“Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child”


Hazem in Egypt wants to know the meaning of this saying: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Spare the rod and spoil the child
is a saying that means that children will not behave well if they are not punished when they do something wrong and that punishment should be physical punishment, such as a spanking, where children are hit on their bottoms (the part of the body we sit on).

A rod is a thin, straight stick made or wood or metal.  To spare someone is to stop yourself from causing pain, worry, or injury to another person.  To spoil someone, usually a child, is to give that person everything he or she wants, or to be too lenient (tolerant) when they do something wrong.  Spoiled children don’t listen to adults when they tell them to do, or not to do, something.

Today, few people in the U.S. live by (believe and live according to) this saying.  While some Americans still use corporal punishment with their children, which is the name given to all types of physical punishment, it is not very socially acceptable.  People fear that corporal punishment goes too far in hurting a child and may cross the line into physical abuse, which is when someone causes serious pain or injury by using a lot of violence.  With few exceptions, schools, for example, no longer use any kind of corporal punishment for fear that parents will consider it abuse.

This saying, then, is well known, but not generally considered a socially-acceptable sentiment (opinion; view) these days.

Thanks, Hazem, for the question, and I hope this is helpful.

~ Lucy

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10 Responses to “Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child”

  1. gregorex says:

    The most famous corporal punishment or maybe physical abuse?
    😀 😀 😀

  2. Bakhtair says:

    School based corporal punishment is most common sentence in east and southeast countries, especially for mis behaving and poor academic performance, i think those people who exercise children punishment -by caning and snaping and other means- they are full sadistic people entered through eduacational process, so i ask government in those countries to change or reform lawa to prevent this phenomena.

  3. Ping says:

    Very useful, thank you Lucy

  4. Julio says:

    I am 49 years old, and I can remind when I was a child at school and I could become hit by a teacher whether I had behaved badly or I had not made my homework, for instance. Besides, if it was the case, and for me there was some one, I was fear to tell my father about, because I could become hit again. Anyway it was never a physical abuse but a way to be scared if I had not respected the rules.
    Nowdays, I can not imagine a situation like that, at least in Spain. Indeed, it is a better situation but I have to admit that discipline in school have plummeted more and more, as well as -I believe- general knowledge of students.
    Undoubtly, I guess that the proper balance will be in the middle of both extreme cases, getting a mixture in which both questions can become fulfilled at the same time.
    Best regards from Spain,
    Julio (Jack).

  5. emiliano says:

    Some months ago a mother was declare guilty of bad treatments to her child because she slapped him on the face with her hand and the boy of 13 years old hitted against some furniture and had some blood out from his nose.
    Her penalty was six months of jail and a year of spacing out from the child……incredible but true.

    The father, her husband, and the boy were very sorry about the matter and they have cried for long facing the tv., asking for the forgiveness of
    his mather and wife. As it was such scandal the Goverment forgived the woman.

    That´s the law here in this poor country. No father or mother can punish physically in any way, not a single slap or a hit on the botton only, their children because they can go to the jail if they are reported by the boy, girl, or whichever person who wants to do it.

    So now, boys, girls, do what they wanted without any kind of punishment.
    Even teachers can do nothing, they can´t say to the boys go out of the class if they are making fuss.
    Teachers have been attacked by the fathers or the boys very often.

    All is changing here, I don´t know if in a good or bad way. But I am not very happy as the middle is the vitue in my opinion.

  6. Jessica says:

    I remember when I was young I was a very shy girl and I usually was punished for I didn’t complete my homework. The most slight punishment in my elementary school for us was to copy our unfinished homework for a hundred times. The most “welcomed” punishment was to stand against the back wall of classroom for a whole morning or afternoon. And the most impressive punishment was to bounce two pupils’ heads together in front of a whole class. The most common results after these punishments was to get one more punishment from our parents. I was so “lucky” to experience all those punishments and know how brutal doing these to a child. Now I’m in the U.S. living with my lovely 1-year-old and I hope I can always treat him as a equal person, not as a weak child, not as a toy under my control. By the way, I’m still a Chinese.

  7. Yildirim says:

    Dear jeff and Lucy,

    First, I want to thank you for your blog, it really helps us too much to learn english.

    my question is that could you please explain the difference between ” joking ” and ” kidding”?

    my another question is that for example if I want to write an email to a Professor in my university, how should I start it? is that right saying” Dear Prof. X” or just ”Prof. X”?


  8. Hamude says:

    i remember as i was a child that my shool has punished their students when they did not behave correct in the classroom or when they did not make their homework. For some cases i have agreed with it that some bad students should be punished when they bother another student in the classroom. This will give other Students who really want to learn the chance to concentrate on their lectures and lessons. As i remember in my classroom in the shool there were more than 39 Students. Can you imagine it how much is it difficult for the teacher to put his class in order?? without a little physical punishment it was imposible to do that, does’ t he??

  9. Bruce Lee says:

    There’ve happened something ridiculous about this saying in my country.

    Our ancestors’ve traditionally considered very important that students should admire and follow their teachers.
    However, since the beginning of 21st century, the attitude toward teachers has been totally changed.
    For example, the ministry of Education was allowed teachers to give physical punishment to student under particular regulalation.
    But it’s now totally different due to some cases that happened with spread of cell phone.

    Some students took a photo of the scene when teachers hit another student.
    and then authority changed the bill to stop teachers from give physical punishment to students.

    Do you think which is helpful for students?

  10. amber says:

    spare the rod spoil the child isnt even in the bible. anybody thats read it would know that. the only time it talks about a rod it compares it to a shepard guiding sheep with a rod. not beating them.

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