Prabhupāda Says:

Regarding your question should force be used on children, no, there shall be no forcing the children to do anything. Child should not be forced. This is all nonsense. Who has devised these things? If we want them to become great devotees, then we must educate the children with love, not in a negative way. Of course, if they become naughty we may show the stick but we should never use it. Child is nonsense, so you can trick him to obey you by making some little story and the child will become cheated in the proper behavior. But never apply force, especially to his chanting and other matters of spiritual training. That will spoil him and in the future he will not like to do it if he forced.

[Letter to Brahmanya Tirtha 10 December, 1972]

Historically speaking in our Gurukulas the use of force, coercion and corporeal punishment have been the disciplinary methodology used by teachers to train the children, which as one can see from above, Śrīla Prabhupāda did not condone. Of course some devotees have said that they are allowed as ‘teachers or parents’ to slap a child across the face, however, one must be careful when using any statement by Śrīla Prabhupāda that seemingly condones the slapping of a child as a form of rectification. The examples Śrīla Prabhupāda uses:

The Lord is not envious. The killing of the demons is also a display of His affection. Sometimes we may punish our children by giving them a very strong slap because of love. Similarly, when Krsna kills a demon this killing is not on the platform of material jealousy or envy, but on the platform of affection. [Teachings of Queen Kunti]

There is a vast difference between a slap done out of affection and love to correct a child and a slap [hitting] a child out of anger and frustration. However, love, affection and example are the best forms of teaching our children and to resort to violence in any form only displays that the teacher or parent is angry or frustrated and cannot control themselves so how can they hope to control anyone else.

Anything like Śrīla Prabhupāda says above must not be taken as license to slap and beat our children. As was the case here in Vrdnavan, where a father violently slapped his fifteen year old daughter across the face and then made her listen to a tape and read statements including the one above, by Śrīla Prabhupāda, to justify his assault and violence to her. This particular child’s father has a history of violence to control his family and slaps or punishes them and justifies it with – Śrīla Prabhupāda says… Or ‘this is for your own good’ ‘you have to listen to your parents’.

Sure the child has to listen to their parents but at what cost? What does this type of behavior do to the child and their relationship with Kṛṣṇa consciousness what to speak of the relationship with the parents themselves? Children from this type of dysfunctional family go on to lead dysfunctional lives themselves as they act out what they have learnt from their parental example.

It must also be known that in most first and second world countries to hit a child, whether the child is your son or daughter or not, is considered assault and punishable by law.

I personally have worked in a juvenile remand/detention center and a juvenile prison and have never come close to using violence, force or aggression to control children who are a part of the criminal justice system what to speak of children in a family or teaching facility.

Now the thing is, children should not be beaten at all, that I have told. They should simply be shown the stick strongly. So if one cannot manage in that way then he is not fit as teacher. If a child is trained properly in Krishna Consciousness, he will never go away. That means he must have two things, love and education. So if there is beating of child, that will be difficult for him to accept in loving spirit, and when he is old enough he may want to go away–that is the danger. So why these things are going on _ marching and chanting japa, insufficient milk, too strict enforcement of time schedules, hitting the small children?

[Letter to Bhanutanya Hyderabad 18 November, 1972]

Teacher / guru / parent – For an aspiring Vaiṣṇava there is no difference. To use force violence or aggression to teach children or your child is wrong. It is also wrong to do the same to teach an adult what to speak of your wife or husband…