Since it was revealed last week that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beat his 4-year-old son with a switch as a form of a punishment, the player’s future is in limbo, as he was suspended indefinitely from the league earlier today.
With the NFL finally getting a backbone and working out tactical forms of punishment for their players, one thing that people are up in arms over is the action of disciplining children.
Peterson has stayed steadfast on his statements of punishing his child with the switch, and others have taken up for him, like Reggie Bush during a-not-so random interview with his high school coach Booker Bowie, who says he would hit the player with an 18-inch paddle – and was thanked for it.
“Adrian understands corporal punishment…it’s not intended to hurt anybody, it’s to get them going in the right direction. I have never had a problem with parents calling anyone complaining,” Bowie said.
‘The way Adrian came up, his parents, his mother was disciplining him. He understands it, it helped his team mates, his classmates. I think that’s what he was doing (to his son).”
“His intention was not to abuse the kid. He understands corporal punishment and I don’t think his intention was to abuse the kid.”
In addition to Booker’s statements, everyone wants to share their story of receiving “punishments” as a kid and growing up to be a functional adult. It’s true. We’ve all done it. While we speak about the fond memories of getting our tails beat like we’re around a camp fire sharing ghost stories, one has to ask when it comes to this kind of treatment: Are there really levels to discipline? And what really constitutes child abuse?
Intent vs. Intention
A swift look at your moral compass (or Google search) will show that intention is everything. Engaging in a healthy rapport with children can be a doozy; trust me, I was a kid once. While some people use alternatives like time-outs and writing dictionary terms endlessly, others have done it the “old-school” way with switches and belts.
It’s no surprise that some people of color have stood by Peterson with the story of “It happened to me and I’m fine” schtick – but are you really OK?
A study recorded by the Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry in 2008 showed the effects of such disciplines in low-socioeconomic African-Americans proved to be the root of their issues with depression. The corticotropin-releasing hormone type 1 receptor (CRHR1) gene was discovered more in the African-Americans in the study than the objective Caucasians in a relatively moderate economic level.
Normally when you do something wrong, you’re punished for it. While your intention is to teach your child a lesson, some children will remember the pain instead of the lesson. Does this turn into child abuse?
The memories of my first beating are pretty bleak, but the effects of it are more evident than ever.
Like I mentioned earlier, the stories we’ve shared have become almost comical within our culture. Raised by an older West Indian woman, beatings were almost normal – if you did something wrong. Things seemed to change when an ACS worker stood in our apartment and held my hands with soothing comfort as she asked the question, “Have you received whuppings from your grandmother?” As I confidentially answered “no,” I remember glancing over at the switch that was conveniently wrapped in tape and stuck in a flower-pot in the living room. It didn’t bug me so much that I lied, but I can tell that my sibling who called Child Services felt differently.
Discipline is seen different in everyone’s eyes. It doesn’t matter if the bruises on the Peterson child were easier to see because he’s light-skinned, or because we as black people have almost become lost on the ways to discipline our children. What matters is the cycle we allow to happen if we don’t do anything about it.
The Harsh Reality
About five children die a day from child abuse. Some of them are even as young as 8-months-old when it begins. According to DoSomething, in 2010, 1,537 children died of abuse or neglect; 79.4 percent were under the age of 4, and 47.7 percent were under the age of 1.
Sometimes our intentions can get the best of us and cause more damage than we think.
Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor and researcher on corporal punishment at the University of Texas at Austin, released a study in 2011 that shows African-American lead in the odd art of spanking.
In a study Gershoff co-authored that examined 20,000 kindergartners and their parents, she found that 89% of black parents, 79% of white parents, 80% of Hispanic parents and 73% of Asian parents said they have spanked their children.
Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, added this golden nugget:
“It’s culturally embedded in America that spanking is a legitimate and good way to discipline children. But the fact is, nearly all studies, except for a few, say it is not a good way of disciplining and can actually produce damage,” Poussaint said. “We have such damage in the black community, when you add to that parents beating their kids, it’s sending the message that violence is an OK way to solve problems.”
We can take this as a good thing and help reduce these disciplines, or leave it alone and let the cycle continue.
At the end of the day, Peterson will serve as a face for child abuse no matter what the outcome. We can either help support a culture that damages children, or encourage Peterson and each other to change it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty