Rabbi Braun, member of the Crown Heights Beis Din and Rav behind AskTheRav.com answers to a sincere, heartfelt letter submitted to him on AskTheRav.com. The original letter and the rabbi’s compassionate, yet unwavering, firm response can be found on the website’s “Recently Asked” section • Full Letter
Question: According to Halacha is it permissible for one to hit their child? And if not, why was it so common to do so up until just a few years ago?
According to halacha, a parent is allowed to hit their child for chinuch purposes (including to teach proper behavior, ethics etc.), because it’s being done for the child’s good. However, this should only be done when the child is young that it won’t cause him or her to rebel. The parent should not use corporal punishment when in a state of anger. One should only hit a child if it is solely for the child’s benefit and the parent ascertained that the child acted in the wrong. Of course, it should be used only as a last resort where no other choice exists and therefore should rarely be used.
Even so, there are many limitations to this:
One may not threaten their child that they will hit them. One may not hit cruelly. One should not use a stick, just a light strap. One may not hit during the three weeks, from the 17th of Tammuz until Tisha B’av.
Until recently this was more common, but Gedolei Yisroel have argued that in recent generations one should avoid hitting as much as possible. In our generation, the Rebbe wrote that one should refrain from this because the results are not always worth the action.