Is The Phrase 'Spare The Rod Spoil The Child' In The Bible?

There is often confusion between this phrase & a biblical Proverb regarding “sparing the rod.” This phrase was actually coined by a 17th-century poet và satirist by the name of Samuel Butler in his poem “Hudibras.” The poems’ main characters, Hudibras and the widow he longs for, are planning lớn start a love sầu affair, but before the widow commits khổng lồ it, she asks Hudibras khổng lồ prove sầu his love sầu for her by committing to twisted acts. The widow then states:

If matrimony and hanging goBy dest’ny, why not whipping too?What med’cine else can cure the fitsOf lovers when they thua trận their wits?Love sầu is a boy by poets stil’d;Then spare the rod, và spoil the child.

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This is night and day compared khổng lồ the biblical verse containing the phrase “spare the rod.” The term “spoil the child” is not actually in the Bible. What “spare the rod, spoil the child” actually means in reference to biblical guidance is lớn guide our children in the way they should go. Let’s explore this phrase further in the Bible. 

Where is “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentioned in the Bible?

This phrase is most closely associated with Proverbs 13:24. We start khổng lồ underst& the context more as we read in various translations. The King James translation states “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he who loves hyên ổn chasteneth hyên ổn betimes.” While the New Living Translation reads “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” In any translation, the intent is disciplining our children in the sense of guiding them in the way they should go. To put it simply, it is to lớn instill in our children right from wrong.


In the time scripture was written, & even still today, shepherds used various tools to guide their sheep. They use a staff, or a crook, and a rod. The crook is the curved stick you see in cartoon depictions of shepherds. When sheep fall inlớn a pit or lose sight of their flochồng, they look down. The curved end of the crook is used lớn pull the sheep’s head back up and guide it in the way it should go. In the same way, the rod is used khổng lồ guide sheep who begin to splinter away from the floông xã baông chồng together. It can also be used defensively to lớn keep the sheep safe from predators.

This Proverb, as with many proverbs and teachings of Jesus, teaches using a parable. It does not intover for children khổng lồ be physically punished as the only means of correction. It refers to teaching them through guidance & appropriate discipline. Discipline, according to lớn this PMC article, is about positively influencing behavior in children, not about punishing them. It says, “Discipline allows children lớn develop self-discipline, & helps them become emotionally & socially mature, secure adults.” It goes on to explain that effective sầu discipline is that which is self-enhancing for the child. Leading children lớn self-discipline is congruent with Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, và when he is old he will not depart from it.”


How can Proverbs 13:24 be misinterpreted?

The most common misinterpretation about this scripture relates to lớn “the rod of discipline.” Many view this as direction khổng lồ physically punish children as the best, or only, size of discipline. “The rod” is the inspiration for other disciplinary tools lượt thích switches or belts. According to lớn psychologist và Parenting by The Book author John Rosemond, “this misinterpretation is understandable, but reflects a wrongful application of the principles of Biblical interpretation.” There is often debate around this verse along with two others, but notice the trover in all of these is not a rod, but the rod:

Proverbs 13:24 - “Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to lớn discipline them.”

Proverbs 22:15 - “Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive sầu it far from hyên.”

Proverbs 23:13 - “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish hyên with the rod, he will not die.”


Per this resource from Rosemond, there is a big difference between a rod, a physical object, & the rod, which is used metaphorically. In each scripture that describes disciplining a child, the rod is used, nota rod. He goes on lớn present the importance of understanding the different usage in Exodus 21:trăng tròn, which states, “If a man beats his male or female slave sầu with a rod và the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished.” Though the severity is obviously different in this example, it points out the varying context. Without seeing the subtle difference in the usage of the rod here, we miss the purpose of these scriptures.

How should parents apply the verse today?

With the developments in research surrounding the importance of family bonds and emotional development, a current application of this verse might focus more on development rather than discipline alone. Consequences are necessary, but understanding why there are consequences is what ties it into lớn development. Development encompasses more than just correcting bad behavior. It includes that, but the development mindset would incorporate other important factors such as how our children learn, and what is in them lớn cultivate.

The World Economic Forum states emotional intelligence will be a trang đầu skill necessary for career advancement by 2020. To use “the rod” in this time is lớn cultivate awareness in our children. Awareness of their own feelings, as well as what might happen in others given certain situations. You may be thinking this is such a “soft” thing lớn say, or that kids these days need a “backbone.” While I don’t disagree with that, consider that the Holy Spirit is a spirit of gentleness & kindness, but also one of directness and purpose. The ayên here is not to guide our children lớn “softness” but to lớn a holy spirit-driven conscience, a higher awareness of self và others.

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Lori Wildenberg gives a great guide lớn the foundational emotional needs of children, & people in general, in her năm 2016 theartinpixels.com article How lớn Grow Your Child’s Conscience. Through six stages leading up to maturity, she states it starts with us as the example. Our trang chủ is the place where empathy can be fostered & empathy is a big component of conscience development. It is the key that makes us consider how actions, whether our own or something we witness, impact those around us. Skills in empathy & emotional intelligence not only help us in our careers but more importantly, they help us in our purpose to lớn love God & love sầu others that Jesus charged us with, in Matthew 22:36-40.


Is there a “right” way lớn discipline your child?

Discipline is ok. I think it is important to lớn start off by saying that. Sometimes as people we tend lớn commit 100% one direction or the other if we don’t have our own understanding of something. The aim is not lớn avoid discipline altogether. What we vị want lớn avoid is ineffective sầu discipline. Per the PMC article referenced above, the purpose of effective discipline is to lớn “help children organize themselves, internalize rules, & acquire appropriate behavior patterns.” Biblically, this is in accordance lớn Proverbs 22:6 that we should “raise a child up in the way they should go.” The key to lớn this effective discipline must be perceived as “fair” for the child & be self-enhancing.

You may also consider other proven alternatives lớn spanking depending on the child’s age. Some of these alternatives including redirection (infants, early toddlers), timeout (early toddlers, Kindergarten to school-age), withdrawal of privileges, or reasoning (school-age to lớn adolescents). While I underst& the above may be a bit vague, the “right way” khổng lồ discipline your child is known no better than by the parents. The key is having the right intention và motivation as described in this section và referenced article.

In summary, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is Biblically supported through means of effective sầu discipline, but is not directly quoted in scripture. Though the phrase is actually found in a satirical article, there are scriptures that support that discipline is an exercise of love. Discipline is a vital piece of our emotional and social development, và when used with the proper intention, helps children prosper in life. Effective sầu discipline is a result of a healthy trang chủ environment where children feel safe & share mutual respect.

Effective sầu discipline starts with us being healthy ourselves. If you had a rough childhood with questionable punishments, you hold the power to lớn change the environment for your children. You are in charge of them having a different future. To be healthy ourselves, we must be connected to lớn the vine as Jesus describes in John 15:5. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, và I in them, will produce much fruit.” Our purpose, direction, and emotional health come from spiritual principles và the good news is that even if you were not provided a healthy environment growing up yourself, you have the same access to the vine. You can get healthy now. This health translates into lớn healthy parenting và healthy relationships for everyone you encounter. 


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Kyle Blevins is the sole contributor to lớn the blog, REDIRECTED, which focuses on rediscovering purpose through love sầu. His broken life took a turning point after being surrounded by positive people who believed he was capable of more. His passion is connecting with & encouraging those looking for a new beginning in life and in Christ. You can follow his blog at iamredirected.com.