Chakra Discussions

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?

by Nitaipada Swami

Posted March 18, 2005

In response to "What Constitues Child Abuse" I believe that the prabhu who wrote this article appears to not have the experience of rearing children personally.

Having grown up in the "Deep South" in an Old Regular Baptist family, I am very familiar with the bibical tenents of capital punishment. But as so many here who show wisdom in dealing with normal childish behavior, the bibical capital punishment application is seriously misunderstood.

No, the Bible does not state "Spare the rod and spoil the child" this statement is found no where in the Bibical scriptures. But what it does say is "He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24)

There are several statements in the Book of Proverbs which use the term "rod" in correlation to punishment, but in the Bibical sense of the word, "rod" does not always mean a stick, it means any method of correction. One need not "beat" their child over every infraction. In Proverbs 22:15, it is written "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Does this mean that a child should be beat continually because they are inexperienced in the ways of life? I think not.

In Proverbs 29:15 it is stated "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Why? Because he lacks discipline.

Rearing children, both as a parent and as an educator is not a position for lazy people. When one rears children, you have to be continually in the master's seat. One has to be mindful of not only their actions, but also yours. A "rod" is better explained as a shepard's staff (used to herd sheep) This staff is used more to direct, console, give security, protect and love than it is to deal out punishment. When the "rod" is used in this manner, then the child knows that they are loved because they are secure. They behave according to what they have been taught, and also know that if their behavior is not acceptable, the same rod will be used to measure some type of punishment. This is not always a spanking.

When I was on active duty Navy, I was stationed with the Marines in Kuwait in 1991. I was able to witness the Bedoin people deal not only with their flocks, but also with their children. I saw this "rod" in action. When a sheep or goat went where it was not supposed to, the shepard gently brought it back to the fold. If the sheep was stuborn, then the shepard used the staff to prod it in to acceptable behavior. When the sheep refused, the shepard used the staff to hold a leg to prevent the sheep from wondering off or running, then he picked up the sheep and returned it to the flock. This was all done in a loving manner. This same rod was used to discipline, but was also used to protect against wild dogs, give security and rescue and stranded sheep. The sheep viewd the rod and the shepard as an icon of love and protection to be followed. The sheep followed the rod, when the shepard carried the rod, the sheep followed, if he put it down, they stopped and grazed. But the rod was always at hand incase of misbehavior or danger.

Children are reared in the same manner. If we lovingly handle them as the precious gifts from the lotus feet of the Lord, then we will have no great difficulties. I have five children, all of them are wonderful devotees of the Lord. Very rarely have I had to resort to "capital punishment" with any of them. Patience, peserverence, love and dedication were my tools. Unless they truly went out of their way, they didn't receive a spanking. My oldest daughter has had one spanking in her whole life, because she was playing with matches and caught the kitchen on fire. She was 3-4 at the time, the behavior demanded extreme measures, she got her spanking and the behavior was corrected. Even as a teen we didn't have any trouble with her, she knew right from wrong, and her greatest fear was displeasing us, not that she would receive some punishment. We have taught our children to be in harmony with all around them to the best of their abilities. With the older children, years of patience went into their upbringing, now with the younger children, nothing suprises us.

When we use a religious scripture to justify our means, then we teach our children that God is not merciful and loving. This was indeed my own personal case. I was reared with the "spare the rod and spoil the child mentality, don't let your heart grieve for his tears, for in so doing you shall deliver his soul from Hell." It seems that I was beat for everything. In the Mathew Henry commentary, it states that Proverbs 13-24 comes from an Egyptian proverb, "a youths ears are on his back, he only hears when they are being beat." I swore even before I even knew where children came from that I would not rear my own children with this mentality.

There are many scriptural methods in dealing with undesireable behavior, both from children and peers. One not need to resort to violence, especially against one that cannot defend themselves. In what consitutes child abuse, yes neglect is one of them, but so is physical, mental, sexual and deprivation. If one truly loves their child, then first off, teach them that you love them unconditionally, that no matter what they have done, your love for them will never diminish. If Sri Krishna can love us unconditionally, then that trait also dwells in each of us.

When we exibit this unconditional love, we correct and discipline our children in a loving respectful manner, then our episodes of correction are few and far between. Yes, there is a time for "captial punishment", but that punishment is one that is reserved for the most terrible of offenses, and in my opinion, handled as a family. Whenever we have had to approach that level, Mataji and I discussed openly the punishment, then with the son/daughter involved, this included who, what when, where, why and how questions. This decision was made by both of us, not just one. We left no stone unturned in searching out a viable alternative to the situation. This also ensures that the situation is handled maturely, knowingly, patiently and with great care. There is no room for anger or frustration.

Each time we use the "rod" in a proper manner, we instill in them the proper behavior. The greatest "rod" is our own personal example. If we are calm, collected, mature, self-disciplined, then our children will follow likewise. I have councelled many parents over the years, when I hear a parent say their children are not doing correctly, when I question their own personal behavior, the child is only following their example. Remember, the apple don't fall far from the tree. When I hear that a teenager has no taste for chanting their rounds, I usually find that the parent "just doesn't have time to chant". So the child follows your behavior, good or bad. The old adage of "don't do as I do, do as I say" does not work in rearing children.

If we daily prove to our children our own devotional service, whether as a parent or educator, then the children are sure to follow. If we are "upright and honest" in our dealings, then our children are not inclined to shoplift, drink or take drugs. We have instilled in their spirits the spirit of the Lord. We have placed them at the lotus feet of the Lord. Proverbs 22:6 states "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Training them up requires work on the parents part, not on society. Society is selfish and self centered, this job falls to the parents. As mentioned before, it is our own self-discipline that they exhibit out there in the world, not their peers'.

Chastisement of our children is not harsh, but loving every step of the way. The Lord's miricles are to be seen in them everyday. As they grow, as they mature, as they turn into wonderful mature devotees, devout in their faith, and secure in their understanding. When our job is done, and they move on into their own lives, we will continue to see the Lord's miricles as they rear their own children, away from the harsh cruel judgments of misconception and misunderstanding, especially of scripture.

Your eternal servant,
Nitaipada Maharaja