Let’s take a look at one of the most misquoted scriptures in the entire Bible. If you read the title, then you know that I’m not referring to money is the root of all evil. That’s another post for another day. Based on the title, I’m referring to Proverbs 13:24.
When it comes to physical discipline, have you ever heard someone say, “Well in the Bible, it says ‘spare the rod, spoil the child” as their justification for using the proverbial rod of correction? I’m sure that you have someone in mind, who has made that statement on an occasion or two. Perhaps, you have uttered those words as well. For the record, the scripture states “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”
Before we dive into the idea of spanking or not spanking, let me share this with you first. I’m not going to tell you to spank or not to spank. It’s not my place to tell you what to do with your child. However, my stance on the issue leans heavily on using alternatives to corporal punishment. With that said, let’s get it started.
I want you to look at the scripture one more time.
You’re probably thinking a few things right about now after re-reading the scripture. More than likely, you’re not asking yourself how this misinterpretation could be so rampant in our world. I’m sure some of you will chalk it up to the game. Some of you are willing to let this error slide. That’s fine by me if you take that route. However, I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to challenge some of the belief systems that I have about certain things. I don’t do it, per se, to poke holes into my beliefs and ideas. I do it more so to strengthen those things that I believe in by having a valid reason for continuing to go along with my belief system. However, I don’t have a problem with dismantling it once I see that the idea no longer serves me. Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. But, that’s my goal.
Let’s get back on track with this “sparing of the rod and spoiling of the child” business at hand. Let’s start with looking at the origin, which has been around since 1664. That’s right 1664! It showed up in the narrative poem entitled Hudibras written by Samuel Butler.
We don’t have to be a master in theology or biblical studies to know that the Bible pre-dates the 1600s. But, I digress.
Let’s see what Samuel Butler wrote: “If matrimony and hanging go/By dest’ny, why not whipping too?/What med’cine else can cure the fits/Of lovers when they lose their wits?/Love is a boy, by poets styl’d/Then spare the rod, and spoil the child.”
Wait! What just happened?
This might be a good place to breathe. I’m still trying to figure out what happened as well. That quote has, absolutely, nothing to do with discipling children. I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to engage in that deep dive of history. If you’re interested in more details, you’re welcome to engage in that endeavor on your own. From what I gathered, their was a belief by early Europeans that children are were easily spoiled by things that time and research in parenting has provided alternative information, i.e. feeding babies on demand, picking up babies when they cry, spanking to discipline.
When presented with new information, we have a choice to continue to walk in darkness or walk in light. If you’ve made it this far with me, I’m guessing that you want to enjoy the light. But, your eyes are still trying to adjust to the new setting.
Let’s go back to the scripture at hand, which reads “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” In my opinion, the text is more focused on applying discipline than exacting punishment. Some of you are wondering if there’s a difference between the two. Yes, there is a huge difference. The difference is found in the outcome that each produces in the child. The difference is found in the motivation of the parents.
Here’s a good spot to give meaning to discipline and punishment.
- Discipline is teaching and guiding, which provides the child with information on how they are to behave or not behave.
- Punishment is applying shame, fear, or guilt to your child as a means of correcting their behavior.
Here’s an example of punishment: I yell at my 4 year old for spilling milk all over the counter. My goal isn’t to help her understand how to pour the milk. It’s to point out how not to pour the milk by use of the condemning message or worse.
Here’s an example of discipline: I remind my 4 year old that “toys are for sitting and not for throwing at others.” Once the child uses the toy correctly, I provide encouragement and acknowledgement of the use of the toy. If the child does not use it properly, then toy is removed from a play for a certain amount of time.
If love is the motivating factor in how I raise my children, then I believe that I must role model love for them in all of my interactions with them including discipline. I love my children enough to not leave them in their mess. At the same time, I recognize that they’re children and messing up comes with the territory. If a child messing up is a guarantee, then leading them into understanding through my teaching and guidance is a must.
For more on my thoughts about disciplining, you can check out a series of episodes on the topic starting with Wait Until Your Dad Gets Home, which was the first of a 4-week discussion on discipline versus punishment.