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September 15, 2014

The Rod of Correction

Image: Flickr/U.S. Army

Image: Flickr/U.S. Army

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15, The Hebrew Bible)

Many people cite this proverb as a mandate for good parenting; sadly, many take it completely out of its historical context and end up misrepresenting the heart of its message. Believe it or not, this proverb is not necessarily calling for parents to use corporal punishment. Rather, the “rod of correction” was something used by shepherds in the fields. When a sheep would stray from the path, a good shepherd would use a rod to steer the sheep away from danger towards green pastures and clean water. A good shepherd would never beat his sheep into submission; he would gently (but firmly) guide them in the right direction.

Your kids are going to do foolish things, and, when they do, you would be wise to remember that folly comes naturally to them. It’s a parent’s job to lead a child by showing them what choices they have and what the consequences of those choices may be. Think of yourself more like a shepherd than like an enforcer, and your relationship with your kids is bound to improve.

3 thoughts on “The Rod of Correction

    • Thanks for asking about this, Denise. The Hebrew word in those verses that is often translated “child” is the word na’ar. In all but two notable exceptions (Moses and Samuel), it is used to describe young men between the ages of 12-20. A small child was never meant to be hit with a stick. Discipline of that sort was reserved for older children, according to the Jewish Scriptures.

  1. I agree with everything you’ve said here. Unfortunately, for generations, not many ever questioned corporal punishment. Me included. No parent or grandparent, or guardian, or the schools, (in the era I grew up in) found it wrong. And many, many, MANY folks are thankful for that kind of “training” they received. Growing up, we didn’t talk much about our “punishments”, but no one ever said, “We don’t do spanking.” Changing the minds of a culture regarding this will be like holding back the tide. However, I am willing to give it a go. Becoming a grandparent certainly helped.

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