Spare the rod and spoil the child *


‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ is a proverb, it means ‘to be strict with your child, if you don’t, the child will get spoilt’. The rod here means a stick.

I’m convinced that it was started by those grown- ups who neither had the time nor the patience to spend time with their children. So they conveniently decided to frighten the child into mute obedience, lest he or she decided to voice his or her opinion. Okay! Maybe, this view of mine is too radical (extreme in nature), but then isn’t it quite close to the truth? Why can’t the children argue? Why can’t they decide not to do something? And why should they behave like trained parrots—made to repeatedly recite poetry in front of guests (to show off their newly acquired English language skills) and bore the guests to death in the bargain? Let the kids be, stop pushing them to the wall.

This conversation reminds me of Oliver Twist, from Charles Dickens’ The Adventures of Oliver twist. Oliver, the protagonist is a nine year old boy; he lives in the parish workhouse. The boys here are “issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays.”

There’s a heart- wrenching episode in the novel where little Oliver asks for more gruel (thin porridge): “Please, Sir, I want some more.” This is what follows:

‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.

‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’

The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

Coming back to the proverb:

The original proverb is something like this: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

Also, Samuel Butler in his satirical poem, Hudibras, used these lines (that are now used).

Love is a Boy,
by Poets styl’d,
Then Spare the Rod,
and spill the Child.

‘Spill’, means spoil

The other day, I bought a game called ‘Speller’ for my daughter. Pretty interesting, I must say—there are three packs of cards with 900 spellings. Mind you, they are tough; even I couldn’t fathom (work out) some of the spellings.  Invest in such games, they’re brainy and kids effortlessly pick up important things. There are spellers for junior as well as senior kids.

A query from a reader:

What is the difference between ‘vacillate and oscillate’?

They mean the same:

Dither, waver, fluctuate, move from side to side, being undecided about something


— The customer vacillated between his decision, to buy or not to buy.

— Be firm in your resolve; don’t oscillate from time- to- time.

Okay, let me introduce you to a new term. Have you heard this word before ‘shilly-shally’?

‘Shilly-shally’ can be used as a noun and as a verb.

As a noun, it has one meaning:

It means procrastinating or deferring an action.

As a verb, it has two meanings:

  1. To be uncertain
  2. To postpone doing something that one should be doing


Don’t shilly-shally visiting a doctor.

  • I told her to visit her doctor, but she shilly-shallied and now she’s so ill.
  • The whole project, after his ouster, (removal) is in a shilly-shally.

For now, this is it.

Keep smiling…

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