By Reba Phelps
Disclaimer: Disciplining your children is an immensely personal thing. Not every child is the same nor is every parent the same. This is merely my personal experience and no children were harmed during the writing of this article.
One of the most humorous and lively conversations that the Procell siblings ever have with our father is when we would reminisce about childhood spankings and being grounded. It is comical because my father, and my mother when she was living, only seemed to recall two spankings per child for the entire eighteen years we lived at home.
This was far from the case. We seem to remember being on a first name basis with switches, belts and spatulas.
Our recollections included numerous incidents of catching a good ole fashioned whooping merely for laughing at the other sibling while they were being punished or laughing during your own spanking. Or the one time my younger brother decided to pile numerous pairs of underwear because he was forewarned of the spanking and he wanted to soften the blow. Those kind of spankings were the worst because of the impending doom, you never knew when or where it would occur.
“Just wait until your dad gets home” was code red for us.
In my own case, I was the child who was grounded for months at a time. Mainly, following a disappointing report card or a false claim from a teacher that I had skipped school for the day. Well, I guess the statute of limitations is up therefore I can confess, it was never a falsehood. I skipped all the time for more favorable activities. If you wanted to punish me you had to cut my social ties to get my attention or make me partake in physical labor.
At Campti High School, the chosen punishment was squats. Many squats. Needless to say, I had amazing quads in high school.
As I became a parent I knew I wanted to take a different approach. I really wanted them to learn from what they did wrong and be creative with discipline.
A few years ago my youngest daughter was being punished for a misdemeanor offense so I grounded her from playing outside. She proceeded to tell me it was not a great idea because she really didn’t want to play outside anyway. She then gave me a list of better ways to punish her and explained how she will punish her kids when that day comes.
She then began to tell me that when she has children of her own she will simply tell them stories from the Bible to get their attention and teach them life lessons. She was commended for her negotiation skills and told the story of Bre’r Rabbit and his briar patch. I knew she was trying to out wit me but I so admired her for her effort and creativity at the same time.
She really had me thinking about discipline and its effectiveness.
During all of this conversation and research about child rearing I was reminded of the 23rd Psalm….the words, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me,” specifically. Having hand-picked many of my own switches back in the day never gave me that warm fuzzy comforted feeling. It sent me on a deeper mission to find the origins of, “spare the rod.”
All I have heard my entire life was, “Spare the rod spoiled the child.” Whether is was from my parents talking about their offsprings or other parents talking about their own. After minutes upon minutes of exhaustive research on the trusted internet web it appears the phrase, “Spare the Rod” in fact does not appear in the Holy Bible. According to Google, this is often misquoted and the saying actually comes from a 1662 poem by Samuel Butler.
My whole childhood was a lie but I chuckle at what would have happened if I told my parents they were misquoting the Bible.
But upon deeper research it appears “the rod” mentioned in the scriptures is very symbolic. The shepherds used the rod to pull their sheep back to the safety of the flock. The crook was used to scoop them out of ditches or holes. The rod was actually used as a comforter for the sheep and an attention grabber and not necessarily for corporal punishment.
One of the most demanding and exhausting things about being a parent is finding the correct punishment to fit the crimes committed by our children. It is only when children go unpunished and left to their devices that all of society has a problem. Ungoverned children become ungoverned adults. Life is much more difficult for everyone when we give up on our children.
The poem of Samuel Butler was pretty clear but did leave room for interpretation. The Bible says it with even more clarity and no room for interpretation.
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24