Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child
Preface: You deserve to know that I have a unique ability to irritate people on both sides of an issue with a single opinion. I did a post a while back on good moms who spank. I actually do not believe that spanking is in and of itself evil or that a mother who occasionally uses this as a form of discipline is actually a bad mother.
I am not a fan of spanking necessarily, but the more kids I have, the more I realize how different all humans are BORN and how there probably isn't just one perfect parenting model for every child.
This post, as a warning, concerns the Bible and my understanding of certain verses, so if you prefer not to delve into that, then please, don't read.
Here is what I think of the other side of the spanking coin. Stand back, it is bound to offend someone.
Spare the rod, spoil the child. This is a couplet often spoken in defense of the act of physically punishing a child. It is also often talked about as if this were a scripture, found in the Bible. It is not. This couplet, "Spare the rod, spoil the child," is not in the Bible. Anywhere. Really- go look.
What is in the Bible is this scripture, which is somewhat similar, but which I would argue has a meaning different than what it is often given. (Note, I quote the King James Version because I like it and I think the translation is accurate and beautiful. But that is just me.)
"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."OK- this looks like a scripture that says, in lay terms, "If you don't hit your son with a stick, you must really hate his guts." I would submit that that is not in fact what it means, at least not to me. (I admit that interpretation and understand of the scriptures is personal and sacred, so feel free to disagree, this is just what I think.)
The word that people seem to get hung up on here is ROD- So, what exactly is a rod? Is it simply a stick that you should use to hit your kids with? Or is it something more? Could it have a deeper meaning that we have forgotten?
We can find another use of the word rod in Proverbs. It reads:
The "rod" in both of these scriptures is paired with words like "chasten" and "reproof". What do these words mean exactly, and what do they have to do with sticks?
The free online dictionary (cool huh?!) defines chasten thus:
And reproof is defined this way:
A rod could most certainly be referring to a simple stick. In fact in the scriptures, sheepherder's used sticks, called rods- but even those rods, when we look at them more closely were more than a simple stick. The rod that a sheepherder used was used to protect his flock. He would use his stick to beat off those animals who wished to attack his sheep. Shepherds also had a staff, sometimes referred to as a rod, which they used to guide and move their sheep to safety. As far as I know, they didn't actually use their rods to beat their sheep, but to protect and guide them.
To me these scriptures are not a license to hit children with foreign objects. Quite the contrary, they are an admonition that it is imperative to raise our children, to teach them, and to do it well. We must not be afraid to tell them if they are doing something that is wrong, even if it hurts us to correct them. Maybe we are expectred as parents to have the strength to tell our children when their behavior is inappropriate. Maybe sometimes it is more important that we teach our children correct principles than make them feel good about every choice they make. Maybe he who hateth his son is the man (or woman) who leaves them to themselves, or lets them do whatever they would like without our input, love, approval and teaching.
To me the rod is much deeper than a simple wooden object. It is guidance, love, discipline, and reproof. To me this rod also refers to the rod that a sheepherder used to protect his flock- we must protect our children from those things that would harm them- not bad days and hurt feelings- but predators and evil things that could destroy them.
When I understand more the language and the history behind the scriptures, they make so much more sense to me. We are expected to guide our children and teach them things that are correct. Maybe if we try harder to do this, hitting them with sticks will be less of a need. At least I hope so.