Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Children arrive programmed. They default to foolishness naturally. It is their preferred and native choice. No matter how darling their mothers think them to be, their hearts are void of wisdom and full of foolishness. They do not know or want to be noble or right. But God and the wisest man taught the sure cure - the wise use of corporal punishment.
David spoke of being conceived in iniquity (Ps 51:5), for his nature by birth was corrupt and bent away from wisdom and toward folly. He further wrote that children tell lies right from birth (Ps 58:3). Perceptive parents observe infants lying by furious screaming (far beyond crying) for no reason at all - they are lying and/or angry to demand attention.
Children are selfish, willful, impatient, lazy, discontent, liars, conceited, rebellious, etc. They do not need to be taught these things, for they know them instinctively from birth. The scope and sequence and curriculum choices for any educational institution need not include folly, because children default to it without instruction or provocation.
Without training, children only know foolish thought processes and reactions to life. If these instincts, habits, or preferences are not corrected, and if they are not taught wisdom, they will pursue these errors to a dysfunctional life and early destruction. By King Solomon's inspired wisdom, the best and only way to train them is by the use of the rod.
A rod is a straight, slender wand of wood or other material that applied to the back will cause moderate pain without any bodily harm. It stings rather than thuds. It is called the rod of correction, for its purpose is to correct the foolish proclivities in every child. It is one of the simplest yet most useful tools in any home seeking to train wise children.
It was often a hickory stick, a popular American tree, and thus the old educational phrase, "Reading, writing, and arithmetic, all taught to the tune of a hickory stick." Educators in the past, who successfully trained generations of children with character and self-discipline, never questioned its use. They knew its use served an essential role in converting foolish brats into productive adults. Consider Encyclopedia Britannica's entry for flogging in its 14th edition:
FLOGGING has been one of the most universally utilized methods of punishing public crimes, as well as a means of preserving family, domestic, military and academic discipline.
A foolish, rebel child, Bob Dylan, wrote (Pr 1964), "The Times They Are A-Changin." Parents do not spank much anymore; and of course, the amount of public crime and general rebellion, especially among youth, is much greater. But truth does not change. King Solomon commanded corporal punishment for children 3000 years ago, and it is just as necessary and effective today to raise disciplined adults with excellent character.
The truth is simple. The rod of correction will save children from hell in this life. We still kill capital offenders, and rightly so; but many want to outlaw spanking, which would save such fools from killing others and thereby themselves (Pr 10:13; 13:24; 23:13-14; 26:3; 29:15). The little pain of corporal punishment when a child is young will save him or her from causing themselves and many others much pain, grief, and trouble in the future.
The wisdom in this proverb is so true that God Himself describes His own use of rods and scourges to chasten His beloved children in order to perfect them for His glory and their profit (Pr 3:11-12; Heb 12:5-11). What does God's use of a rod or scourge on a person prove? His love for them! A loving parent will surely use the rod and use it early (Pr 13:24).
Jesus was born without foolishness, without sin; He always obeyed His parents (Luke 2:51). He was the only child that never needed the loving application of a rod by His parents. He was full of wisdom without foolishness in the way of character from birth. For every reader beyond the helpful rod of a parent, let Him be your example and guide.