spare the rod and spoil the child

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English[edit]

Medieval schoolboy being birched

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Commonly claimed to have come from the King James Version of the Bible, Book of Proverbs, 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

Due to the associated “spoil" concept which is not in the Bible, it more likely came from a 17th-century poem by Samuel Butler called Hudibras. In the poem, a love affair is likened to a child, and spanking is mockingly commended as a way to make the love grow stronger. The actual verse reads:[1]

  • “What medicine else can cure the fits
    Of lovers when they lose their wits?
    Love is a boy by poets styled
    Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Proverb[edit]

spare the rod and spoil the child

  1. If one does not discipline a child, he or she will never learn obedience and good manners.

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