The Pope made this comments during his weekly general audience in the Vatican, where he dealt with the role of fathers in the family.
He outlined the traits of a good father — one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.
According to AP news agency, the pontiff commended the behavior of one father who had told him, "I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them."
"How beautiful!" Francis is quoted as having said. "He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them, but does it justly and moves on."
Defending the pope's remarks, Rev. Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican's press office, said Francis was not condoning violence or cruelty against children, but speaking about "helping someone to grow and mature."
"Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves! To infer or distort anything else ... reveals a greater problem for those who don't seem to understand a pope who has ushered in a revolution of normalcy of simple speech and plain gesture," Rosica wrote.