Some think ‘Spare the Rood, Spoil the Child.’ Others say ‘Spare the Iron-Rod-is-the-Word-of-God, Spoil the Child.’ Me, what I have in mind is a supple willow switch. It was good enough for my father and my grandfather and all the school-of-hard-knocks Scotch-Irish rest of us. We may be brutes, but at least we’re mannerly, respectable brutes. :)
Ah, well. Enough of these fond reminisces. Discipline, that’s our theme. I’ve been reading a Protestant father on discipline. He’s articulate and thoughtful and has helped at least this reader see that the Rod and the Rod and the Rood are intertwined.
the book of Proverbs yields the following admonition: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” [KJV version here] Read that again, notice the word “hate.” It is no coincidence that modern Americans have transmogrified this passage into “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Spoiling children, after all, is something cute that grandparents are supposed to do. . . .
The parent who does not provide steady discipline for his child is unwilling to endure the pain and hardship required to do so. It is far easier to let poor behavior slide, to give the little darling what he wants, to make him happy today, if only so he’ll smile and shut his yap and let us watch the football game. The fact that this happiness is fleeting, and that one purchases it at the cost of future selfishness, is easily overlooked. It is only the parent who truly loves his child and has a vision for the child’s future who foregoes short-term pleasure today in order to stem bad behavior. The selfish parent who chooses immediate satisfaction for his child (and, let’s not forget, in so doing chooses immediate satisfaction for himself), creates an adult who will be perpetually unsatisfied, incapable of giving sustained effort toward achievement, and profoundly unhappy.
In short, he who spares the rod behaves, in the long run, no differently than someone who hates his child.
Of course there is that question of what one means by “the rod.” The problem with corporal punishment is that, like having children, any idiot can do it. Large numbers do it incorrectly, giving the whole enterprise a bad name. Many parents provide inconsistent discipline, and spank out of frustration and anger. Their children simply learn that consequences for their behavior are undependable, sometimes yielding a payoff (i.e., the parent yields, in order to achieve peace), occasionally yielding a beating. They learn that violence is the proper response when one is angry. They learn that the representatives to them of God and law, their parents, are unpredictable and fickle. They do not learn what a good parent should teach them, which is that sin has negative consequences.
The purpose of corporal punishment is not to physically hurt the child. It is to teach him that punishment follows sin.
I found a lot of wisdom in the idea that I stand as a representative to my children of God and the law. It gives point and purpose to the aweful power that I wield as a parent. My parenting, my discipline, gives them a model to understand and avoid the consequences of the divine law. It creates for them on a small scale the framework of 2 Nephi 2–the punishments which make the law a law and which make the atonement merciful.
I note that both I and the writer assume that punishment includes physical punishment. I can think of no reason why it must be so. In fact, I can think of no real reason to distinguish one kind of punishment from another. Some kinds of punishment use psychological means to cause psychological pain–parents express disappointment or speak sternly. Others use physical force to cause psychological pain–time outs, deprivation of privileges, etc. Others use physical force to cause physical pain–spanking, e.g. Are there any moral differences between these different types of punishment? If not, is there that in the makeup of children that make them more amenable to one kind of punishment over another, or that in the makeup of adults which makes them unlikely to do one kind of punishment right?
I’ve been thinking about discipline lately, and praying about it. I’ve felt the Spirit approve my thinking and my praying, but i haven’t reached any answers yet.