Spare the Rod: Don’t Hit!

I am far from an expert on the Bible, but over the past few weeks I’ve been learning quite a bit.

In Matthew 7:12 it says: “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

The question is: how is this being accomplished when we spank a child? Does anybody really want to be spanked? Yes I know, some people like to be spanked. Hey, some people like to roll around in broken glass (like Iggy Pop), but that doesn’t mean it’s a good punishment for our kids! I know I’d rather be spoken to about a problem than beaten over it.

I got to wondering, does the Bible really say that if I love my child, I need to “rod” him when he misbehaves? Does it REALLY say this?

So I did some research, and here’s what I found in the Old Testament:

“He who spares the rod hates his son. But he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” — Proverbs, Chapter 13, Verse 24

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. But the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” — Proverbs, Chapter 22, verse 15

“Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell.” — Proverbs, Chapter 23, verse 14

“Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” — Proverbs, Chapter 23, verse 13

This section of the Bible could have easily been called Corporal Punishment 101.

In A.J. Jacobs fantastic book, The Year of Living Biblically, he attempts to follow the “letter of the law” in Proverbs.

Unable to convince himself to buy an actual rod or paddle to discipline his son with, the author buys a “spongy Nerf bat.” On the surface it’s a comical moment, but if you dig a little deeper it’s not funny at all.

“After dinner he (his son Jasper) grabs a handful of nickels off the dresser and chucks them across the room. So I take the Nerf bat and smack Jasper’s butt with it. I’ve never spanked him before, despite several temptations to do otherwise. When I swing my bat, even though it’s spongy and harmless, I break some sort of barrier — I have now punished my son physically.

It’s an unsettling feeling. It drives home just how lopsided the relationship is. Parents have God-like physical dominance over their kids, at least when those kids have yet to reach puberty. Jasper seems undisturbed by all this. He responds by laughing hysterically, grabbing his wiffle bat, and attempting to smack me back.

So I’m basically sanctioning violence here. The rod is a fiasco. But here’s the thing, I agree with the gist of Proverbs. I need to discipline my son more. I need to give Jasper some tough love, dispense more timeouts, or risk having him turn into a three-foot tall monster…I’ve got to get stricter…”

I agree with Jacobs. It’s not about copping out of dispensing discipline, it’s about dispensing the best kind of discipline.

Jacobs’ problem is that he’s been incapable of following through on ANY form of discipline (not good for anybody involved). This is made obvious by the way his son reacts to being “struck” by the Nerf bat.

Jasper had no fear. Why? Because he fully trusts that his father has no intention to cause him hurt or pain. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, with no effective form of discipline Jasper has no respect for his father’s word. In turn, there’s never a realistic consequence for his actions, so he does what he wants. Not good.

Now exchange the Nerf bat with an actual rod, coupled with intent to “discipline,” and suddenly fear enters the picture. In this case, Jasper will probably stop the unwanted behavior because there’s a real consequence — but what has he learned?

The truth is, kids can be reasoned with. I’ve experienced it first hand. Zig Ziglar, one of my mentors, says, “people often act as you treat them.” Treat a child like they are capable of reasoning, of understanding, and they will be — especially if you nurture that.

Nurture them to a higher place. Not to a base level of fear. Stopping an action through fear does not teach virtue or ethical lessons. It teaches kids to distrust. Is that what you want for your kids? To go through life without real trust? What kind of relationships will they have with people? Their spouse and their kids? How will they perceive themselves?

In his book, A Little Book of Parenting SkillsMark Brady, PhD., explains:
“A parent’s role fulfills a sacred trust: one intended to safely help grow the heart, mind, brain and body of a vulnerable human being. No matter what you think, or what your own parents did that made you ‘turn out alright,’ hitting children violates that sacred trust.

Modern brain imaging studies clearly show that hitting children disrupts and disorganizes the developing structures of the body and brain. The home that used to be a safe refuge, no longer is. The people who used to be the ones a child could turn to for safety, no longer are. With nowhere safe to go, and no one available to turn to for soothing and help in regulating emotional distress, the world becomes an overwhelming, confusing, unmanageable place.”

My kids are two & four. They understand plenty good when I reason with them, or speak with them about the positive and negative consequences associated with their actions. The key, and the hard part, is keeping my word and following through with whatever consequence I dish out.

In Part 2 of this series I’ll consider the possibility that, if only taken literally, the Bible may be misinterpreted because the word of God is out of context. 6000 years have passed since the Old Testament was written. The meaning of words and concepts has changed drastically over 60 centuries.

And remember, you are not alone…

If you like this post, Stumble It!

Related Links:
Spare the Rod: Don’t Hit (Part 2)
Spare the Rod, Don’t Hit (Part 3)
Never Hit a Child
Equal Rights for Kids: Don’t Hit (Part 1)
Equal Rights for Kids: Don’t Hit (Part 2)
Equal Rights for Kids: Let Your Kids Decide

The Daddy Brain Book Guide: Resources & Reccomendations


Picture 7

This resource guide is designed for both dads and moms. As I put together the list, I realized that most of my sources were not “parenting books.” Rather, they’re books and audio books (perfect for people with long commutes) about all facets of life that have either affirmed or influenced me — as a parent, a husband and a spiritual being. Some help me develop philosophies on how to treat my children, while others enlighten me about what to teach them. Everything is linked to Amazon, so you can learn more about each book… 

Books by Dr. Mark Brady, PhD:
– A Little Book of Parenting Skills
– Right Listening (formerly A Father’s Book of Listening)
– The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad,
by Joel Schwartzberg

– – – –

– Conversations with God, by Neil Donald Walsch
– Good Book, by David Plotz
– Spirit Healing: How to Make Your Life Work, by Mary Dean Atwood
– Eagle Vision: Return of the Hoop, by Ed McGaa, Eagle Man
– The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs
(I highly recommend the unabridged audio book)
– Zen and the Art of Poker, by Larry W. Phillips
(you must understand the game of poker to get the most from this book)
– Zen in the Art of Climbing Mountains, by Neville Shulman
(no mountain climbing experience necessary)

– – – –  

– Tribes, by Seth Godin
– Zen in the Art of Climbing Mountains, by Neville Shulman
– Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D. 

Books and Audio Books by Zig Ziglar:

– See You at The Top (definitely read this one first)
– Over The Top
– Zig: The Autobiography of Zig Ziglar

Audio Books
– Goals
– Success and the Self Image
– A View From The Top
– How to be a Winner

– – – –  

(Note: all of Zig Ziglar’s books fall under this category as well)

– The Sedona Method, by Hale Dwoskin

Audio Books
– The Sedona Method,
 by Hale Dwoskin
(The CD’s are expensive, but they can also be life changing) 

– – – –  

– How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer

Books & audio books by Malcolm Gladwell:
(Highly recommended in audio book form, Malcolm is an excellent reader)
– The Tipping Point
– Blink
– Outliers

– – – –  

– Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
– Some Dogs Do, by Jez Alborough
– The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson
– The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


On Parenting: An Interview with Mark Brady, Ph.D (PART 3)


Mark Brady, Ph.D., is a dad, an award-winning author, a teacher and trainer. He has taught Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) courses for the last 12 years. Mark has also written numerous articles for journals and magazines.

In Part 1 & Part 2 of our interview, Mark and I discussed emotional abuse, the impact of yelling at our kids, hitting and parental exhaustion/stress.

And now, Part 3…

DB: I do not hit my children. I think it is wrong. Do you have any insight as to why some parents think it is OK? Is it upbringing? The need for control?

MB: It’s difficult to generalize, but research suggests that parents who hit children were themselves hit by their parents.

From their perspective, they were hit and “they turned out all right.” My response to this assertion is: “Compared to what?”  How might you have turned out had your fear circuits not been intermittently triggered in ways that make the world look like a dangerous and difficult place?

Up until they acquire language — between age two and three — children are “citizens of the world.” By that, I mean, they don’t discriminate in any way. Once the fear circuitry gets overly activated, the world begins to become rigidly separated into “us and them.”

Out of this separation all wars are born.

Interestingly, in The Mindful Brain, Siegel points to research showing how fear of people different than us subsides when EF (Executive Function) improves. Improved EF allows us to “use words, not war.”

DB: How do we begin to change their opinion to help future generations become more civilized? Or is that an impossible task?

MB: It’s not an impossible task.

Essentially, Step One is realizing it’s possible for them to gain greater neural integration, and thus, greater ability to regulate their own emotions.

Step Two is then actually doing that work, which can often be painful and difficult. Joseph Campbell called such work, The Hero(ine)’s Journey. And he called it that for good reason. It’s rarely a cakewalk for those who take it on.

Step Three is reaping the benefits that come from greater neural connectivity and integration. And they are considerable (again, see Siegel’s, Mindful Brain book or Parenting From the Inside Out, or my book, A Little Book of Parenting Skills).

DB: In your opinion, if we could only get one thing right as parents, what would be at the top of the list of importance?

MB: Secure attachment. All things good stem from that.

But if we don’t have it ourselves, it’s not something that we co-create with our children as a matter of course. If we didn’t have it, it takes reading, learning and real work to earn it for ourselves, and then to be able to recreate it for our kids.

In A Little Book of Parenting Skills, you’ll notice that I have three different pieces in there on “relationship repair.” (The brain learns best with repetition and practice).

First knowing that a relationship even needs repair, then knowing the importance of repairing it, and then actually doing the WORK of repair — understanding and accepting our role in any breaks or damage, sincerely apologizing for them, and then finding out how things can be patched up — is an important part of creating secure attachment. It’s part and parcel of answering The Big Brain Question … YES!

DB: Can you elaborate a bit more on the meaning of secure attachment?

MB: Attachment is actually a formal field of study. This intro on Wikipedia will help, I think:

If I was to explain it simply it would be that a child finds comfort and ease of emotional regulation with a primary caretaker. It’s this relationship that works most powerfully and most easily to reduce adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body and brain, which results in calming and soothing.

Eventually, this ease of neurochemical regulation gets transferred from caretaker to self — thus allowing a child to begin to regulate their own emotional states, which allows for greater social and emotional growth and ease.

(Check out the story on my Web site: The Kindness of Children to read about a kid with disorganized attachment who can’t self-regulate, and what was done to help.)

Well, we’ve reached the end of the interview. I’d like to thank Mark for taking the time to share with us. I hope you have found his words as helpful and insightful as I have.

And remember, you are not alone…

You can find many of Mark’s books, including the one pictured above, on, Paideia Press (414-828-6275,, or many fine online book retailers.

Related links:
How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 1
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 1
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 2

On Parenting: An Interview with Mark Brady, Ph.D (Part 2)

Mark Brady, Ph.D., is a dad, an award-winning author, a teacher and trainer. He has taught Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) courses for the last 12 years. Mark has also written numerous articles for journals and magazines. His latest book, A Father’s Book of Listening, is an insightful, relevant guide for the modern-day dad.

In Part 1 of our interview, Mark and I discussed emotional abuse, the impact of yelling at our kids and parental exhaustion/stress.

And now, Part 2…

Daddy Brain: Many of my readers are concerned with lack of time with kids & exhaustion. What are your thoughts on those subjects?

Mark Brady: This is a serious problem in modern life. Much more serious than people realize, particularly in the first three years of children’s lives. I’ll explain a bit about why that is below, but essentially the airline instruction for parents to put on their own oxygen mask first applies to parents on or off an airplane — both literally and figuratively! Oxygen is the fuel of brain function.

DB: What are the long-term effects of exhaustion on the brain?

MB: I find it VERY useful to think of the brain simply as an organ that processes energy and information, kind of like a computer. It’s obviously much more, and much more complex than this, but this metaphor is useful, particularly in terms of understanding where the difficulties lay that parents encounter, and then empowering them to do something about them.

So, how do we know when our computer’s malfunctioning and needs to be rebooted? Simple: we don’t feel good. We’re tired, emotionally upset or frightened in some way. A brain that’s processing energy and information effectively across all its neural network, feels good in what I call the heart-brain-mind-body.

It’s not that our kids are misbehaving, usually. It’s that our brains can’t adequately process the energy and information it’s receiving in the moment. If this condition persists long enough, we can get seriously ill. Two books that explain how this happens in great detail are Gabor Mate’s, When the Body Says No, and Bob Scaer’s, The Body Bears the Burden.

DB: What kind of damage is caused to parents when our kids are yelling at us!

MB: Parents have much greater neural connectivity in their brains than most children do, and generally can effectively handle large bursts of “energy and information” that come from children.

But not always. I’m sure many of your readers may have experienced or witnessed kids yelling at their parents and getting a rapid, reactive slap in response — a perfect example of a parent’s brain receiving more energy and information than it could handle, having their limbic system hijacked, and reacting impulsively.

In such a situation, it is the parents who have the work to do. Which is mostly the case whenever our limbic systems are hijacked — and this happens way more than many of us probably even realize. Here’s a Web site that uses LeDoux’s work to explain limbic hijacking briefly: Google “limbic hijacking” for further explanation.

DB: Why have you chosen this niche to focus on? Why do you want to help kids and parents so badly?

MB: Much of the work in developmental neuroscience in recent years indicates that the period from five weeks in utero, through roughly age three when language is fully developed, is CRITICAL in human development. Things that happen during this period profoundly shape children’s world views.

Here’s what Bob Scaer, an MD who’s an expert in the effects of trauma, has to say about it: “The cumulative experiences of ‘life’s little traumas’ shape virtually every single aspect of existence. This accumulation of negative life experiences molds one’s personality, choices of mate, profession, clothes, appetite, pet peeves, social behaviors, posture, and most specifically, our state of physical and mental health.” 

Whether Scaer’s correct or not, doesn’t really matter. I’ve decided that if I can bring this awareness to parents — that what they do during the first three years REALLY matters, and not just for the first three years, but for all of their children’s lives — perhaps greater “energy and information” can be devoted to making those years the absolute best they can be for kids AND parents. For more information, check out:

Click here for Part 3 of  the interview.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related Links:
How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 1
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 1
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 2

You can find many of Mark’s books, including this one, through, Paideia Press (414-828-6275,, or many fine online book retailers.



On Parenting: An Interview with Mark Brady, Ph.D. (Part 1)


Mark Brady, Ph.D., is a dad, an award-winning author, a teacher and trainer. He has taught Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) courses for the last 12 years. Mark has also written numerous articles for journals and magazines.

A few weeks ago, Mark was kind enough to send me a couple of his parenting books to review. I immediately found them insightful, relevant and very helpful. You may have noticed I’ve been quoting him in some of my recent posts. His knowledge and experience lend a scientific aspect that I am not capable of providing on my own.

Somewhere along the way, my Idea to write a post introducing you to Mark turned into an interview on a most important subject: our kids.

And now, part 1 of the interview…

Daddy Brain: What is your definition of emotional abuse as related to yelling at kids? Does it have a tipping point, depending on frequency of yelling and duration of each yelling episode?

Mark Brady: What determines whether yelling is abuse or not is how it affects the brain and body of a child. Context is important, as is content.  If the yelling produces sustained adrenaline and cortisol levels in the child, then a case can be made for abuse.

Excessive glucocorticoid release damages neural development in two ways: it directly kills brain neurons first of all.  Secondly, the brain regularly activates a process of neural housekeeping called apoptosis. The neurons that get used the most are kept, those not used or used less often are pruned away.

If the home becomes a less than safe place because a child’s limbic system needs to constantly be hypervigilant, then whatever requires that vigilance, is contributing to abuse. Why? Because apoptosis preserves neurons in the limbic structures at the expense of developing neural structures in the prefrontal “executive-creative” areas of the brain.

Without adequate development and integration of the executive areas, children’s immune systems often become compromised along with their ability to regulate their emotions easily.  (See the story The Kindness of Children for a good explanation:

DB: More specifically, does yelling: “No! Stop that!” have the same damaging impact as, “What is wrong with you? Stop that!” I’m just wondering if content matters (I think it does), or is it more that yelling in-and-of-itself is the bad thing?

MB: Anything that’s shaming or humiliating can have lifelong negative impact, especially if a child remains “stuck” or still in response. You can read an account of an incident that happened to me in middle school here: The Anatomy of an Upset.

The best thing that I could have done in response to this incident would have been to stand up and say, “I don’t appreciate you attempting to humiliate me like that. I’m going to the office and ask to be transferred to another class.”  And then I should have walked out of the room.

DB: Is there a way to “undo” damage that occurs from yelling?

MB: The way to “undo” potential damage is to do whatever works to get the adrenaline and cortisol, which are necessary neurochemicals gone bad under stress, turning them into neurotoxins, out of the body. Physical movement, especially movement that has the arms and legs cross the midline of the body, like Smart Moves or Brain Gym, works especially well. 

Crying is actually helpful, since tears serve an endogenic cleansing function – tears are often filled with neurochemicals. Prosody is a powerful thing that works to reduce adrenaline and cortisol, although most parents rarely have the capacity to use it effectively in the heat of a stress reaction. 

DB: What advice would you give to a stressed out, exhausted parent to help them stop yelling (for arguments sake, let’s say the really want to stop yelling but are having trouble doing so)

MB: I actually give that advice here: The reason this is so important is because it works to effectively increase parents’ capacities to manage their own stress. 

If parents work to continually add neural resources to their own network, then they have a much improved, greater capacity to manage their own life stresses and responsibilities as a parent. If they don’t do this work, they are often destined to perpetrate the sins of their own parents, particularly under stress.  😦

A few days after I received this portion of the interview (we’ve been communicating via e-mail), this happened…

DB: Unfortunately, I had a meltdown today. The kids were out of control and I didn’t deal well at all. I yelled quite a bit. Your books have helped me very much. Until today, I’ve been holding it together pretty well. But now I’m afraid I’ve damaged my boys forever. God, this is so hard…

We’re living in Wisconsin, 800 miles from everything and everybody we know. Hope you are doing better than I am right now…

MB: Sounds painfully overwhelming. And I’m sure the isolation doesn’t help. The good news is that once they’ve stopped holding your limbic system hostage, you can have a discussion with them about what made you so upset. And yes, this IS hard. That’s one of the reasons I consider this the most important job in the world. Keep breathing.  

I shared this last portion of our conversation for many reasons:

(1) Just because I don’t believe in yelling doesn’t mean I am always able to stop myself from doing so.
(2) Like most dads I know, I don’t get much chance to talk about this stuff. When feelings of regret and shame remain bottled up inside, it’s just not healthy.
(3) I spoke with my boys (2 & 4 years old) the next day about what happened. I let them know what was going on for me, and why I got so upset. I related to them that there are other, more successful (less agitating) ways for them to communicate with me when they are upset, or need of something.


Not once did I blame them for my actions. It would be wrong to guilt them because I could not control myself (no matter how unbearable their crying and screaming might have been). I also apologized for how I acted. If I want my boys to learn to be responsible for their actions, I need to be responsible for my own. And that includes admitting when I’m wrong. 

When we fail, it DOES NOT mean we are bad dads. And although it’s important to accept that I am an imperfect human, I also accept that anything is possible. I can change. I can improve. I can stop the cycles of behavior and thoughts that cause myself and my family pain.

And remember, you are not alone…

You can find many of Mark’s books, including this one, through, Paideia Press (414-828-6275,, or many fine online book retailers.

Related links:
How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 1
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 1
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 2