It…”

The second story is of my great-grandfather, a truly big Chassid, Reb Yisroel Neveler was his name. He was a Melamed, a really good one, his students loved him, they totally adored him. But he gave petch, he did hit the children. I don’t know what the rules in his classroom were, but he did give petch.

One of the stories they tell about him is that he once slapped a child for whatever rule the child had broken, but then he paused, he hesitated and he said: du bist doch a Yosemthe child was an orphan — “I just hit an orphan,” and he began to cry.

So the little boy he slapped says to his melamed Rebbe, es hot mir gekumtI deserved it, I earned the patch, Reb Yisroel answeredI know, but you’re an orphan. I hit an orphan.” And they both continued crying. The student cried because he felt that the teacher should not be crying because hethe studentdeserved the patch, and the teacher cried because whether the child deserved it or not, he was an orphan.

The reason I relate this story is because it tells you something about melamdim. In other words, if you have a teacher who has that kind of connection with his students. That even when the teacher slaps the child there is this deep love. It’s on a whole different level. We don’t have such teachers and we don’t have such students. Reb Yisroel Neveler was a melamed and his students loved him and even when he gave a patch that love didn’t subside.  (See Besuras Hegeulah in this issueEd.)

I’m not going to say that every patch he gave 70 years ago was justified. But what is certain is that a teacher that doesn’t have such unconditional love for his students to such an extent that it reciprocated by the students to him, definitely cannot excuse such kind of behavior. It has nothing to do with education

That being said, let’s get down to the question itself.

This question itself includes more items in it, namely:

A. What does one hope to accomplish with the corporal punishment?

B. Does spanking a child serve that purpose?

We usually are inclined to use this method of discipline either to make the child do something he is refusing to do, or to stop him from doing something we don’t want him to do. But it’s a disciplinary tool, not an educational tool.

Using corporal punishment means giving a painful consequence for a wrongful act. You are not sayingdon’t do this because its wrongordo this because its right,” rather you are sayingdo this or don’t do that because I’m going to spank you if not.”

Now, when it comes to real dangerous behaviors like if a child tries drinking something poisonous or runs into a busy street with cars, obviously we can see the logic in subjecting that child to a minimal amount of physical pain. We are letting him now that he shouldn’t do this, or else it will hurt him. Even though this does not educate him, it only frightens him and takes away his will to do something dangerous.

In this case, it is a fair objective [in the right age].

But as a tool for ingraining values in the child, we can simply see the harmful effects of it, because like I explained, youre not really educating the child youre merely frightening and intimidating them.

Edited from a Video-answer on


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