“Spare the rod and spoil the child”—how many times while growing up did you hear your parents or some big aunty or uncle utter those words after spanking you? Times without number, probably. Taken from a verse in the bible, spare the rod and spoil the child is often perceived to mean your child will become a spoilt brat who will grow up to become useless in the society if you don’t beat him/her whenever they do something wrong.
But is it really ‘beating’ that the verse is referring to? In The King James Version, Proverbs 13:24 reads “he that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he who loves him chasteneth him betimes” while The New Living Translation puts it this way “those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” The context becomes clearer when you read the verse in different translations.
Discipline doesn’t necessarily have to be whipping the daylight out of children. There are many other ways you can discipline or correct a child without resorting to physical abuse. It says to ‘chasten’ your child and not to ‘spare the rod of discipline’. Sparing the rod of discipline will be you turning a blind eye to all their bad behavior and not guiding them to the right path through living an exemplary life that’s worth emulating or explaining to them why their actions are bad.
Unfortunately, that verse of the bible has become a weapon often wielded to justify acts of violence against children. Rod of discipline takes life in the form of a cane, ‘koboko,’ belt, turning the stick, broom, slippers or any other disciplinary tool that’s within the reach of most parents or guardian.
One major side effect of treating children this way is that it often leads them to become hard-hearted adults who believe righting any wrong has to be done through acts of violence. “Train up a child in the way he should go,’ the bible also says “and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Ironically, you did train him through your ‘whipping’ discipline, only that your training had a negative effect on him.
In case you are still not convinced that the bible is not referring to only using disciplinary tools like a cane on children when it says ‘spare the rod and spoil the child,’ seeing how the bible constantly uses ‘the’ before rod rather than ‘a’ will probably make things clearer for you.
Proverbs 23:13 goes “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with ‘the’ rod, he will not die.” The same thing is obtainable in Proverbs 22:15: “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but ‘the’ rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” And lastly, you also find a similar usage in Proverbs 13:24 – “those who spare ‘the’ rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.”
Now when ‘rod’ is mentioned in another context that is not about disciplining children, it goes “if a man beats his male or female slave with ‘a’ rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished.” What does that tell you? ‘The’ rod is a metaphorical concept that refers to various disciplinary forms of correcting a child while ‘a’ rod simply refers to a physical object.
By all means, discipline your child but make sure you are doing so in an effective manner. Put the emotional development of your child into consideration whenever ‘sparing the rod and spoiling the child’ bursts into your mind.