'Spare the rod and spoil the child." Samuel Butler's motto, itself a reworking of a Biblical phrase, has fallen out of favour in recent years. To some eyes, parents have gone soft. How galling it is to visit parents of young children and be forced to watch the little blighters playing an execrable tune on the piano or building a pyramid of building blocks that falls to the ground, only for their mothers to shower them in praise and kisses.
According to a new book, Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children, this lavish praise is creating a generation of idiots, all expecting to be rewarded for the slightest effort. Worth bearing in mind and repeating is the line from Dad's Army, a television comedy in Britain from the 1970s. As uttered by Captain Mainwaring, the pompous bank manager turned Home Guard officer, the catchphrase "You stupid boy" was enough to set even the most bumbling private straight, never mind a son.