…and spoil the child is the way the saying goes. But this past Sunday, I came across a reference to “the rod” that made me re-think that old adage.I’ve been dabbling with the Liturgy of the Hours a little thanks to the incredibly convenient and user–friendly app, Laudate. At Laudate you can read the daily mass readings, pray an interactive Rosary, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, read about the Saint of the day, look up things in the Catechism, listen to a myriad of Catholic pod casts, read more than one translation of the Bible, and follow along with the Order of the Mass. All that in a free app! Talk about one-stop shopping! (If you can’t tell, I highly recommend it.)
Last Sunday, I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the mid-morning and one of the Psalms was Psalm 23. You know the one, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He refreshes my soul.” One line from that very famous psalm is, "I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." It made me wonder,"Is this the same rod that we're not supposed to spare when raising our children?" If so, that rod never really instilled me with comfort. More like fear.
So, have we misunderstood that quote all these years? Are people basing their parenting on a misinterpretation? After reading Psalm 23, I'm starting to think that may be the case.
Now, I'm no Biblical scholar nor am I even a theologian but let's think about this for a second
For the "rod" reference in Psalm 23, what exactly would be comforting about a rod if it's used to smack you around so that you stay in line?
For the "spare the rod" reference from Proverbs 13:24, if sparing the rod means not using it for its original purpose, what was the rod supposed to be used for? According to my in-depth Internet research consisting of a single question and answer on Ask.com ;), "A shepherd uses his rod to direct his flock and for protection of his herd in case of danger and also for defending himself. The rod is usually a symbol of authority against dangerous animals."
Well, that explains how a rod might be comforting. It gives guidance and helps keep a group together. So, in this context, "sparing the rod" would be leaving your child without guidance or direction. It would imply leaving them alone without the comfort or support of a group that they could rely on.
This makes so much more sense to me than the pro-corporal punishment interpretation of the Proverbs verse. It supports the teachings of love, mercy, peace, and the dignity of each and every one of God's children. Does this mean your children should walk all over you? Of course not. That would be a disservice to them and to you as a parent. It does mean, however, that you should give them guidance, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Physical punishment is not necessarily a part of that.
Have I ever spanked my children? Yes, I have. Did I feel like it helped to teach or guide them? Not really. Did it make me feel better? Actually, quite the opposite. It made me feel bad. Not just because I had hurt my child, but because I had run out of patience and better ideas of how to guide them.
I'm not saying that all spanking is bad but if we're justifying our methods of parenting based on that famous verse from Proverbs, maybe it's time to rethink our reasons for spanking.