Spare The Rod, Spoil The Nation

Monday, August 8th, 2016 @ 12:00PM

“Out of control” – that’s how some describe today’s youth in America. Of course, obviously, this phrase doesn’t apply to all of America’s young people as many are well-behaved, well-disciplined, and well-adjusted. Regrettably, however, a significant portion of America’s youth are, in fact, out of control and our nation is suffering as a result.


Growing up, my mother was the disciplinarian in our home. There were six of us kids and we all loved our mother but, at the same time, we all feared her. In fact, there were times it seemed when we were downright terrified of her. She has always been a small, diminutive person. But, then again, appearances can be deceiving. And, in my mother’s case, they were. If it ever applied to anyone, the old saying, “Dynamite comes in small packages,” applies to her and we tried desperately to avoid lighting her fuse. For those who did, there was h..l to pay.


It was precisely because we knew she wouldn’t hesitate to use the rod (in actuality, a switch, a belt or, occasionally, a fly-swatter) that she seldom had to resort to it. In fact, when we got out of hand, her first attempt at controlling our youthful impulses and misdirected energies was always her “words.” And her words were very effective. When she said something, she meant it, no ifs, ands, or buts and there was no such thing as back-talking her. We were taught to be polite, to use good manners and, above all, to respect elders. To say, “Huh,” or “What,” when speaking to an adult was very nearly a capital crime in my mother’s eyes – it was the kind of mistake we kids seldom made more than once.


Nowadays, when I look at my mother and I think back to those days long gone, it occurs to me that I’m thankful for who she was then and is still today. I’m thankful for her resolve, for her strength of character, and for her determination to teach us to be respectful of others. And I realize that I wouldn’t trade a single “whoopin” for anything.


The Bible doesn’t actually say, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Those words are from a 17th-Century poem called “Hudibras” by Samuel Butler. What the Bible does say is that, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” – Proverbs 13:24. The exact meaning of this sentence has been debated among scholars for centuries. Nevertheless, the general consensus suggests two points: that discipline appropriately applied is an act of love rather than anger or retribution; and that discipline is rather more about instruction than punishment.


So, in essence, the Biblical message seems to be that concerned, loving parents endeavor to instruct their children in a manner designed to make them better people and that this instruction, when necessary, includes appropriate discipline. Further, such instruction is not a single or occasional event but, rather, a continuous, directed, and structured involvement in our children’s lives.


Regrettably, such instruction is conspicuously absent from the lives of many of America’s youth today. This diminished involvement in these children’s lives seems to follow the diminution of traditional family values in our country. Video games have become surrogates for parents and entertainment has become the primary pursuit of many young people. To them, learning and self-improvement have become anachronisms. Adding to the problem is the fact that, of those parents that do remain involved in their children’s lives, many would prefer to be “liked” by their children rather than “respected” by them.


When I came along, things were different. There were no video games. When we weren’t doing chores, we were playing outside or reading a book inside. More often than not, our mother was somewhere close by, if not right there with us, as we played or read. And one thing was clear above all else – our mother was our mother first, and our friend second. She demanded our respect. Liking her was up to us.


America needs more of those kinds of parents – moms and dads alike who aren’t afraid to use the rod and their words to shape and mold their children into better adults. One needn’t look very far today to witness the evidence that parents who spare the rod and their words are spoiling our nation.

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