By now I'm sure you've heard about Minnesota Vikings player Adrian Peterson being indicted on charges of injury to a child for hitting his four-year-old son with a tree--which, if you're black and/or you grew up in the South, likely translates to "he got a whoopin' with a switch."
Many an op-ed has been written about how Peterson's arrest brings up topics of race, parenting, class, culture and so on--just as Ray Rice's domestic violence has brought issues surrounding violence against women to the surface--and many more are likely to be committed to keyboard as this plays out. That said, I have few thoughts on the matter:
--Do I believe Adrian Peterson is a child abuser? No. Not because I believe what he did was right--judging from the photos TMZ has unearthed, this went way beyond a pop on the leg--because I don't believe his intent was to abuse and inflict harm on his child. Of course, he did inflict harm, and he knew by hitting his son he would inflict harm. But if his behavior both, private and public, is to be believed--he told his son's mother about the incident when it happened, expressed remorse, has cooperated with police and stated he loves his son--his intent was to dole out discipline, not abuse. I believe all of this should be taken into account as the case moves forward.
--That said, I don't agree with spanking or whipping a child. I got spanked as a kid, fortunately not with a switch. My parents never went as far as Anderson, but like him, they believed what they were doing was right and it was how their parents raised them. My parents were and never have been abusive; however, meeting the business end of a belt on my backside was not what made me change my behavior. It was the explanation of why what I did was wrong afterwards that did. I don't plan on having kids, but if I did, I'd cut out the middle man (i.e. the whipping) and go straight to the explanation and a non-violent punishment. Giving a child an concrete understanding of how their actions effect others is in the long run better than tears, fear and possibly a half-decent stand up comedy routine. And as we've all probably witnessed, sometimes the child doesn't get any of the former, just a warning they'll get something to cry about. Which leads to my third point:
--Habitually using any form of punishment, be it timeouts or whippings, is not and should never be a substitute for actually talking to and raising your damn child. Telling a child to "go get a switch (I overheard one white guy at the gym say his mother would sometimes let his sister pick the switch he got hit with--how's that for building sibling bonds...)" or sending them to their room for every infraction is not parenting. It is not an act of love. It is an act of abuse, one that creates emotional cripples instead of stable, functioning adults.
What do you think?