Recently, in a computer chatroom, I had a conversation about child discipline. Someone started the topic by asking what a "rod" should be in terms of giving the "rod of correction" to a 16 month old child. I started providing some of the caveats that really need to be given, such as that (1) it must be for the child's good, not to satisfy one's own anger; (2) the severity of the chastisement must be tailored to the child's age / personality and the offense; (3) the discipline provided must be consistent; and (4) the punishment must follow as soon as practical upon the infraction. Those things said, the "rod" is the general term for any means of measured, reasonable physical correction: aka corporal discipline.
About this time in the conversation, someone jumped in who had fairly strong opinions on the topic. He (I say, "he" because I don't know whether this person was a man, woman, or child) jumped in to argue against using the rod.
His first argument was, "My parents didn't use the rod on me, and I turned out fine." (I am paraphrasing throughout this discussion)
I tried to steer the conversation back to Scripture, but I was surprised (it was a Christian chatroom after all) to find that the person wasn't much interested in what Scripture had to say about the topic. Instead, the person seemed to think the idea of spanking children was barbaric, and the Scriptural testimony was largely irrelevant.
I say "seemed to think" because he wouldn't really say what he thought about the Bible, even after being asked about a dozen times. Instead, he got increasingly hostile, eventually telling folks in the chatroom that they shouldn't reproduce and that if they'd give him their addresses he'd come over and neuter them!
When he got too insulting, he got kicked from the room (not by me), but it was an interesting experience.
The most painful irony was the fact that the guy tried to argue from his experience at the beginning, but at the end I think the crowd probably was thinking to themselves that this guy was someone who would have benefited from having his hide tanned when he was younger.
I don't mean to make it personally about this guy. It really shouldn't be that way. There are much more gracious and temperate anti-rod folk out there. Ultimately, though, they cannot make a Biblical case for their position. That's because in Scripture, corporal discipline (spanking one's children) is the norm.
That doesn't mean we have resort to the rod as the very first resort in every case, while trying to inflict a maximum amount of pain. That's a caricature. On the other hand, what the Bible tells us is that a loving father physically disciplines his son, while a foolish father coddles his son.
There are some people that try to interpret the "rod" as being things like "time outs" and revoking privileges - but believers have consistently interpreted Scripture to mean actually, you know, giving your son a few whacks with a wooden stick. Here's what one ancient commentator wrote:
1 He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end. 2 He that chastiseth his son shall have joy in him, and shall rejoice of him among his acquaintance. 3 He that teacheth his son grieveth the enemy: and before his friends he shall rejoice of him. 4 Though his father die, yet he is as though he were not dead: for he hath left one behind him that is like himself. 5 While he lived, he saw and rejoiced in him: and when he died, he was not sorrowful. 6 He left behind him an avenger against his enemies, and one that shall requite kindness to his friends. 7 He that maketh too much of his son shall bind up his wounds; and his bowels will be troubled at every cry.
8 An horse not broken becometh headstrong: and a child left to himself will be wilful. 9 Cocker thy child, and he shall make thee afraid: play with him, and he will bring thee to heaviness. 10 Laugh not with him, lest thou have sorrow with him, and lest thou gnash thy teeth in the end. 11 Give him no liberty in his youth, and wink not at his follies. 12 Bow down his neck while he is young, and beat him on the sides while he is a child, lest he wax stubborn, and be disobedient unto thee, and so bring sorrow to thine heart. 13 Chastise thy son, and hold him to labour, lest his lewd behaviour be an offence unto thee.
This may be a little extreme: "no liberty" seems to be excessive. The point is that this ancient (perhaps 2nd or 3rd century before Christ) commentary clearly understood the Scriptural teaching regarding how children are to be raised as implying physically training them, noting that this is for the child's good, for the parents' good, and against the interest of one's enemies.
This last observation, "He that teacheth his son grieveth the enemy" (vs. 3 above) is quite good. The enemy absolutely hates to see us properly training our children - he loves lax discipline, because it makes his job of turning them from the right way easier.
Grieve the devil, use the rod of correction diligently.