Thursday, 29 December 2011

Visual family journal

On Mother's Day this year, I sat down with a blank journal and a new pack of pencil crayons to record the day's events. It wasn't anything extravagant - the boy and I had completed a dragon puzzle together, I had done some sewing for an upcoming birthday, and I had reflected on both those who were mothers to me and those who had made me a mother - but I put it to paper anyway.

(All names removed from all photos.)

The year is ending and I look fondly through the pages. I am amazed at how strongly the recorded memories stick, no matter how little and unremarkable they seemed at the time. Some weeks I recorded daily, while busier weeks were summarized on a page; it is the detailed daily entries that best capture those ordinary moments. If I don't write it down, I will forget.

Our trip to the farm, where the boy sheared a sheep.

An unexpected soak in the local splash park.

A friend's fifth birthday party.

But it's not just my journal; it's our family's journal. Often the boy joins in, drawing his own memories of the day. Sometimes he labels them, asking me for help with the spelling; other times I record his descriptions and commentary.

"It's smaller because it's far away."

The day's fort.

Our trip to Playland, including riding the helicopters and the log water ride.

Sometimes even the husband can be persuaded to lend his artistic talent to our journal;
my dinosaur would have been far less impressive than his.

Collages of family vacations record our favourite memories of our time together. Little things, like a shared conversation over a cup of coffee raspberry dark chocolate latte, are recorded alongside the big things, like trips to the amusement park, as they are equally treasured in our hearts.

Thanksgiving with the in-laws.

A week with my mother-in-law, including some mountain climbing.

Summer vacation with the in-laws.

Summer vacation with my parents and sisters.

But as valued as those times together are, the silence upon our return can be just as golden.

Sometimes the unexpected happens, and the entries become even more precious than I initially imagined they would. Only hindsight reveals the true importance of an enjoyable yet seemingly unremarkable day.

Our last visit with Granddad, only a week before he passed away.

New favourite recipes are occasionally featured, memories of not only the ingredients and steps, but the time spent together making and then eating them.

Delicious pretzels, along with the boys' collaborative city.

Some days, Mommy just needs chocolate.

The most precious entries to me are reminders of the lessons these boys of mine have taught me. I seek to raise them in the knowledge and love of God, but it is they who teach me, opening my eyes to wonder and beauty and oh, freedom.

Quotes, verses, and summarized blog posts remind us of the things that had been on our hearts and minds.

"...what he most needs from me then is...strength and clarity..."

"He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake."

"...proclaim the excellencies of him who called you..."

"Seek peace and pursue it."

I am no artist, but the memories remain anyway.

Truly, the boy wasn't leaning precariously off the edge of the stool,
nor does he have a hunchback, nor are our countertops bright purple.
But he sure was proud of himself for making breakfast for the family on his own that day.

Pictures and words, hopes and prayers, achievements and gratitude, menus and quotes, tragedy and comedy, daily celebrations of our life together - this family journal of ours is our place to get it all down. We collect these bits of our lives between the white pages, seeking, as always, to find the extraordinary in the most ordinary of moments.

I would love for you to share: How do you record your family's most precious memories?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Natural Parents Network: Best of 2011

As a volunteer editor with the Natural Parents Network (NPN), I have been blessed to find a wonderful community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be that seek to inform, empower, and inspire. When you visit NPN’s website, you can find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

The volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to make NPN the outstanding resource it is also spend countless hours informing and inspiring others on their personal blogs. To close out 2011, the NPN volunteers have come together to provide you with some valuable reading material. Each volunteer has selected either their most viewed post of 2011 or their favorite post and shared the link here. Please take a few moments to visit each post. Our intention is to expand our reach as bloggers and informed parents and parents-to-be who are still growing as we move through our own journeys. Each volunteer has provided links to other social media sites where you can follow them as well.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers, so please contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other parents in a huge way!

Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares her Christmas Cookie Swap Blog Hop, which is her fourth annual virtual cookie swap and most popular post of the year. Please stop by and link up your favorite holiday recipe until Dec. 31. You can find Farmer's Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Adrienne from Mommying My Way shares Fear vs. Faith, one of her favorite posts about how often living a life of faith can look like a life of fear, but the two are really quite different. You can also find Mommying My Way on Facebook.

Alicia of Lactation Narration retells the story of her oldest daughter's 5 years of nursing and weaning in her favorite post of 2011, The Weaning Party. You can find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Amy of Toddler In Tow shares Finding My Mommy-Zen, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she shares her desire to balance her own self-esteem by choice in order to parent with peace and compassion. You can also find Toddler In Tow on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, and follow Amyables (Amy W.) on Google + and Ravelry.

Arpita of Up, Down, and Natural shares one of her most popular posts titled Reflections. This is a beautiful look at the type of mother she wants to be. You can find Up, Down, and Natural on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Charise of I Thought I Knew Mama shares Why Do Children Have More Food Allergies Than Ever Before?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post explains the shocking info that one unsuspecting mother discovered when she started researching why her daughter had a violent allergic reaction to eggs. This is a must read post for ensuring the health of your family. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Stumbleupon.

Christine of African Babies Don’t Cry shares The Best First Food for Babies, one of her favourite posts of 2011. This well-researched post delves into the healthiest and most nutritious food to feed your baby. You can also find African Babies Don’t Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Cynthia of The Hippie Housewife shares Gentle Discipline for Toddlers, her most viewed post of 2011. This post describes five gentle discipline tools for parenting toddlers. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest.

Darcel of The Mahogany Way shares how Babywearing As a Way of Life one of her favorite post of 2011. This post showcases some beautiful woven wraps that she has purchased, traded, borrowed, and sold over the years. Darcel also talks about the benefits of babywearing from the newborn through toddler stage. You can also find Darcel{ The Mahogany Way} on Facebook, Twitter, Her Community for Mothers of Color, and Pinterest.

Dionna of Code Name Mama shares 50 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids Plus Fun Serving Suggestions, her most viewed post of 2011. Most of these snacks are quick to fix and portable, so you can pack them to send with your child on play dates, at preschool, or to just have handy in the refrigerator for when your child wants to grab a bite to eat “all by himself.” You can find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Erica at ChildOrganics shares a post that is not only close to her heart, but also her most viewed post for 2011 titled Attachment Parenting in the NICU. This post shares her top 10 tips for parenting should you find yourself with a baby in the NICU. You can also find Erica on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her personal experience of returning to work, expressing milk, and the ups and downs in between in her 2011 most viewed post, Mama's Milk. You can also find Gretchen on GFC, Blog Lovin', Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Isil of Smiling like Sunshine shares how to make an autumn tree using pumpkin seeds, her most popular post in 2011. This post features a lovely craft activity that you can do with your kids! You can also find Isil on Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama shares 80 Uses For Coconut Oil, her most viewed post of 2011. This comprehensive post provides background information on the benefits of coconut oil as well as outlines 80 uses for it. You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares her most popular post of 2011, Weekly House Blessing (Otherwise Known as Cleaning Once a Week). This post outlines a once per week cleaning routine for busy moms. You can also find Jennifer on Twitter.

Joella, the mama behind Fine and Fair, shares An Unusual Gripe with Bebe Gluton, one of her most popular posts of 2011. In it, she discusses the controversy surrounding a "breastfeeding doll" and offers her take on the gender role implications of dolls in general. Fine and Fair can also be found on twitter and facebook.

Julia of A Little Bit of All of It shares the story of how her co-sleeping relationship ended with her daughter, her most viewed post of 2011. This post shows how her daughter transitioned to her own bed on her 2nd birthday and the emotions involved for her mom. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares True Blessings: White Noise and Grandparents, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Kat talks about how she maximizes getting sleep and how grateful and blessed she is to have her parents be so involved in helping and spending time with her kiddos.

Kelly of Becoming Crunchy shares That Cup Does What?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post is one of a series of reviews and information on switching to all natural menstrual products - having heard so many different options and recommendations, Kelly decided to give a whole bunch of them a try and pull all the reviews together in one week for anyone interested in making the switch. This post in particular covers the ins and outs of the Diva Cup. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings shares a popular post from 2011, something she and her husband made for their girls for Christmas, great for open-ended play and construction: Handmade Tree Blocks. You can also find Kristin on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Lani of Boobie Time shares Helping a Fellow Breastfeeding Mom, her inspiration for starting to blog. This post discusses the importance of fellow moms supporting each other and some tips on having a successful breastfeeding relationship. Lani can also be found on Facebook.

Laura at WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door writes about finally entering "spring" when her child with special needs begins preschool. After battling post-partum mental illness (post tramatic stress disorder) after the preterm birth of her third child, she finally begins to feel healthy and whole again in "It's Fall, Ya'll-Again."

Lauren of Hobo Mama shares On not having an AP poster child, her (OK, second) most viewed post of 2011. Lauren's first child shook her certainty that attachment parenting meant babies never cried and toddlers grew independent — and that's all right, too. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares Lactivism, Breastfeeding, Bottlefeeding and Mothers at War, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This post discusses how the breastfeeding/bottle feeding debate causes a division between mothers, leading to the alienation of women and babies, while divisive companies prosper. You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares how With Privilege Comes Responsibility, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This compelling post explains her strong felt desire to stand up for those less privileged. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Melissa of Vibrant Wanderings shares a Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys, her most popular post of 2011. The article outlines some important Montessori principles and how they relate to children's toys, translating that into some simple guiding principles. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Melissa of White Noise shares Modern Day Wet Nurse, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Melissa shares the benefits of human breast milk and human milk sharing. You can also find Melissa at Mothers of Change.

Momma Jorje shares Amniocentesis - What is it *really* like?, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This open and honest series offers not only the technical process of amniocentesis, but also the emotions involved in awaiting (and receiving) the procedure and a diagnosis. Momma Jorje can also be found on Facebook.

Moorea of MamaLady: Adventures in Queer Parenting shares Fluoride: Another Reason Breast Is Best, her favorite post of 2011. This post provides research on the harmful effects of fluoride in drinking water for babies and toddlers and ways to limit fluoride consumption in your home. You can also find MamaLady on Facebook and Twitter and her Parent Coaching Site.

Rachael at The Variegated Life is Calling the Muse in her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she describes how she uses ritual to help her tap into her creative spirit. You can also find Rachael on Twitter and The Variegated Life on Facebook.

Rebekah and Chris from Liberated Family shares Using Cloth In a Disposable Society, their favorite post of 2011. This extensive post provides a lot of information regarding the varied uses of cloth as well as the many benefits. You can also find Liberated Family on Twitter.

Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares her most viewed post: Confessions of a Breastfeeding Advocate: I Couldn't. She confesses her struggles with breastfeeding her daughters, but shares why she'll continue the good fight. You can also find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Seonaid of The Practical Dilettante offers a science- and reverence-based meditation on The Living Earth, her most viewed post of 2011. This meditation was originally written for Earth Day, but it provides a way to reconnect with your place in the living breathing planet at any time of year. You can also find Seonaid on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares I Recommend (But Moira Likes This Book Too), her most viewed post of 2011. This post is a review of a wonderful book that talks about all the different ways that families can be made up, along with some of why this topic is so important to her family.

Sheryl at Little Snowflakes shares her experiences with tandem nursing in Tandem Nursing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, her most viewed post of 2011. You can also find Sheryl on Twitter.

Stay tuned for some amazing posts from all of these tremendous bloggers in 2012!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A Quiet Joy: Inwardly Expressive

You can find me over at Introverted Church today, guest posting on the topic of observing the Advent season in a quietly joyful way:

I remember being sad. I was so unbearably sad, and yet there were no tears. I berated myself for the lack of visible emotion; what was wrong with me? Everyone else at the funeral was crying.

I remember being happy. I was blissfully happy and felt at peace with the whole world. My blissful calm was shattered with a single comment from a random stranger: "Cheer up, love, it can't be that bad!"

I remember being excited. Oh, I was excited. I tried to show it, but it felt forced, fake. The bearer of good news noticed as well. "I thought you'd be excited about this."

Always the refrain: What is wrong with me? Why am so woefully inexpressive? I feel so deeply on the inside but it just doesn't show on the outside. A fault, a flaw, a personal shortcoming. How hard can it be to just show what I am feeling...

Read the rest over at Introverted Church!

Introverted Church is run by Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister, spiritual director, hospice chaplain, speaker, and retreat leader. He is currently working on a second book, tentatively entitled "The Listening Life," to be released in 2013. Be sure to follow along with the rest of the "A Quiet Advent" series.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Today I am guest posting at Up, Down & Natural on the topic of routine infant circumcision.

"There are so many myths out there, from physical to emotional to cultural, it's easy for a woman to allow her son's foreskin to be cut off without giving it a second thought. After all, it's just what's done.

I remember thinking that at one point..."

Read the rest over at Up, Down & Natural!

Arpita, the writer behind Up, Down & Natural, is a postpartum doula who blogs about trying to conceive, eco-friendly living, organic eating, ayurvedic medicine, alternative medicine, natural parenting, attachment parenting, and more. In her words: "Sometimes the world of trying to live greener and switching to chemical free organics is enough to turn you upside down. However, when these changes are made for our children and the earth we bring them into, it only seems natural."

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Never-ending cleaning

I scrub house, even though everything just gets dirty again.

Never-ending dishes.

Never-ending laundry.

Never-ending sweeping.

But I do it and it is good and holy work, because all is worship when does as worship.

I scrub heart, even though it just gets dirty again.

Never-ending repentance.

Never-ending forgiveness.

Never-ending sin-scrubbing.

But I do it and I cling to the promise that He will complete this good work He has begun in me.

Never-ending cleaning of home and heart: This, along with my ceaseless thanks and praise, is my daily offering to You. May it bring You glory.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Uploaded by user via Jan on Pinterest

"Keep Christ in Christmas!"

"What is Christmas without Christ?"

"Don't let them take Christ out of Christmas!"

...And so begins the Christmas season.

Instead of fighting to keep Christ in Christmas, be Christ this Christmas.

Instead of complaining, be His hands and feet here on earth.

Instead of condemning, let His love shine through you, bringing glory to Him.

Let go of your righteous indignation and do, be. Volunteer, donate, serve, give, love. Christ is not Someone to lobby for, He is Someone to live for, Someone to live as!

Is this not a season of joy? Then be joyful! Is this not a season of love? Then be loving!

If you want Christmas to be about Christ, then be as Christ.

Here. Now. Today and every day.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

What I Am Into - November 2011

Pardon the quiet around here. Between finishing up the Rod Verses series and preparing for the Christmas season, I've been feeling more than a little spent. I hope you'll forgive me, then, for ignoring the draft folder full of half-finished posts and instead taking a page out of the ever-lovely Megan at SortaCrunchy's blog today by sharing What I've Been Into this past month.

What I'm Into :: NOVEMBER 2011

On My Nightstand:

Fathermucker by Greg Olear. So far, a big disappointment. I was looking forward to reading this one but now I'm not even sure I'll finish it. Mostly because I despise books that make reference to pop culture. I don't want to read about Facebook or Dora or anything like that. I just don't.

Want to Read:

I have a fast-growing stack of books I intend to read as soon as I give up on Fathermucker. Piling up on various counters and bookshelves around here are:

T.V. Show Worth Watching:

Once Upon a Time. You must watch this. From the beginning. Oh wow. I have not loved a show this much since the prematurely-ended piece of brilliance that was Firefly.

As an added bonus to an already incredible show, I saw part of it being filmed this summer. There's just something childishly awesome about being able to say, "that right there! I saw that exact scene being filmed!!!"

In My Kitchen:

Tonight we ate Rosemary Chicken. It was even more amazing than it looks, and that's saying a lot. Oh my. My mouth is already watering at the thought of the few potatoes and mushrooms I tucked away in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

Since I don't yet have a cast iron skillet (Christmas present, anyone??), I skipped the browning step. Instead, after the potatoes had boiled for a few minutes, I piled it all in a glass baking dish, poured the marinade on top, and baked it all for 45 minutes in the 450F oven. It could not have turned out any better. This will definitely become a new favourite in our frequent dinner rotation.

Next week will be the Christmas baking marathon, including white-chocolate-topped gingerbread cookies and white-chocolate cherry shortbread. Yum. Should be an interesting change to last year's spicy gingerbread cookies and lemon thumbprint cookies.

In My Ears:

While I usually listen to The Civil Wars and Rosewood's Diary, the end of November has brought with it my beloved Christmas music. Lots of old family favourites (including, yes, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Alabama) coupled with some newer favourites (Sufjan Stevens, Josh Groban, Sixpence None the Richer, and Weezer) and supplemented with various random Christmas songs I've stumbled upon over the years.

Items of Note:

  • Twelve Causes for Christmas @ Joy in this Journey: "We are going to be the change we want to see, telling the stories of multiple organizations working on the same cause on the same day. We will highlight all the ways they work together where we can."
  • A Quiet Advent @ Introverted Church: "Tomorrow I will post an article of mine that will kick off the series, and then each Sunday I will write a reflection on the Advent theme of the week. During the week we will hear from guest bloggers who are reflecting on Advent and what it would mean to celebrate this season in a quiet way. The Savior is coming, and let's meet him, even amidst the clamor of the cultural celebration, in the quiet of our hearts."
  • Resources for the Season @ Internet Monk: "This afternoon I thought I would pass along some links that might be of help to you or to someone you care about during this Advent and Christmas season. Some provide daily readings, prayers, and other personal devotional materials. Other sites give ideas for creative ways of loving Christ and our neighbors during the holiday season."

Pinterest Finds:

Ah, Pinterest, how I love thee.

I cannot wait to make this cinnamon roll cake. I'm thinking breakfast treat. Maybe even tomorrow morning - happy first of December!

Let it go. I need this reminder as the demands of the Christmas season begin piling on.

Loving this Occupy Christmas idea, courtesy of Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan.

What I'm Looking Forward to in December:

Need it be said? With the Advent season in full swing and Christmas on its way, there is much to look forward to. In less than two weeks, we fly halfway across the country to spend a week with my parents and sisters. A few days after we arrive back home, we hop in the car for the 11 hour drive up to my in-laws' home for another week-long visit. Arriving back home in the new year, I anticipate spending January holed up in my house, recovering from all the Christmas excitement. Even still, I will seek to hold to last Advent's ideals: keeping Advent focused, simple, and intentional.

And with that, I bid good-bye to November and welcome December in all its celebratory glory.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Weekend Reading

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Operation Christmas Child

This week is collection week in Canada for Operation Christmas Child.

If you haven't filled a shoebox yet, there's still time!

Final date for collection in Canada is this Sunday, November 27th.

Check their website (Canada, United States (until Dec 10), UK (until Dec 3), Australia) to find a drop-off location near you, or build a box online!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


There is this moment every evening.

I have just slipped out of the bedroom. The kids are breathing deep and I, for what feels like the first time today, breathe out.

The dishes are drying beside the sink. The books are lined up on the bookshelf (by size, of course). The toys have been put to bed in their appropriate resting places until tomorrow. Only a stray toy car or animal lies in the middle of the floor, overlooked or dropped as boys were corralled to the bedroom.

The emails have been sent, the paperwork tended to, and the work either complete or put off (but the decision to put it off makes it complete for now, in my mind).

The counters have been cleared, the table has been wiped down, and the floor has been swept (maybe). The dryer is humming with clothes that will be folded in the morning.

The day's responsibilities are complete. The house is at peace and so am I. Tea in one hand, journal in the other, I finally let that long-held breath out.

I exhale.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Rod Verses: What are they really saying?

This is the third in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 3 (What are they really saying?) was preceded by Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) and Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally).


The five rod verses included in the Book of Proverbs are often used to support the "biblical model" of corporal punishment of children. Despite the rich figurative language used throughout Proverbs, these rod verses are interpreted literally and then applied in a pseudo-literal manner. These five rod verses include the following:

He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
the rod of correction will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall beat him with a rod,
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

The word translated "rod" comes from Hebrew word "shebet". It is used both literally and figuratively throughout Scripture.

When used literally, "shebet" refers to a shepherd's club (used to protect his sheep), a ruler's sceptre (used to represent his authority), or a tribe. When used figuratively, "shebet" refers to the authority of a person, a nation, or God.

As discussed in Part 1, a literal interpretation of the "shebet" contradicts itself. Exodus 21:12-27 is clear that a man can indeed die from being struck with a rod. Other instances of the rod being used to physically strike someone are referring only to grown adults. Boundaries are provided regarding the use of a rod on slaves. Nowhere in Scripture is there an example of a young child being struck with a rod, nor are any instructions or boundaries given to ensure its judicious use.

We will now look beyond the literal view to the deep meaning and wisdom these proverbs contain.

The Rod as Parental Authority

The Book of Proverbs is rich in figurative language. In Part 2, particular emphasis was placed on the concepts of metaphor, hyperbole, and proverbs as general principles rather than promises or guarantees. With these things in mind, it is logical that a well-known object would be used in Proverbs to bring to mind its culturally-understood symbolism.

If we replace a literal interpretation of the rod with its common figurative use of "authority", we find the rod verses speaking to the idea of parental authority over a child. Such an interpretation removes all contradictions and concerns of the literal view.

A parent's authority is one of purpose, leadership, and teaching. It comes from a place of life experience and has as its goal the idea of transferring this experience - knowledge, lessons, teachings, principles, character, morals, responsibilities, and more - over to the child as he grows. This authority is not intended to be used in an overbearing or selfish manner, but is intended for the benefit of the child.

What does that authority, practically speaking, look like? To examine this concept further, we turn again to the idea of the rod, exploring the rod as Corrective Discipline and the rod as Protective Guidance.

The Rod as Corrective Discipline

Proverbs 22:15 specifies the rod as being a "rod of correction" or, in other translations, a "rod of discipline". Here, the word correction or discipline comes from the Hebrew word "muwcar", meaning "discipline, chastening, correction". Of all 50 instances of this word, the KJV translates it as "instruction" a total of 30 times. It is never used in a manner which specifies physical chastisement.

This word "muwcar" is translated as "instruction" in Proverbs 15:5: "A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent." The connection here is between instruction ("muwcar") and correction ("towkechan"), which means "rebuke, argument, reproof, correction". As with "muwcar", physical punishment is not inherent in this word.

Proverbs 23:13 states: "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die." The two statements are used in a connective manner, with the idea of "beat him with a rod" being an illustration of the first part, "do not withhold correction". The word "beat" comes from the Hebrew word "nakah". This is the same word used in Jonah 4:8 to describe the sun "beating" on Jonah's head. This speaks to the idea of the sun being a constant presence, relentlessly striking down upon him. Likewise, quite apart from dealing physical blows, parental authority and discipline (correction, instruction, teaching, discipling) should be a constant presence in a child's life, even when such correction is unpleasant for the child. As we are reminded in Hebrews, no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but it bears righteous fruit.

Punishment, as understood in our culture, is the use of an undesirable action intended to make the child feel bad in order to reduce or eliminate the desire to exhibit the same behaviour again. The focus is on control over external behaviours to achieve compliance. The word "punish" comes from the Latin "peona", meaning "penalty". To repeatedly demand payment where payment has already been paid (on our behalf through Jesus Christ) is to negate the message of the Gospel.

Discipline is the continuous process of coming alongside the child to teach and guide them into maturity. The focus is on the internal, inspiring proper motives for heart-level obedience. It's goal is to impart knowledge, wisdom, self-control, an understanding of right from wrong, and an internal desire to choose the right course of action.

Proverbs 29:15 tells us that "the rod and rebuke give wisdom." While punishment (including spanking) can be used to modify behaviour (external), it does not impart wisdom (internal). A parent's corrective discipline draws from a much larger base of tools and relies on a strong foundational parent/child relationship. Physical chastisement is unnecessary as a tool to achieve the desired goals of discipline.

The Rod as Protective Guidance

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

-Psalm 23:4

When we consider the picture of the rod as a shepherd's rod, we find two more ideas to add to our understanding: the use of the rod as protection and as guidance.

In his book "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23", shepherd and author Phillip Keller described the use of the shepherd's rod ("shebet") in protecting his sheep:
"...[T]he shepherd boy spends hours practicing with this club, learning how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. It becomes his main weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep.

...The sheep asserts that the owner's rod, his weapon of power, authority and defense, is a continuous comfort to him. For with it the manager is able to carry out effective control of his flock in every situation.

...There is a second dimension in which the rod is used by the shepherd for the welfare of his sheep - namely that of discipline. If anything, the club is used for this purpose perhaps more than any other. If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away on its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch."

A shepherd also carried a second instrument, a staff. In Hebrew, this word is "mish'enah" and means support or staff. Although this word is not used in the rod verses, the idea is worth exploring in order to provide a more complete picture of a shepherd's care of his sheep. Keller described the use of the staff as well:

"The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describes its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their comfort.

Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word 'staff' speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.

...There are three areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a most significant role. The first of these lies in drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become separated.

But in precisely the same way, the staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination. The staff is very useful this way for the shy and timid sheep that normally tend to keep at a distance from the shepherd.

The staff is also used for guiding sheep. Again and again I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it actually to beat the sheep. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal's side and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path."

According to Keller, sheep will not lie down and rest unless they are free of all fear. Thus the rod and the staff are used only for the benefit of the sheep. At no time is either instrument used to strike the sheep. Likewise, our "rod" (parental authority, corrective discipline, and protective guidance) must ultimately be a comfort to our children, never a source of fear.

The Rod Verses Restated

Taking each of these ideas into account, how would the rod verses read if we included all of the rich meaning below the surface, with the figurative language spelled out in a more literal manner?

He who spares his [authoritative discipline and guidance] hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
[a parent's authoritative discipline and guidance] will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you [constantly correct and discipline him in your authority], he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall [constantly correct and discipline him in your authority],
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

[A parent's authoritative discipline] and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

Thus we have explored the concept of metaphor and how it is used in the rod verses. The two other figurative concepts mentioned earlier - hyperbole and generalities - come into play as well. Focusing particularly on Proverbs 23:13-14, we see it stated that this idea of authoritative discipline will cause the child to "not die" and will "deliver his soul from hell". This is both hyperbole (exaggeration) and generality. We understand that a parent does not literally have the power of salvation; Scripture tells us that only the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ can bring about our salvation. Furthermore, proper discipline does not guarantee the salvation of a child.

As parents, however, we have a weighty responsibility and much influence over our children. We must discipline them, instruct them, teach them, guide them, pray for them, and steep them in the knowledge and love of God, all while understanding that their ultimate salvation will come from Christ alone - and indeed, can and has come to many in spite of their parents' failure to properly disciple them.

Further exploration of Proverbs 23:14 leads to another interesting insight. The word "hell" comes from the Hebrew word "she'owl" and has a number of meanings:
  • sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
  • Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
  • place of no return
  • without praise of God
  • wicked sent there for punishment
  • righteous not abandoned to it
  • of the place of exile (fig)
  • of extreme degradation in sin

Here we find the idea of "hell" as the "abode of the [eternally] dead" expanded to also include the meanings "without praise of God" and "of extreme degradation in sin". A parent's authoritative discipline can not only point them towards God (who ultimately has power over their salvation), but can also assist in preventing the child from being "without praise of God" and from entering into "extreme degradation in sin".

The Rest of the Bible

While God's Word is inspired and unchanging, it has also been subject to much cultural interpretation over time. The rod verses have been burdened with man-made ideas of corporal punishment as it relates to children, and much of the wisdom in these verses has been overlooked as a result. When we examine the rod verses alongside the rest of Scripture, we find a very different message than the one usually drawn from them, one of gentleness and mercy alongside authority. Consider the following passages:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
(Matthew 18:1-7)

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
(Mark 10:13-16)

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:21)

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
(Ephesians 4:2)

Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
(Matthew 18:32-33)

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
(John 8:3-7)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21)

What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?
(1 Corinthians 4:21)

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12)


A literal interpretation of the rod verses fails to reveal the rich meaning, wisdom, and truth the proverbs contain. The literal interpretation was examined in Part 1, while the figurative language found throughout the Book of Proverbs was examined in Part 2. Part 3 has looked beyond the literal interpretation to the deeper meaning these verses hold.

The rod was, at the time the Book of Proverbs was written, a culturally-understood representation of authority. In the rod verses, this speaks to the idea of parental authority over a child. This authority is one of vision, leadership, and instruction, with the parent's life experience (knowledge, principles, right-living, and more) transferred from the parent to the child as he grows.

The rod verses also speak to the idea of corrective discipline. Examining the Hebrew words behind these concepts reveals nothing that points specifically to physical chastisement. Rather, we find the idea of a parent's authoritative discipline and correction being a constant presence in a child's life. From a foundation of relationship, this discipline seeks to impart wisdom and generate internal change rather than merely modify external behaviour.

Finally, when examining the picture of the shepherd's rod, along with his co-tool, the staff, we discover the idea of the rod as protective guidance. The shepherd's rod was used to defend and discipline his sheep, and was a symbol of his power, authority, and defense. The shepherd's staff was used to gently lift and guide his sheep, and was a symbol of comfort and compassion. Neither tool was ever used to strike the sheep. Likewise, a parent should use his authority not to instil fear, but to gently protect, guide, and comfort them.

In short, the rod is a picture of a parent's constant authoritative discipline as he gently guides his child along the right path.

For further study:
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the spanking controversy by Samuel Martin
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
A Study of "The Rod" Scriptures
An Answer to Proverbs 23 and 'beatest'
Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical?
Train up a Child in Whose Way?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Rod Verses: Taking other Proverbs literally

This is the second in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally) was preceded by Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) and will be followed by Part 3 (What are they really saying?).


"A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles."

Proverbs 1:5-6

These two verses included in the opening paragraph of the Book of Proverbs give us an important clue as to how the proverbs are to be read. This book is not a set of direct instructions, but is rather proverbial wisdom literature that makes liberal use of metaphor, hyperbole, anthropomorphism, and other types of figurative language, none of which are intended to be taken literally.

Taking Proverbs Literally

In spite of the figurative language used throughout this book of wisdom, there are many who insist upon a literal interpretation of the five "rod verses". This literal interpretation is then applied in a pseudo-literal manner to form the idea of a "biblical model" of corporal punishment of children.

What would it look like if we took other proverbs literally? This is the question we will be exploring. My comments on each will be brief; the concept as a whole will be expanded upon in the "Figurative Language" section below.

Proverbs 1:8-9 "My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck."

Proverbs 6:20-21 "My son, keep your father’s command,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
Bind them continually upon your heart;
Tie them around your neck."

Proverbs 7:1-3 "My son, keep my words,
And treasure my commands within you.
Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart."
These proverbs could be used to make a case for a modified version of Tefillin, with a parent's instructions physically bound around the child's neck.

Proverbs 1:31 "Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies."

Proverbs 18:20 "A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth;
From the produce of his lips he shall be filled."
Just as we recognize that the phrases "fruit of their own way" and "fruit of his mouth" are referring to something other than physical fruit, it is not unreasonable to presume that the phrase "rod of correction" is referring to something other than a physical rod.

Proverbs 3:21b-23 "Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
So they will be life to your soul
And grace to your neck.
Then you will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble."
To read this as a guarantee that the wise will not trip is to miss the bigger picture. Furthermore, reading the proverbs as promises can lead to much spiritual abuse; for instance, the idea that the wise will always be safe (as this proverbs states) lends support to the popular notion that those who experience injury or illness are experiencing the wrath, punishment, or discipline of God.

Proverbs 4:17 "For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence."
The bread of wisdom...the wine of violence...the rod of correction...

Proverbs 10:10 "He who winks with the eye causes trouble,
But a prating fool will fall."
Is this a warning against winking...or is there a larger meaning behind the words, perhaps a warning against being dishonest, sowing discord, mocking others, or tempting others into sin?

Proverbs 12:11 "He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread,
But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.

Proverbs 28:19 "He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!"
These are very wise sayings, yes, but they are not promises or guarantees. Many a hard and faithful worker has fallen on hard times; many who work hard to till their land still go without food; many who are frivolous have more earthly riches than they could ever hope to use.

Proverbs 14:1 "The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands."
A literal interpretation of this would have many of us learning a few new trades; however, it would miss the deeper meaning and true wisdom in this proverb.

Proverbs 14:3 "In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
But the lips of the wise will preserve them."
There's the rod again - only this time, it's a rod of pride. Is there a literal rod in the mouth of the foolish?

Proverbs 17:12 "Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs,
Rather than a fool in his folly."
Truly, I would take the fool over the mama bear robbed of her cubs! But to argue the point would be to miss the point of the verse altogether.

Proverbs 18:22 "He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the LORD."

Proverbs 19:13 "A foolish son is the ruin of his father,
And the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping."
The contrast of these two proverbs is an interesting one. A wife is a good thing, but a contentious wife is (like) a continual dripping. The first proverb is not a definite statement, but rather a generally true idea.

Proverbs 19:4 & 7 "Wealth makes many friends,
But the poor is separated from his friend.
All the brothers of the poor hate him;
How much more do his friends go far from him!
He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him."
All of the brothers of the poor hate him, and all of his friends abandon him. Is this always and invariably true?

Proverbs 19:24 "A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl,
And will not so much as bring it to his mouth again."
I love the imagery here; to take it literally, however, would be foolish.

Proverbs 20:4 "The lazy man will not plow because of winter;
He will beg during harvest and have nothing."
...generally speaking, that is. Many lazy people, in spite of their laziness, do not go without. The Proverbs are not literal truths or guarantees; they are, however, very true when read as the wise sayings they are.

Proverbs 20:13 "Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty;
Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread."
Tired moms like myself are doomed. I love my sleep.

Proverbs 21:9 & 19 "Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop,
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
Better to dwell in the wilderness,
Than with a contentious and angry woman."
Truly better? Is this the advice we should offer to our friends who are having marital troubles, or the tactic a man should employ when living with a contentious and angry woman?

Proverbs 21:17 "He who loves pleasure will be a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not be rich."
The entertainment industry alone proves that this is no promise or guarantee. Many who love pleasure luxuriate in their riches.

Proverbs 23:2 "Put a knife to your throat
If you are a man given to appetite."
The instruction is clear; there is really no gray area here.

Proverbs 26:3 "A whip for the horse,
A bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the fool’s back."
It is interesting that we no longer use corporal punishment on criminals, and yet we strike our children based on similar proverbs.

Proverbs 26:4-5 "Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own eyes." or don't?

Figurative Language

This is only a minute sampling of the proverbs that make use of some type of figurative language. The idea of taking any of the above proverbs literally is unimaginable. Despite this, there are many who read the proverbial rod verses and, ignoring the figurative language they contain, use them to create an entire model of corporal punishment of children. As with other proverbs, this literal interpretation fails to unearth the rich wisdom and meaning the verses contain.

I would like to draw particular attention to two of the forms of figurative language used throughout the Book of Proverbs: metaphor and hyperbole. According to Merriam-Webster, these two terms are defined as follows:

Definition of metaphor:

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money); broadly : figurative language

Definition of hyperbole:

extravagant exaggeration (as “mile-high ice-cream cones”)

In addition to making use of such analogy and exaggeration, it must be stressed that the proverbs are general principles, not promises or guarantees. Interpreting them as promises lends support to many atrocities, including spiritual abuse ("your financial/health/marital struggles are evidence of your unrepentant sin...") and prosperity theology (the "health & wealth gospel").

The Bible includes narrative, prophesy, law, proverbs, poetry, epistles, and more. To take it "literally" where it is not intended to be is to misunderstand it. Scripture must be viewed as a total work and grounded in context (exegesis), not used backwards to support man-made concepts (eisegesis). When reading Scripture, we are to be wise and discerning, testing the spirits, and recognizing hyperbole and metaphors where they clearly exist.


From the above examination, we can draw three conclusions:
  1. Proverbs are not promises or guarantees.
  2. Proverbs make liberal use of metaphor.
  3. Proverbs make liberal use of hyperbole.

With this foundation in mind - first, the comparison between the "biblical model" of corporal punishment of children and the underlying rod verses themselves, and second, the exploration of the figurative language used throughout the Book of Proverbs, we can move on to the meat of the series in Part 3: What are the rod verses really saying?

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Rod Verses: Taking the rod verses literally

This is the first in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) will be followed by Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally) and Part 3 (What are they really saying?).


Many Christians and Christian authors point to the "rod verses" as evidence of God-sanctioned corporal punishment of children. These five verses, all found in Proverbs, include the following:

He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
the rod of correction will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall beat him with a rod,
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

There is also a sixth "verse" frequently referenced: "Spare the rod, spoil the child." This saying, however, is found nowhere in Proverbs nor anywhere else in the Bible. It actually comes from a section of the satirical poem Hudibras written by Samuel Bulter in the 17th century, where he describes a widow suggesting that her suitor could prove his love by whipping himself or letting her whip him.

"Now if you'll venture, for my sake,
To try the toughness of your back,
And suffer (as the rest have done)
The laying of a whipping on,
(And may you prosper in your suit,
As you with equal vigour do't,)
I here engage myself to loose ye,
And free your heels from Caperdewsie.
But since our sex's modesty
Will not allow I should be by,
Bring me, on oath, a fair account,
And honour too, when you have done't,
And I'll admit you to the place
You claim as due in my good grace.
If matrimony and hanging go
By dest'ny, why not whipping too?
What med'cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil'd;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child."

Clearly, this bawdy line is in no way intended to be applied to children. (For further context, the entire text can be read here.)

The "Biblical Model" of Corporal Punishment

Returning to the verses which are found in Proverbs, we will now consider the practical application commonly derived from their literal interpretation.

Popular Christian culture uses these verses to support corporal punishment of children. Numerous Christian parenting authors declare this practice to be not only acceptable, but biblically mandated. There is much hedging about only carrying out this corporal punishment in a "biblical manner". Typically, this "biblical method" of corporal punishment includes the following:
  1. Spankings should only be administered on children between the ages of two and twelve.
  2. Let the child knows that a spanking will be the consequence for disobedience. When said disobedience occurs, tell the child that you must now spank him in order to help him do better in the future. Be sure he knows why he is going to be spanked.
  3. Never spank in anger. The spanking should be carried out in a calm and controlled manner.
  4. Administer the spanking promptly. The spanking should be applied to the child's bottom. Use only an open hand so that you can be sure you are not spanking too hard or too soft (according to some); use only an implement so that the child will not fear your hand (according to others).
  5. The child should be repentant and grateful after the spanking. If the child remains recalcitrant or cries for too long afterwards, another spanking should be administered.
  6. After the spanking is over, reconcile with the child. Pray with him and reconnect through a hug.

With only minor variations, those Christian parenting authors who promote corporal punishment follow this general model, including Michael and Debi Pearl, Gary Ezzo, Tedd Tripp, James Dobson, Chip Ingram, Roy Lessin, Bill Gothard, and more.

Interestingly enough, this "biblical model" is nearly identical to the Spencer Spanking Plan. At first read, one would assume this was yet another set of instructions on child discipline...until reaching the part about wives and husbands. Yes, the Spencer Spanking Plan is in fact instructions for domestic discipline. It was drawn up by Mrs. Dorothy Spencer in the early 1900's and was never intended in any way to be used on children, and yet much of the "biblical model" is drawn directly from it.

The "Biblical Model" and the Rod Verses: Comparing and contrasting

Returning to the proverbs themselves, what would it look like to take them literally, at face-value, and how does that line up with this "biblical model" of physical chastisement? We will go through the "biblical model" step-by-step and examine these questions.

What the model says: 1. Spankings should only be administered on children between the ages of two and twelve.

What the rod verses say: Only strike young men.

The word "child" in these verses refer to a role ("offspring") rather than a particular age. The Hebrew word used in these verses is "na'ar" and is most frequently translated as "young man" throughout the Bible. While the "biblical model" typically recommends that parents stop spanking their children somewhere around 12 years old, the rod verses, if taken literally, would instruct a parent to begin physical chastisement at that age, likely as a last resort to bring a wayward son back in line for his soul's sake.

There is in the Law descriptions of grown men being beaten with a literal rod ("shebet"). Boundaries are given regarding the use of a rod on slaves. There is no such example anywhere in Scripture of a young child being likewise struck with a rod, nor are any instructions or boundaries given to ensure its judicious use.

What the model says: 2. Let the child knows that a spanking will be the consequence for disobedience. When said disobedience occurs, tell the child that you must now spank him in order to help him do better in the future. Be sure he knows why he is going to be spanked.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

There is no reference to this step in any of the verses in question, nor can the "biblical model" be found anywhere in the Bible. Common sense would instruct a parent to be sure a child is aware of any consequences that will be applied as a result of their actions, but the verses themselves have nothing to say on the subject.

What the model says: 3. Never spank in anger. The spanking should be carried out in a calm and controlled manner.

What the rod verses say: Discipline promptly. If you beat him, he will not die.

There is no caveat in the "rod verses" for not spanking in anger. Proverbs 13:24 says only to discipline "promptly". Parenting can be challenging and frustrating; our natural human reaction towards a disobedient child is often at least some measure of anger. And yet no allowance is given for taking time to calm down before administering the rod; it is to be done "promptly".

Proverbs 23:13 assures the parent that the child will not die from the beating. In contrast, Exodus 21:12-27 is clear that a man can indeed die from being struck with a rod. Taking this proverb literally results in a clear contradiction in Scripture.

What the model says: 4. Administer the spanking promptly. The spanking should be applied to the child's bottom. Use only an open hand so that you can be sure you are not spanking too hard or too soft (according to some); use only an implement so that the child will not fear your hand (according to others).

What the rod verses say: Strike the back. Use a rod.

The buttocks is never mentioned in Proverbs. Other verses that refer to striking a grown person with a rod refer only to striking the back (Proverbs 10:13, Proverbs 26:3). There is no biblical backing for striking a child on the buttocks (and for very good reason).

Furthermore, if a rod is what the verses specify, then a rod is what must be used. There is no permission given to substitute the rod with a wooden spoon, paint stirrer, paddle, dowel, belt, strap, switch, plumbing line, glue stick, or hand. A rod ("shebet") is a long, thick stick; this word is used throughout Scripture to refer to a shepherd's staff, a king's scepter, or a tribe. Other Hebrew words, including matteh and choter, are used elsewhere to describe smaller or thinner rods, such as branches or twigs, but the word used in the rod verses is "shebet". This is what must be used if these verses are to be taken literally. (Incidentally, the use of any implement whatsoever when spanking a child is illegal in Canada.)

What the model says: 5. The child should be repentant and grateful after the spanking. If the child remains recalcitrant or cries for too long afterwards, another spanking should be administered.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

Again, the rod verses are silent on this aspect of the "biblical model". Scripture, however, validates the presence of many emotions; Psalms is particularly rich in a variety of emotions.

The "biblical model", on the other hand, recognizes happiness as the only acceptable emotion in a child. In his book "Shepherding a Child’s Heart", Christian author Tedd Tripp instructs parents on how to respond if their child remains angry or distant after being spanked (emphasis added): "If your child is still angry, it’s time for another round. ‘Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking.’" Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, however, quite apart from recommending that a child have his anger spanked out of him, would suggest that a father not provoke his child to such anger in the first place.

What the model says: 6. After the spanking is over, reconcile with the child. Pray with him and reconnect through a hug.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

Once again, there is no support for this aspect of the "biblical model" in the rod verses. Logic would suggest that the ideas of "spanking in love" and "reconciling afterwards" would set a child up for a very unhealthy dynamic in future relationships, but the rod verses have nothing to say on the matter.

What the model suggests: Corporal punishment is God-sanctioned and God-mandated.

What the a literal interpretation of the rod verses says: Ignore the Gospel.

Just rip the whole New Testament right out of your Bible. Proverbs 23:14 clearly states that striking the child with a rod will save his soul from hell. There is no need for a Savior. God's grace through Jesus Christ is not required for salvation. You and your rod can take care of that yourself.

Now that Jesus is no longer part of the picture, we must return to a life under Law rather than under Grace. As the Law states, rebellious sons are to be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). This may be difficult for you as a parent to carry through with; however, the Bible demands it and we must be willing to do as God instructs.


After examining the "biblical model" of corporal punishment, we find no biblical support for any of the steps. The "rod verses" which are used to support this model are silent on most of the steps while contradicting others.

The "biblical model" instructs parents to promptly spank young disobedient children on the buttocks in love (not anger), using either the hand or another instrument, after which the child should be sorrowful and repentant (but not overly dramatic), at which point the parent and child should pray and reconnect with a loving hug.

The rod verses, conversely, if taken literally, instruct parents to strike a disobedient young man on the back with a long, thick rod, which will not kill him and which will bring about his salvation.

The "biblical model", while claiming to be a literal interpretation of the rod verses, neither teaches nor carries out these verses in a literal manner. Considering the vast difference between the "biblical model" and the rod verses, it may be wise to reconsider the meaning behind the rod imagery used in these verses. This will be explored in Part 3 of the series. The proverbs are full of wisdom and truth, and to insist upon a strictly literal interpretation (and pseudo-literal application) is to lose the rich meaning they hold.