Spare the Rod

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


6 thoughts on “Spare the Rod

  1. I could run all over my poor mom and sister but come 5 o’clock
    when my dad god home,lord have mercy.It might be a belt,hand or
    good ole wooden spoon.
    All of your storys are great Reba and hit home in some way,please
    keep up the great work .

  2. I see the difference and hear the difference in a lot of the young people. I think most of us have heard their “I’m trying to shock you into a reaction” word every time there is a school holiday and kids wander the aisles of the infamous big chain store out on Keyser. I’ve heard kids say words in front of grandparents that I would have been afraid to say, if I even knew those words at their age. First would have been the washing out of the mouth, and soap is not something that I wanted to try often. Then came the spanking. If I spoke like that in front of my grandfather, he would spank me. Behavior in school is where we see another big difference. Now teachers occasionally have to defend their actions against irate parents. Back in the day, parents met with teachers, and 99% of the time backed them 100%, then we got in trouble again when we got home.

    There are many other ways that things have changed with children. It always thrills me to see well behaved young people. They show respect, they don’t try to shock with loud vulgar language. But it’s not only the children or school age young people who shock or don’t care that they are in a crowd. I was in a FB group when a young woman started using a vulgar word over and over, first in her posts and then in her comments all throughout the discussion. As the discussion was on something I was very interested in, I really wanted to read and learn something. So I asked politely if we could reframe from the vulgar words as it was a public forum. And I was polite, I promise. Suddenly I was attacked by one comment after another, so quickly there were several posted at the same time. Most were that she had the right to say anything she wanted to say. Everyone it seemed, thought it was just fine for her to use that language, but not ok for me to nicely ask her not to. I stated my reason for feeling as I did, and left the group. One woman messaged me thanking me for trying, saying she also left the group. I say this, wondering if we are going wrong direction in how we are raising children. Maybe a swat on the backside to get their attention was not so wrong after all. Spanking in anger is wrong. But children need guidance, they need boundaries, they don’t need everything they ask for. Are we forgetting we are supposed to be raising them to be upstanding citizens, responsible adults. We are not just be the parent who gives them everything they want and then heads for the tv or computer and just let them go do whatever.

    Sorry for the rambling vent, but I see young people headed down the wrong road, and that is something I just hate to see. Reba, great article!

    • You are so very correct with every word you spoke. My children are eight years apart in age and I see a difference in respect levels in children just in that time span. I don’t think spanking is wrong at all….you actually said something that I meant to include. Spanking in anger is so wrong. Thank you for taking the time to address this and thank you for reading my articles.

  3. So my multiple underwear experience was after running around a restaurant (because all the other kids were), and 3 times if my dad telling me to stop. The final countdown began when he said, “ Wait till we get home!” Which I interpreted as a death sentence and SAT DOWN! When he called me to his room, belt in hand he lectured me….. I made sure I wore a gown so he couldn’t see my fluffy backside after putting on every pair of undies I had. Then instead of laying on the bed, he bent me over his lap. I cringeddddd…. he got quiet…. then started shaking…. I WAS FREAKING OUT…. then he stood me up. He was crying from laughing! He told me not to tell anyone he didn’t spank me… and I obviously got the message how serious this was. Then he let me go! I ran to my room, jumped in bed, and thanked God for every breath I still had. Now that was the last break I got from him…. His punishments were real and always age appropriate. Thanks for stirring my heart again 😘

    • Cant talk about punishing my kids … it’s still fresh….. lol But my son does remind me of the stretch behind his ear from a car ride….. My saying is “Spare THE MOUTH spoil the child”. I believe our young people lack tongue control. I always thought the same things they say but was smart enough to not let it come out in front of the adults at hand. They think we don’t understand but ohhhhh they’re so wrong 🤦‍♀️

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