Our Mindset About Disciplining Children Must Change


By now I'm sure you have heard all there is to hear about Adrian Peterson, the NFL running back formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. If you haven't, here's the short version. Peterson has been indicted by Texas grand jury for reckless or negligent injury to a child. The indictment comes after it was revealed Peterson used a "switch," the slim part of a tree branch to discipline his 4-year-old son. It's been reported the whipping left the young boy with welts on his legs, buttocks and scrotum. Once all this came to light, Peterson was booked and then released, suspended from playing with the Vikings, only to be reactivated and now suspended yet again with pay as the case against him plays out. Let me first go on record and say in my opinion the actions carried out Adrian Peterson was and will always be labeled as abuse. The force and might that lead to welts and bruises suggests so.

The issue really got me to thinking about corporal punishment or whippings and/or spankings versus child abuse. Since the issue surrounding Adrian Peterson has come out, it has sparked national debate over something practically everyone in African-American community already knew. "If you want your children to do right or obey you, you whip them with a switch." I'm not saying this is a racial thing but more like a cultural thing. I have gone to school and worked with a number of people over the years and of all of those people there were two things that connected other African-Americans around me. We were both black and at some point in ours lives whether it be our parents, grandparents, aunt or uncle, being threatened with a switch or being hit by one was the second. Because of that I wanted to take this discussion to people I knew would have some very valuable input.

I grew up in a rather large and unorthodox family, with four other sisters, an older brother, four younger sisters and one younger brother. I think I've seen my fair share of switch-related whippings. So I went to the source -- my mother, sisters and brothers -- to ask a series of questions from all of them. I wanted to know from my mom her thoughts on corporal punishment as a form of discipline. I also wanted to hear from my siblings if the form of punishment worked for them and if they were scarred because of the whippings, either physically or emotionally. In the case of my mother who says discipline in a child's life is needed but not to the point of beating and causing bodily harm. In her case she pointed the scripture that reads, "Spare the rod, spoil the child." When I put the poll out to my sisters and brothers not everyone was able to get back to me but the three that did say the spankings or whippings they received didn't really matter. The overwhelming response was a whipping doesn't keep the child on the straight and narrow, if anything it brings that child to resent the parent. Three of my other friends who I really see as family wanted to get in on the conversation. One of them has no children and she has said she doesn't believe she will spank her children. The other has two children and she views whippings as an important part of a child's upbringing. She understands the difference between spankings and abuse. The last sister is a social worker and sees all kinds of abuse in homes in the area she serves in Los Angeles.

Which brings me to my thoughts and beliefs. I wanted to explore this more because, what Adrian Peterson did was entirely wrong in my eyes. The welts and bruises are extremely excessive for disciplining a child. It is important for parents to hold children responsible for their actions but what is not acceptable is abuse. Adrian Peterson went overboard and in the middle of disciplining his son must have forgot his own strength. Now, I'm in not position to tell any parent how to discipline their child because I am not a parent but I do know right and wrong and it is wrong to think because you beat a child into submission that the outcome may change. Our and I say our because I want to go back to that saying of "It takes a village to raise a child." Our mindset must change on discipline and the manner in which our children are disciplined when behaving badly. I have never been a proponent of spanking or whipping children and because it's so apparent the African-American community has such deep history on this subject maybe this should be the wake up call needed to understand it just doesn't work. Take a moment and look back on the history, our ancestors were beat and bruised in such a way only to force them to obey. The cycle has to be broken. This issue is much bigger than Adrian Peterson; he unfortunately was just the lightening rod to start the conversation.