Spare the rod…

…Spoil the chances of producing yet another generation who believe that the best way to teach a child respect is to beat it into them.


To be honest I was under the impression that outside of the last bastions of mid 1950s mentality like the Dailies Mail and Express, the debate about whether beating a child was acceptable – or even efficacious – had already been done and dusted. However, it would appear that there are still a whole load of people in so called civilised countries who still stick resolutely to the old adage and who firmly believe that only wishy-washy, ineffective parents spare the rod and consequently end up with spoiled, ill-mannered and disrespectful children.


My attention was drawn to this atavistic attitude by the meme on the right which appeared in my Facebook feed courtesy of an American friend (via a page called “The Red, White and Blue” – obviously this could just be a group of patriotic Americans, but a glance at the ‘Related’ threads on FB showed that they include “Donald J Trump”, “Extremely pissed off RIGHT” and “Prepare to take America back”, which suggest that Samuel Johnson was spot on when he said that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel).

After a bit of discussion it would appear that this belief in efficacy and importance of beating children is largely a religious thing; as the very first respondent put it, “JESUS is much wiser than I can ever be. He is the true author of forgiveness and love. He told us all , If we spare the rod, we will spoil the child.”

However as anyone knows who has bothered to actually read the big book rather than listening to what the (big money-making) TV and radio evangelists’ interpretations tell them, Jesus never said any such thing. They’re probably thinking of this little nugget (this is taken from the King James Version – other versions of the true word of God are available):

He that spareth the rod hateth his own son but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes/Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell. —Proverbs 13:24

NunBut frankly it could be just about anything from the Old Testament, which to my child’s mind’s eye, seemed to largely be vicious, vengeful and vindictive; not to mention mean-minded and frankly rather warlike. Which strangely was nothing whatsoever like the Jesus that I learned about from the nuns and visiting priests throughout my primary school years. He was the one member of the Trinity that I absolutely loved to pieces and was looking forward to meeting (as opposed to the Holy Ghost whose role I never really understood and his Dad, who frankly struck me as being a bit on the strict side – a lot like the nuns who caned me on a semi-regular basis for various transgressions, most of which I was ‘guilty’ of).

I couldn’t help noticing over the years that the people who use the Old Testament (whether it’s a Christian, Jewish or Muslim version) to justify everything from physically abusing children, to misogyny, homophobia, religious intolerance and Holy War, all seem to have attitudes that reflect my childlike response to the bible and all of the contradictions it contains. Which would go some way to explaining why so many ‘Pro Lifers’ are in favour of the death penalty and also support bloody wars that result in the deaths of thousands of innocents – after all if it’s good enough for the bible…

It also explains why someone might believe that it is somehow possible to beat respect into a child, without even stopping to consider the glaring contradictions inherent in that position.  

CofNTBigI’d be grateful if any child-beater reading this would be good enough to inform me what you do when you’ve tried spanking your child and it fails to deliver the desired outcome? I’m assuming that you step up to a slipper or a cane to ensure that the child (infant?) respects you and never does it again. But what do you do if they still don’t respect you enough and they do do it again? Do you raise the stakes and use a belt? And if he or she is a really stubborn little bastard (possessed by the Devil maybe?) do you add metal studs just to be sure that you are doing everything you possibly can to prove that you truly love your child and care passionately about saving its soul and preparing it for a future that you approve of?

I’m intrigued to know because aside from raising four children of my own to happy well-adjusted adulthood, I also spent twenty-two years working with ‘difficult’ teenagers in residential settings and it didn’t take me too long to establish that violence – in any form – could only undermine any possibility of building a positive relationship, a relationship that might allow me to help that young person to manage in a world that is filled with contradictions, prejudice and people who demand ‘RESPECT’ without it ever occurring to them that it might be a two-way street.

I particularly recall a conversation with one young man I had late one night after I’d been called in as duty manager to deal with some acting out behaviour by a few of the boys. He told me that the trouble with us staff was that we were too soft; if he’d had to leave home and ride halfway across London just to deal with his shit, he’d have given out some beats! That a good licking was the only thing that him and his mates understood. His mum had used a trainer on him since he was three, Seyi’s mum used a kettle lead, while Errol’s dad used the buckle end of his belt or anything else that fell to hand. “Yes” I said “but what’s the one thing that you all have in common?” When it was obvious that he didn’t know the answer I told him “You’re all here because your parent’s were unable to control you by beating you; so what do you think I could do to hurt you enough to make you behave?”

I would appreciate any comments from anyone who can present a rational argument, explaining how it is that I have managed to do everything completely wrong but still – in spite of my dogged unwillingness to beat them – turned out four decent, respectful, productive adults?



While I was writing this there was another response to the aforementioned FB thread saying “Sit on the naughty step please”. The writer was obviously congratulating himself on cutting through my “wet lefty” (as he’d put it earlier) unwillingness to beat my kids, but as it turns out it was a timely reminder because that is precisely what I have done any time my children’s behaviour demanded it – which would’ve invariably been the sort of occasions when the pro-spankers would’ve hauled their child across their knee. 

I replied that the ‘naughty step’ was my punishment of choice but he hasn’t replied yet. If he does it’s likely that it will be with something along the lines of “And what do you do when the kid tells you to go and fuck yourself?” and my response would be, what do you do when you tell your sixteen year old to bend over so you can beat them and they, being bigger, stronger, and thoroughly tutored in the creed of violence as the answer and might being right, tell you to go and fuck yourself or they’ll take your cane and turn you into a lollipop by sticking it up your arse?

The reality is that if your young child refuses to defer to your instruction, unless they are already leading an entirely austere lifestyle without so much as a bedtime story to bring a little joy into their life, there are guaranteed to be a wide range of things that you can withdraw and threaten not to restore until such time as they do comply. Consequently by the time you reach the stage where your child’s sheer size and physical capability demands a more considered approach, you’ll have already established a regime that’s built on reason rather than brutality.

When my oldest boy (who’s nearly thirty-two now) was fourteen – a notoriously difficult age – his eight year old brother was aggravating him and I’d had to step in a couple of times telling the younger lad, who was clearly the main source of the problem, to stop it or he’d find himself on the stairs; I then turned to the teenager and said with a smile, “And if you carry on winding him up, you’ll end up sitting there too!” Later that evening when his little brother was in bed I asked him “What would you have done if I had told you to sit on the stairs?” To which he responded, “I guess I’d have sat on the stairs… but we’re weren’t going to go there were we.” I find it difficult to imagine how we’d have had such a mature exchange if I’d spent the previous dozen or so years teaching him that I was right because I was bigger and stronger than he was. 

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9 thoughts on “Spare the rod…

  1. I exercise the right to beat other people’s children. In supermarkets, in shops, on the beach, if they’re playing up, I just step forward and hit them with anything to hand. No excuses, no explanations, just WHAP. Sorts them out in no time. And I tell you, those parents are grateful to me. Some of them pretend to object, for form’s sake, but I can tell that underneath they’re grateful.

    1. It’s OK beating strangers kids Andy, but at least you won’t be able to do anything really rude like stick your tongue out at them because it is clearly firmly lodged in your cheek!

  2. I love the way that the writers of this sort of semi-intellectual drivel, automatically make assumptions about the level of “discipline” being metered out by these “bad parents”.
    The way they write it, you’d be forgiven for believing that every child, all over the world (or at least the UK/USA) was beaten to within an inch of its life, every minute of every day and that parents have no self-control over the level of punishment metered out and are permanently in a state of immense anger.
    The truth is (as always) something significantly less and you only have to work with many of today’s youth, who wave their “ooman rights” about without having an understanding of the 2-way nature of that phrase, to realise that there has to be another way.
    The naughty step is f*cked-up thinking in the extreme. For anyone over the age of 7 it’s a joke. They know that they have the upper hand because you can’t take their devices away, so they sit on the step and continue with their lives, as if they were on the settee.
    My dad would, frequently, slap me and my brother, if we gave him of my mum any lip. It rarely hurt, but it always reminded us, in a very short space of time, who the adults were and where the boundaries lay.
    You talk of “the casual child beater” Dave Gurman, but I put it to you that there is as much child abuse, albeit in a different way, in allowing kids to feel over privileged and “entitled”. The real world doesn’t work like that

    1. I mean, this could be argued over all day, but ultimately science and psychology tells us that at best, physical reprimand doesn’t work, and at worst, causes long-term psychological issues. That’s really just fact, I’m afraid, those nasty things that pop up and disagree with our beliefs… I’m very interested in your implication, Glenn, that ‘human rights’ for youths are a two-way street that somehow means they can be hit? Secondly, being hit reminded you of who the adults were and where the boundaries lay… So did your father hit your mother or vice versa to reinforce boundaries? They’re adults, that’s how they reinforce boundaries, yes? Lastly, the ‘real world’ doesn’t work like that, I completely agree; if someone hit me, I could press charges. Because we know violence is a crime, and that’s the ‘real world’. Unless this whole comment was satire, in which case, very amusing!

    2. As the author of this drivel, I’m honoured that you consider it to be halfway intellectual Glenn, however I feel you have made some assumptions about the assumptions I’ve made about ‘bad parents’ and indeed who I might think fits that bill.

      If I have given the impression that I think that every child in the UK/US has been beaten within an inch of their lives, then clearly I haven’t managed to say what I’d intended to. I don’t believe for a moment that all parents are permanently angry and lashing out at their children in an uncontrolled manner, although with the understanding I have of human nature, I find that behaviour more difficult to condemn than a parent who has thought about it and genuinely believes that they are doing what is best for their child, or worse still that they are doing God’s work when they apply a rod to their child and by so doing they are delivering the child from hell.

      I last worked professionally with young people in residential care (i.e. kids for whom the usual beltings from their parents had failed to modify their behaviour) in 2003, but they weren’t markedly different from the youths I cared for in 1993 or the ones I met when I started my career in 1982 so I don’t suppose they’re particularly unlike ‘the youth of today’; and in my experience, no matter how much they might have known about their ‘human rights’, those rights did little to protect them from abuse of all kinds, within care and from the police and penal system.

      Corporal punishment had just finished being used as an ineffective means of control when I started working in social work, but the “short sharp shock” was the hot new idea for sorting out young offenders, which of course proved to be every bit as useless as birching and the various other forms of brutality that had failed to address delinquent behaviour over the years.

      As for the naughty step, as I was trying to demonstrate with my example at the end, providing you do the right groundwork when your child is very young, you will have established your expectations – including the fact that they will go and sit on the stairs, without taking anything with them, when they are told to and stay there until I’m happy that they’ve thought about their behaviour – precisely because they will know from experience that they will lose their devices, access to the TV, their bicycle or anything else that will really hurt them – and that will happen long before they’re seven.

      My dad would, occasionally, slap me and my brothers too, if we gave him or my mum any lip. It rarely hurt and it reminded me where the boundaries lay too.

      Fortunately for my children though, I remember how that felt and the sort of distance it created between me and my dad (which I realised as an adult was an awful shame for him too), especially when I was hit unfairly; so I decided that I would prefer to make the consequences of my children’s rudeness or bad behaviour hurt them in a way that was more likely to cause them to reflect on what they had done.

      I wholeheartedly agree that a parent can fail their children by over privileging them and giving them a false feeling of entitlement, but that certainly isn’t an automatic consequence of failing to slap them; and aside from introducing them at a young age to the possibility that the world can be an unfair, cruel and violent place, I really don’t understand how hitting them prepares them for an adult world where violence should – all things being equal – result in legal consequences.

      Also, importantly, a child who has grown up in a household where violence was never considered acceptable under any circumstances, is considerably less likely to put up with a physical abuse from partners in their adult live (nothing screws a kid’s thinking up quite as much as the idea that it’s natural for the people who ‘love you’ to hit you).

  3. I think a lot of the disrespect from children can be learned from the TV. We have our grandson over and had CBBC on. I was shocked at the clothes some of the pre-teens and teenagers were wearing (or not) to start with. There was bullying of what appeared to be a young lad with a speech impediment, talk of stealing, talk of killing and laced with scantily clad young teens in one programme followed by plenty of others where adults and teachers were made to look stupid, who told kids not to do something and then as soon as they were out of shot the kids went and did it anyway!
    Plonk your kids in front of the TV while you count your likes on Facebook. Way to go!

  4. There is such a thing as lawful chastisement. Basically don’t assault your child because they try your patience. If you put the time and dedication in when you choose to have children then they will respect the rules, boundaries, incentives and sanctions and know where they stand. If you’re too embroiled in other stuff to do so – and often that’s 21st century life, then you will have to deal with the young adult, or small child you evolved. Yes, life not black and white, cut and dried, but don’t blame the small humans you formulated. Equip them to deal with the current world we live in, and live by the rules, laws and expectations of the society we live and operate in. Children think adults have it Sussex – despite their protests to the contrary in adolescence. What keeps us in check is our need not to disappoint ourselves or those who’s opinion we value and respect. If you are bought up to feel you are a constant disappointment then what have you to lose by disappointing- nothing. If you blame yourself for all that is wrong in your life, as adults in your child mind can’t be at fault, then why would you care if others value you, as you don’t value yourself. To hit someone is not a way to respect or value them, so how can they know what it is to value others.

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