A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child

The recent case of an Indian couple put behind bars in Norway, for beating their child, has set the debate on the relevance of spanking by parents out in the open, once again. Sometime back, spanking by teachers was discussed feverishly and soon banned after a few instances of spanked (and abused in a few cases) children committing suicides.

But spanking by parents? How can this be seen as gross abuse?

In India, disciplining through spanking or beating is de rigueur and has been seen from time immemorial. If all of us have been brought up on the stories of motherly love that Yashoda had for the child Krishna, then we are also aware of the pranks the child played and how he was publicly punished by getting his ears pulled or physically tied to tree trunks. These punitive measures were seen only as a mode of discipline and not an abuse. Not once has anybody felt that the love between the mother-child could have suffered a blow due to such measures and that Lord Krishna could have grown a disturbed young man!

Another very evocative and provocative depiction of disciplining a child is that of Venus chastising her prankish son, Cupid. According to a myth, once Cupid, who was the son of Venus, makes his mother fall in love with Mars, the god of war. Venus was caught by the gods and ridiculed for doing this and in retaliation, Venus is seen chastising Cupid. This has been the subject of many Renaissance painters, like the one given along, which is by Jean-Marc Nattier, titled Venus Chastising Cupid, dated 1717. Not all such paintings evoke the mother’s wrath, so beautifully. Many other painters have depicted the incident differently where it is Mars spanking Cupid’s bare body with much anger and rage that actually disturbs the viewer. (For obvious reasons, I have not shown the said painting)

Samuel Butler (17th century English poet) is credited with coining the well known adage ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ in his poem, “Hudibras”. I don’t know his source of inspiration, but the King James Version of Book of Proverbs (Bible), has a few proverbs which could give us some clue –

  • "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Proverbs 13:24) 
  • "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." (Proverbs 23:14)  &  
  • "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Proverbs 29:15)

Indians seem to agree with the Biblical view of discipline and it is seen as a means of expressing ones concern for the child and its future. The colonial hang-up of disciplining by ‘hammering’ has stayed on even when the Colonial bosses have moved back and changed. Convent schools till about a decade back resorted to disciplining by caning and public flogging and how much scars they left on the heart/mind is not known to me, but yes they sure did leave a few on the posterior, besides acting as a major deterrent to the alleged acts of transgression that the students would have committed.

The above can be summed up in one single proverb – 'If you love your children you will correct them; if you don't love them, you won't correct them' (Proverbs 13:24)

So am I a votary of spanking children? Heavens, No! (that too not on Internet!!!!) – No…..read my keyboard N, O, NO!

I am strictly against raising a hand, leave aside raising a cane, lest my child end up raising Cain! Times have changed just as means of child-rearing has. Just as reusable cotton nappies have given way to diapers so has methods of discipline. No more can spanking be used as a means of discipline, as modern psychologists will tell you that it would leave a life-long scar on the infant’s mind. So today, we seek the help of counselors and their ilk. Physical punishments have to be given way to depriving them of child-benefits (didn’t have them when I was a child!). New terminology like ‘time-outs’, ‘grounding’ and ‘non-punitive measures’ are doing the rounds. Good to understand then in details, than end up behind bars!!

Surprisingly our parents (and theirs) had more children and fewer troubles, while we have fewer children but more troubles. Is the nuclear family, dual-income couples, less time with children, lack of siblings, screen-fetish, etc. to be blamed? I don’t know. That’s for the subject matter experts to tell you. But no harm in sparing the child and letting the rod rust, and still hope to make a man out of your little devil! Or better still, move with the times and explore the modern means of disciplining ones children. The only saving grace is, today’s parents have lesser number to chastise!!

On conclusion, I can’t help but imagine the condition of some of the mythological mothers if they lived in modern times, viz. Yashoda, Kunti and above all, Gandhari!!

Thank god for the mythological times, they seem to have got away with everything……just about everything!!!!

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