Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?


Dear Askdescamp:

I have two boys, ages 3 and 6.  While I believe our kids are pretty normally behaved, my husband thinks they are out of control.  I admit they get very rowdy sometimes and since we got a puppy a few months ago for Christmas the children have a tendency to be louder, more hyper and sometimes physical with the dog.

They don’t mean to be aggressive, but sometimes they will pull on her ears or chase her and the ensuing noise and chaos is driving my husband crazy (he works from home, I am a stay-at-home mom).

My husband was very frustrated last week and spanked our eldest son after he knocked over a vase of flowers while chasing the dog.  We have never spanked our kids before and I was extremely angry and upset.  Since that incident, my husband has announced he sees nothing wrong with occasional corporal punishment.  He has said “spare the rod, spoil the child” and thinks we should consider spanking as a tool for punishment.  I totally disagree.

What do you think of spanking and how should we handle this important conflict?  I think we need to be on the same page here.

Mommy of Two in New Orleans

Dear Mommy:

Spanking a toddler for chasing a puppy you chose to bring home is like slapping the nurse at the doctor’s office when they weigh you and you’ve jumped up ten pounds because of your love affair with cheese.


I disagree mightily with your husband on the subject of spanking or otherwise hurting children to teach them to behave.

We emailed a bit and I know there are other behavioral issues at play, but they all sound very normal to me.  Your older son is doing well in preschool and your younger son is in a daycare playgroup three hours a day, three days a week.  You have not received complaints about either son’s behavior except once when your little one was biting his friends.

That’s totally normal, by the way.  I still do that from time to time…


This is one of those subjects I wish people would talk about before having kids, because to say “you should be on the same page” about whether or not to use violence with your children is a work of art in the understatement category.  The last time I saw an understatement this exquisite was when the owner of a home for sale said “If you can get past that little problem, you’ll have a wonderful place to live.”

The home had a wee bit of a troubled past, as Jeffrey Dahmer grew up there, lured a hitchhiker to the property, killed him, and buried his remains on the wooded lot.


Back to you and your specific questions:

1. What does AskDesCamp think of spanking or other violent acts perpetrated on little people?*  I think it’s barbaric and a form of punishment used by people too stupid and lazy to engage their entire mind to solve a problem instead of just the reptilian portion.

Think about how tiny children are compared to adults and how terrifying it must be for them to be assaulted by someone not only several times their size, but whom they love and trust.

For some perspective, I suggest your husband (who you told me is 5’8″ and 160 pounds) go to the next New Orleans Pelicans game and start heckling Alexis Ajinça.  He’s French so he may not be willing to fight, but maybe living in the US has rubbed off on him and he can be baited into a physical altercation.  He’s a rather large fellow:


Tell your hubby to bring a bullhorn to the game and start chanting that Alexis is a “cheese-eating surrender monkey,” a fabulous instigation tool since it is both an insult to his homeland and can be construed in a decidedly racist manner.

Perhaps a little dust-up with someone so much bigger will impress upon your children’s father that hitting kids is not OK.

I had an argument with a woman recently over the spanking issue and as did your husband, she used the phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child.”



Ironically (hardly anything people refer to as “ironic” actually is so I’m really excited right now!) the phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child” is not from the Bible as many people think but from 17th-century writer Samuel Butler’s satirical poem “Hudibras.”

Like Butler’s novel “The Way of All Flesh,” “Hudibras” was written in part to bring to light and protest violence against children. How sad that this phrase is used by intellectually lazy abusers to justify violence against children.

2. How do you handle this conflict with your husband?  I suggest a few things.

a) Embark upon an education project.



Besides lots of awesome free pornography, the internet has other valuable information…who knew?  A three-second search led me to this great link, so please check it out and pass it along to your husband: 10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids.

b) Make it clear you will not tolerate violence in your home.  I do not think it’s unreasonable to threaten divorce against a spouse who insists on corporal punishment.

c) You told me your husband is not happy working from home and has only been doing that since he was laid off a year ago and started a consulting business.  Mommy, you gotta get this guy back in an office, STAT.


I know he’s earning great money from his new business and for that reason has chosen not to go back to working for a corporation, so here’s my suggestion: help him find an office space that makes sense for his business and send him off.

Shit, drop him at your local Starbucks with all the other “Watch Me Working, I’m So Important!” folks if an office is not what he wants.  Man, I hate those people.


d) Finally, ask your husband this simple question: do you think it’s OK to hit ME if I do something really wrong?  Unless he’s an idiot he will say no, at which point defending hitting the defenseless will seem pretty indefensible.

e) If all else fails, seek joint counseling with someone you both trust and respect.  I truly hope it doesn’t come to that, since this is sort of a no-brainer.  It is probably not a coincidence that your husband is unhappy working from home and has suddenly decided hitting the kids is OK.  It sounds like he is really frustrated and exasperated.  Perhaps that should be explored in therapy as well.

Best of luck,


*By “little people” I meant children, though I’d like to go on the record as being against violence perpetrated against dwarves, midgets and the like, especially midget-tossing, which seems needlessly cruel and pointless besides.




This Post Has One Comment

  1. ali whiting

    Best suggestion ever- ask if it’s okay to hit me. Talk about a fabulous question to provide perspective. Kudos!

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