Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he smacked his own children when they were young and has defended the right of parents to smack.
The Conservative minister, who has two grown-up children, told the Mail on Sunday smacking young children sometimes "sends a message".
He said it was to be used occasionally but he did not hanker for when children were "severely beaten at school".
He also spoke about prisons, saying they should be "Spartan but humane."
Parents in the UK are not explicitly banned from smacking their children.
But the 2004 Children's Act removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" in England and Wales for any child punishment that caused such injuries as bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.
Similar laws exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mr Grayling, who is MP for Epsom and Ewell, told the paper: "You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me," he said.
"I'm not opposed to smacking. It is to be used occasionally.
"Sometimes it sends a message - but I don't hanker for the days when children were severely beaten at school."
A spokeswoman for the children's charity, the NSPCC, said: "Whilst parents are currently allowed to smack their children, the evidence is continuing to build that it is ineffective and harmful to children.
"There are more positive ways to discipline children and a clear message that hitting anyone is not right would benefit all of society."
Asked about prisons, Mr Grayling said he wanted them to be "Spartan, but humane, a place people don't have a particular desire to come back to".
He said it was not "reasonable for prisoners to enjoy things that those outside on low incomes would struggle to have".
"My idea of prison is not sitting watching the Sky Sports Sunday match."
He said having access to a TV should be a privilege that is earned and he did not approve of prisons buying "state-of-the-art" kit when most people outside of prison had to make sacrifices to buy them.
Mr Grayling also said he would not tolerate gay couples sharing a prison cell.
"It is not acceptable to allow same-sex couples to effectively move in together and live a domestic life," he said.
"If such a thing happened, I would want those prisoners put in separate prisons."