Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child: The Fallacies and the Facts


The popular saying that keeps ringing whenever my mom tries to save me from the beating of my life back then was, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’, but is it true that rod breeds an obedient, gentle and upright child? And is it truly the abandoning of the rod spoils a child? The answers to these questions are not far fetched

Children at tender age surely require little or no punitive measures because they are in their formative age – early stage of development. A child at that age, irrespective of the environmental influence will definitely start learning from the four corners of the home.

Every child therefore, is student of his or her parent(s). Whatever he/she learns from them (parents) is stored in the long-term memory. So, if that is the case, when a parent discovers a bad act from his child, the first step to take is to sit him/her down and sermonise. At that age, the child will surely be willing to follow the instructions, depending on the methodology employed.
Can beating stop mischief

Hypothetically, a school of thought holds that beating or scolding cannot in any way stop miscreant in kids. Consistent beating will definitely prepare them to adapt to future strikes. Punishing kids with cane or any other punitive means will make such inflictions part of those kids and will eventually imbue in them, fearlessness of the punishment, having got used to it over a long period of time. Hence, the school posits that instead of corporal punishment, beating or lashing, positive reinforcements, education and enlightenment of the kids on the consequences and future repercussions of the act will create a sense of fear in him and make the child reason towards good direction.

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A child will thus see any elderly person as a role model. Just as a Yoruba saying asserts, ‘The leading horse dictates the speed/pace for the trailing ones’, a child will always look up to the elders to emulate their deeds. As a parent or teacher who wants to build a good child, why not build yourself well and let the child emulate your ways. When good character reflects in you, the child will definitely get and imbibe it from you without a rod.

Since flogging the kids only leaves with them, long lasting pains and indelible marks, how then can he think of changing his acts. A kid at first might be fearful as a result of the pain he gets from the lashes, only to, sooner or later see himself in that same act.

But why? He’s virtually ignorant of the cause of the beating just as he is ignorant of the consequences of his actions, either now or in the future.

For instance, a child takes his friend’s pen home and all you could do is to flog him and punish him after instructing him to return the pen! Do you know you’ve not passed any vital message to him? All you’ve succeeded in doing is to inflict needless and meaningless punishment on him. The next time he sees a pen, he could simply pick it up and hide it for you because he feels you flogged him earlier simply because you saw the pen. Then, is there any point in flogging without achieving amendments or correction? No, of course.

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A good child can be developed whenever you ignore serious punishments and you take to positive reinforcements – rewards, sermonising and cancelling towards good and then you make him see the good in you too.

Has time not come therefore, for modification of the saying:. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’. Shouldn’t we adopt in its stead, ‘Spare the rod, change your ways and build the child’.

Abdulbasit Abdusalam (Mujaahid) of the Department of Geosciences, University of Lagos is a member of TRNG Writers Club and can be contacted via 09096562317; Email:

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1 comment

  1. Umm Habiba

    I wouldn’t say, spare the rod completely, just make sure the child understands that his/her actions have consequences and educate them on it. I think also that showing anger over issues leaves a lasting impression on the child, as they call that more easily to mind than admonition. The level of anger shown communicates to the child the amount of damage he/she has caused, and that’s where the rod comes in. Children should be trained know that when the rod is used, they have crossed a certain boundary, especially if they’ve been warned severally. If they understand this, they would even accept that they deserved it, and would try to avoid a repeat. Note that this can only work if the rod is not always used except strategically, and the parent is very efficient in determining the amount of chastisement for each wrongdoing. Small children however who we have really little chance of rationalizing with can be taught some valuable lessons in life by the rod, or maybe by the hand. Children can be taught not to take someone’s stuff, by gently beating the hand to show disapproval, and can also be allowed to make their own mistakes and suffer for it themselves to teach them a lasting lesson. An example is that of a child who likes playing with candles, you can just let him/her touch the fire properly and make it burn him/her, so it would serve as a reminder for later.

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