Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child! Not just the Female

“Spare the Rod and Spoil the child.” A popular Bible passage that seems to apply to females alone.

Discipline is a practice instilled in every while growing up. Many times the level of discipline instilled into a growing child could be the determinant of the child’s failure.

What is Discipline?Spare the Rod and Spoil the child

Discipline is the process of teaching your child what type of behavior is acceptable and what type is not acceptable. In other words, discipline teaches a child to follow rules. There are various styles of raising a child; the emphasis on discipline in the various styles varies. Little or no discipline would lead to the raising of “problem children”

In this part of the world, the value of discipline is held in no small regard. On many occasions, African parents tend to take discipline a bit too far. As a result, the bible verse, “spare the rod and spoil the child” is quite the norm. What indeed is the origin of this statement?

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child

The term “Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child” is mostly associated with a biblical proverb found in the book of Proverbs 13: 24

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he who loves him chasteneth him betimes.”

This bible verse and the phrase “Spare the Rod and Spoil the child” are not entirely the same when properly examined.Spare the Rod and Spoil the child

The phrase “Spare the Rod and Spoil the child” actually comes from a poem written in the 17th century by a poet Samuel Butler titled “Hudibras.” The poem is a conversation between Hudibras and a widow he loves, she requests him, and that was where the phrase was coined.

“If matrimony and hanging go
By dest’ny, why not whipping too?
What med’cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil’d;
Then spare the rod, and spoil the child.”

Looking at the poetry, the phrase contrasts it’s scriptural meaning. The accepted meaning now is quite different from that of the poem, but it agrees with the notion of the scripture.

Raising male and female children

Raising children is no easy task. All children are different, and they have their peculiarities. What would work for a particular child, may not work for another, and the form of discipline meted out to one may not be the right approach for another.Spare the Rod and Spoil the child

Focusing on the society today, there’s a great divide between how male children and female children are raised.

Female children are usually trained better than their male counterparts. No, we are not referring to formal education, but instilling values.

Females are asked to behave in a certain manner. Cook, clean, sit properly, speak like a lady, keep quiet, bend backwards for everybody but yourself. Whereas, the boys are left to dazzle through life unattended and inflict pain on the well-trained girls. This in effect tends to imprint a sense of false entitlement and superman complex.

In times past, the male child had always been viewed as a superior child. If a male child was a second child, he would most likely be treated better than his female sibling due to his gender. This treatment has been passed down the ages. Though, it’s not as profound as it was in the past, traces of special treatment for the male child can still be seen.

What Does the Bible Say about Disciplining a Child?

When it comes to training a child and parent- child relationship, the bible is quite exhaustive.

Both the Old and the New Testament proffer the needed instructions, advice and guidance for the right upbringing of a child.

Proverbs 13: 24 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he who loves him chasteneth him betimes.”

The bible is quite keen on discipline and encourages parents to correct a child’s errors.

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

Children are not born with all wisdom bestowed upon them from heaven. Sometimes, children act foolish, not because they intend to be, but due to their lack of knowledge. Thus the need for guidance.

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

Over pampering a child is the beginning of his destruction. As heavy as these words sound, they ring true in most circumstances. Discipline when rightly applied, i.e applied with love, would lead a to a whole adult. Proper discipline will not kill a child.

Colossians 3:20-21 “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”

Scripture Instructs children to be obedient to their parents, as this pleases the Lord. But, parents also have a role to play.

The use of “fathers” in Colossians 3:20-21  is because during biblical times, fathers were the symbol of discipline. Thus, correct application of these verses would help us recognize that parents are not to provoke their wards to anger. Parents, are to watch over and discipline their wards in love, without bias or ill will.

There are so many more biblical references to training a child, and how parents are to treat their children. It is important to note that most often than not, instructions on discipline are directed to all children, not a particular gender.

As children of God, we have all been made equal in his sight.

Genesis 1:27 ESV “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

What does the Rod Signify?Spare the Rod and Spoil the child

Proverbs 13: 24 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he who loves him chasteneth him betimes.”

This verse is quite important and has been attuned to the phrase “Spare the Rod and Spoil the child.” On many occasions, the use of the rod here is interpreted to mean inflicting corporal punishment on a child.

Many disciplinarians use this verse as a backing for flogging. They indicate that the rod stands for instruments such as belts, canes, whips, and the likes. This opinion is held by many and in most cases taken beyond reasonable bounds.

A look at the verse from other versions would help us see that the intention of the author of Proverbs, is to discipline the child not necessarily to beat a child.

In ancient times, shepherds used rods/ staff/ crook to keep their flock in check. These instruments had their uses, and the rod particularly was used for guidance. Directing the flocks in the right direction by prodding them on, not necessarily beating them.

The rod “sebet” in Hebrew has about five varying meanings. The two most important meanings relate to beating a ‘slave’, and guiding or prodding of a sheep in the right direction.

Parents are to be shepherds to their children, training them to become the best adults. Shepherds do not beat their flock; rather the rod is used in protecting the flock from dangers around. Jesus himself was the good shepherd, and he never inflicted physical pain on any of his disciples as a discipline. Parents as shepherds are supposed to defend the flock with the rod if necessary.

Why then is it the popular belief that the rod implies physical infliction of pain.

  1. Wrong interpretation of scripture.
  2. Parents have similar upbringing
  3. African parents have been conditioned to beat, and we hardly find alternatives.
  4. Culture

Are there solutions to these? Definitely, they are. Since beating a child has been the only way many parents have been trained to raise children, it may be difficult to adapt to new ways. These new ways might sometimes feel ineffective, due to their novelty for us.Spare the Rod and Spoil the child

Here are some ways to discipline your child without beating

  1. A good reward system. Reward your child when he does well
  2. Withdrawing privileges. When privileges are withdrawn, they tend to hurt more than beating sometimes, because they last longer.
  3. Praise good behavior.
  4. A logical consequence of actions. Showing children the logical consequences of their actions can help them understand why they should not perform certain actions
  5. Pray for them.


Discipline is meant for children especially if you intend to raise good adults. There are various ways of disciplining a child, and understanding the use of the word “rod” in scripture would help us in a whole lot of ways to raise godly adults.Spare the Rod and Spoil the child

Research has proven that beating a child could affect the child psychologically, and it would be best to seek out alternatives to that. Parents should be able to adapt better forms of discipline techniques to create the best atmosphere for growth for their wards.

Sometimes it is not enough to love a child, but there has to be the proper way of raising the child.