Skip to main content

Why Role Modeling Works Better Than the Rod You Don’t Want to Spare

Jason and his Bride, Mai are parents to three wonderful children, ages 19, 17, and 16. Jason and Mai would never spank their children.

Striking your child to discipline them is lazy parenting and abusive.

Striking your child to discipline them is lazy parenting and abusive.

Spanking your children is lazy parenting and abusive. I don’t care what you think that book you put so much stock in says. You are interpreting it incorrectly and damaging your child. You’re also damaging your relationship with them.

I base this on a number of factors. I was raised by a pastor from birth until I left home as a young adult. I was spanked with a belt on the bare ass and legs. Oh, the legs were because I flinched and tried to jump out of the way of a 220 lb stocky man swinging it at me. So you know, it was MY fault. That’s what I was told.

I remember changing in the locker room with my back to everybody in 6th grade. I didn’t want them to see the welts on my legs. My father told my brother and me that if we complained to anyone about being hit with a belt, or showed them the marks on us, we’d likely have to go live with a foster family. So you know, it would be OUR fault. That’s what we were told.

No matter how horrific it was being strapped with a belt, that paled in comparison to the threat of being put in a foster home. It’s not like we got belted constantly. It WAS when we fucked up. Or had to be told two or three times to do something. But I feel there were better options that could have been used.

Belts, switches, extension cords, Hot Wheels track. Weapons to abuse your child with.

Belts, switches, extension cords, Hot Wheels track. Weapons to abuse your child with.

It was drilled into our heads at a very young age that the Bible said, “Spare the rod, you hate your child.” Everybody thinks it says, Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Nope. Not in the King James’ version of the Bible that we were required to read daily. It said “hate”. This religious justification made it seem ok to us.

So basically we were programmed to believe that a belt swung across our bares asses was done out of love. Yeah, it sure didn’t feel that way. In my father’s head, I’m sure he was doing what he felt was right, doing what God wanted him to do to raise decent citizens. I mean, I’ve never been to jail at this stage of my life. Perhaps he was onto something?

No. I do not feel that if he had raised us the way I’ve raised my children, I’d be in San Quentin right now, making license plates. I don’t think I’d have held up banks, embezzled millions from my job, or become a serial killer. I do think I might have had a better relationship with my father, though.

We’re not really close. He’s a nice enough guy as an older fella these days. I cannot stand his views on politics or knowing that he thinks my gay daughter is going to Hell.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s nice enough to her face. I feel that he loves her, in his own conditional way. But I know he’s vehemently against her lifestyle and the “choices” of the people in her LGBTQ community. That makes it hard to want to be around him very often.

Justification for hitting a child? THINK about what discipline ACTUALLY means.

Justification for hitting a child? THINK about what discipline ACTUALLY means.

I realize it’s because he takes the Bible literally, as so many conservative Christians tend to do. He didn’t want to spare the rod and end up HATING his own sons? How scary is that, to know that most Christians take the Bible so literally, that they think you have to spank or hit your children because you love them enough to abuse them?

That is lazy parenting. It’s far easier to just smack your kid on the butt, hopefully only with an open hand, and call it a day. I feel many kids get it a lot worse than even we did, though. And that saddens me greatly.

After seeing and hearing my dad and younger brother go rounds violently with each other more than once, I knew that if I ever had a child or children, I’d do it completely differently. And I did.

It intrigues me that two children from the same family can turn out so differently. My brother had a son and in many ways, repeated the cycle of domineering, angry parenting with his child. While he did not spank him with a belt, or possibly even at all, there was definitely emotional abuse and anger directed at him frequently.

For someone who claimed to hate my father at times for being whupped on and provoked to anger often, he didn’t do much to break that cycle. And his relationship with my nephew has suffered ever since. I hate that it’s that way. He had his son earlier than I had my daughter, so I once again vowed to never parent my child the way he and my father parented theirs.

There was never a need to lay a hand on this sweet, wonderful child. She has been so easy to parent.

There was never a need to lay a hand on this sweet, wonderful child. She has been so easy to parent.

My daughter has always been the sweetest, most kind, and caring child you could imagine. It was never necessary to escalate any situation regarding discipline with her beyond a discussion. Raising my voice to a stern “Dad-voice” yet not yelling was about the furthest I ever had to go. She was always so easy to speak to logically about any type of disciplinary issues that were few and far between. She’s always been a model citizen and my best friend.

I also have two stepchildren who I don’t consider STEP children, but my own. I’ve helped raise them for 10 years now and the same rules have applied to them. The Boy was always similar to my daughter, a model citizen. He’s always been very laid back, logical, and easy to guide. I respect him greatly for always doing the right thing.

Our middle child daughter was the most challenging of our three, more so during her grade school years. I learned a lot about parenting through her occasional drama-filled tantrums. I learned patience. I learned how to not get angry during these emotional, harder battles. I learned that you don’t always parent three children in a family the exact same way. I LEARNED.

The funny thing is, she must have appreciated the patience and kindness we demonstrated toward her. She modeled after our parenting over time and has handled her business and struggles far better since the early years together. She will frequently mention how much of a handful she must have been as a grade-schooler.

I assure her that it wasn’t that rough. (It was, at times) And that I’m proud of her for always being such a good kid. She’s an achiever and is about to graduate high school with over a 4.10 GPA, has taken honors classes, and is a world-class artist, drama kid, violin player, and musical theater performer. She’s also one of my very best friends, I love our time spent together.

My point is this: Being physically abusive toward your children under the guise of doing what the Bible says is not good for you and your child’s relationship. I feel that too many people take every written word of the Bible far too literally.

If you think the Bible is meant to be taken literally then that means ALL of it. Not just the parts that suit your agenda. There is no way the entire thing can be taken literally.

If you think the Bible is meant to be taken literally then that means ALL of it. Not just the parts that suit your agenda. There is no way the entire thing can be taken literally.

What if by, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” it’s actually referring to the rod as a form of discipline? Not an actual weapon you’re using against your child to cause physical pain, humiliation, and anger? To me, the rod could mean a patient, logical discussion. A grounding from something they value, with a detailed explanation of why.

I cannot stand when I hear a parent in public yelling at their child. And the upset, traumatized child is screaming, “WHY?” And the parent uses the lazy go-to of, “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” Again, lazy parenting. Fear me or else suffer the consequences.

We should humble ourselves as parents and realize that we are here to GUIDE our children and teach them life lessons. This is far more important than commanding automatic compliance and what we perceive to be “respect” from our children. We could accomplish so much more with a little extra time invested, and do so much more for their emotional well-being.

I wouldn’t spank my dog for an accident. Give your kids the same respect as your dog.

I wouldn’t spank my dog for an accident. Give your kids the same respect as your dog.

I can’t imagine hitting a child. I wouldn’t even spank my dog if she shit on the living room floor. I’d feel sorry for her that nobody let her out in time before she had to finally go. Can’t we grant our children that same respect?

Kids should have autonomy over themselves. Most kids DO want to do things right. To have their parents be proud of them, and love and respect them back, as they do for us. No child enjoys having a parent yell at them and strike them. Shaming your child in this way is despicable.

I’m not advocating that we should let children do anything they want without consequences. They do not have fully formed brains as children and would certainly make poor choices if left to their own devices. But to me, there’s a far better way of teaching them through role-modeling what being a good, respectful, responsible human being is like.

I’m not going to teach them that when Dad is angry, he hits. That’s so hypocritical. “Johnny! YOU DON’T HIT YOUR BROTHER WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY!” *Proceeds to spank Johnny, for hitting. Lazy parenting. It’s over in 30 seconds, and nothing other than a hypocritical lesson is learned.

If you’re a Christian and are offended by this, good. “If your eyes offend thee, pluck them out.” Wait, you don’t want to pop your own eyeballs out? Because my words offended you? But the Bible says you should. Or do you only pick and choose which parts of it you choose to take literally?

Do your homework. Study that Bible closer. Think about if many of the things you put so much value in are meant to all be taken literally. Or again, perhaps things like “The Rod” might be metaphors for detailed conversations, lessons, grounding, something other than striking your child and causing them physical pain and emotional distress. Your future relationship and your grandchildren’s with your child may depend on it.

Related Articles