I can't tell you how many times when referencing effective parenting practices, "Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child" becomes the topic of discussion. In laymens terms this refers to the use of corporal punishment or spanking as a form of discipline. It comes highly recommended by some cultures and since today I am in the great state of Georgia, I think it's important to mention that it is a legal and acceptable form of punishment within certain parameters in this state but controversial. Supporters of corporal punishment contend that without it children are out of control, unmanageable, and are destined to self destruct. Critics say it threatens the child's mental, emotional, and physical well being thus causing a stunt in their growth and development and encourages the use of violence. Nevertheless, what we fail to examine is how this biblical based phrase "Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child" drives our belief that corporal punishment is an acceptable and effective form of punishment. Let's take a closer look.
As a child, adolescent, and family therapist I have been introduced to more than a few parenting programs. One particular model, Nurturing Gods Way, I found to be particularly interesting. In the ﬁrst few chapters of this book an in-depth discussion about the biblical phrase listed above is the focus. First, the term "rod" is synonymous with the term "staff" that in biblical days, sheep herders used to look after their sheep and it was also a sign of tribal authority. Even more interesting is the fact that this staff or rod allowed the sheep herder to steer wandering sheep back to where they needed to be to protect them from harm or danger. What you probably didn't know is that when sheep were headed in the wrong direction, the herder would throw the staff ahead of the wandering sheep landing in the ground, which would signal the sheep to move back in the direction with the rest of the sheep. The sheep were never hit with the staff, but carefully guided in the direction they should go. Now this analogy of herding sheep to parenting children translates to, if a parent or parents fail to exercise his/her authority, the child will undoubtedly go in a direction that will lead to trouble. Authority is the key word meaning to carefully guide and give direction. It does not imply to spank or use corporal punishment. This makes perfect sense to me.
Now it is not my suggestion that you change your train of thought on this particular bible driven phrase or even how you raise your kids. Honestly, I believe that when done correctly and between the ages of two and six, spanking can be a very effective form of discipline. However, what I would like for you to consider are three points: 1) Don't just take family or cultural rituals as the law. Make sure you do your own research to get the true story behind the story. 2) Really examine your parenting approach and make sure it serves the purpose of producing a happy healthy well adjusted individual from childhood into adulthood. 3) Look beyond what you know to be the right way and consider other points of view, it moves you towards being more self-actualized and a self actualized individual lives a more productive and happy life.