Which things require a child to be punished?
Very many things. Of course, you must know children are human beings, and children, even little children, have seichel. So often you can talk to them. If you talk mussar to them, again and again, it goes into their heads, yes. You talk to children, it has an effect.
But sometimes, it goes in more deeply if you give a potch too. It says, תחת גערה במבין – “A rebuke goes into an understanding person, מהכות כסיל מאה – more than hitting a fool a hundred times” (Mishlei 17:10), but even hitting a fool helps it to go in too. So when a man did a sin of malkos, and the shaliach bais din picks up his whip and hits him b’chol kocho, with all of his strength on his neck and back, it’s supposed to go through the back, into the body, and into his mind. That’s how it’s supposed to go. And the person who’s being beaten should think, “I have to listen to that mussar. I should have listened to the mussar that I was taught by my father and mother. I should have listened to the mussar in the Yeshivah. But I didn’t, so now the mussar of the strap is teaching me an important lesson. It’s the Mesillas Yeshorim hitting me on the back.” He should think mussar thoughts.
Therefore, sometimes a little hit is good enough. Sometimes you need more. If a child does dangerous things, you have to hit him and hit him until he stops doing it. Because dangerous things, it’s piku’ach nefesh, danger to one’s life. What don’t you do to save a person’s life? Therefore, it depends on the kind of child, and it depends on the certain thing that he did. But there’s no question, sometimes punishment is very much justified.
TAPE # 999 (February 1995)