Sparing the Rod
An outraged mom's campaign to ban a spanking tool marketed as biblically based.
BY: Interviewed by Holly Lebowitz Rossi
Why did you decide to homeschool your kids?
I really believe a parent is a child's first teacher. I looked into homeschooling, and found that all the research does point to homeschooled children doing much better academically than both private and public schoolchildren, in general, and also doing better socially. The child gets all this one-on-one attention. Things are geared toward their levels and their interests.
You've said you believe that spanking children is unchristian. Why?
Yes, I do. It's against the Golden Rule, that's the number one rule that Jesus gave us for human relationships. You're supposed to treat other people the way you want to be treated yourself. And of course we don't want to be hit in any way, so we shouldn't hit other people. And of course, children are people. It's obvious that we shouldn't do that to children.
The Rod was advertised in a magazine for homeschoolers. Was it a Christian homeschooling magazine?
It's a very fundamentalist magazine called Home School Digest. [Note: Wisdom's Gate, the publisher of Home School Digest, declined to be interviewed or to confirm whether The Rod is still an advertiser.
Do you think that homeschooling parents spank more or less than parents who send their children out to school?
The homeschooling scene is very split. About half homeschool for religious reasons, and they are generally fundamentalists. And the other half is like me, I consider myself a mainstream Christian, and I do it for the benefit of the child. I believe in letting the child pursue their interests and have a lot of freedom, and so people in my camp generally are against corporal punishment of children. In the other camp they are generally for it because they take every verse of the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, everything, literally.
Where does the phrase "spare the rod, spoil the child" come from? Is it biblical?
The phrase "spare the rod, spoil the child" is actually from a burlesque poem from the 1600s by Samuel Butler, and it's actually about sex. The whole phrase goes like this: "Love is a boy by poets styled/Then spare the rod and spoil the child." It's a love poem, well, "love," between a fat man and a widow, and this is hardly a good source for parenting advice.
Why do you think it's referenced as if it's a biblical quote?
There are about five verses in Proverbs that do speak of beating your son with a rod, and also in Proverbs they speak of beating fools on the back, and that kind of thing. There's a lot of punishment in the Old Testament. If you read the whole thing, there are floggings and stonings and all kinds of harsh punishments.