A couple of weeks ago this was discussed on by Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host who is also Jewish and an expert on the scriptures. He was saying that people tend to take the wrong meaning with regards to the term "rod".... using it mistakenly as an instrument of punishment rather than the intended shepherd's rod (or staff) of correction. The following I copied a pasted from a website that states almost exactly what Dennis Prager was talking about.... very interesting and very different than how most people interpret the scripture.
"...hence, the expression "spare the rod, spoil the child." Literally speaking, these verses and the expression seem to say if you do not discipline your child by beating him/her with a rod, your child will likely become spoiled rotten. Ephesians 6:1-3 seem to say that your child's days may be short unless s/he honors you. The Proverbs above seem to also say that you must apply the rod of correction to the errant child freely. And a rod is a rod. The Bible is an unerring source of direction. The Bible is God's word, will, and law. And I believe what the Bible says completely! All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness [II Timothy 3:16]. "But the law of man says you will suffer imprisonment or other means of punishment if you beat your child with a rod. That to beat your child at all, let alone with a rod, is too extreme. How can I serve God's law and still meet the requirements of man's law?" Both the law of God and the law of man are indeed complimentary and can both be obeyed if you view the "rod" in the verses not as a tool of pain and injury, but figuratively as the wooden rod of a shepherd and the way he uses it as a "rod of correction" to guide and direct.
Sheep do not possess the intelligence of humans and are not born with the experience of maturity. They cannot be expected to know which way to go or what things to avoid. They must be led and sometimes redirected to keep them from harm's way. Since sheep cannot speak, they must be directed in basic ways, such as taps from the shepherd's rod. Also, sheep sometime seem to develop a mind of their own and seek to defy the direction of the shepherd.
Like sheep, children are not born with the experience of maturity. We cannot expect children to know which way to go and what things to avoid. Neither can we expect them to know good from bad or right from wrong until they develop a store of experience and unless they keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother [Proverb 6:20]. As parents we must teach our children in the ways and path of our Lord. We must impress His direction on children as they gain experience.
We all know that sometimes a child will deliberately resist the good and right path. They tend to choose an easier or more appealing path of defiance. Applying the rod of correction to an errant child is indeed what should be done to place and keep children on the good and right path: Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell [Proverb 23:14]. Just as the shepherd must correct his sheep to provide for their safety and long life, so must we for our children. To begin the perspective, consider the following paragraph which discusses how the shepherd guides and redirects his sheep and how the sheep view the shepherd.
Note that parts a through e of the paragraph above are discussed in detail individually as lead-in for the remaining sections of this article.
The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is our Shepherd. He uses a "rod" to provide comfort and protection: ...I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me [Psalm 23:4]. His rod also provides correction for our paths: My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction [Proverb 3:11]. He admonishes us to provide correction for our children: Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell [Proverb 23:14]."