Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted last week on child abuse charges in Montgomery County, Texas, after admitting to authorities that he struck his son repeatedly with a tree branch. The child, Peterson’s 4 year old son who stayed with him for a very short time last summer, had numerous injuries, including cuts and bruises to his back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands.
If you have not had a chance to see the photos of the abuse, taken five days after the event, they are available here….
Let’s first understand that what Peterson did is not reasonable discipline. If you are a person who believes spankings are a reasonable part of parenting children, you should be most offended by Peterson’s actions. Spankings can be used by responsible parents to correct negative behavior. This is not the same as a grown man, with extraordinary physical power, beating a kid with a switch in the butt, back, legs, ankles and scrotum. A reasonable spanking does not break the skin and does not leave marks that can be seen a week after the event. This is not discipline. This is abuse.
However, sadly, this event has brought out the worst in many people. Rather than being disgusted by Petersons actions, an alarming number of Americans have came out in support of Peterson. Many people see this abuse as some sort of a twisted “Parental Rights” issue. Former NBA star and commentator Charles Barkley and former NFL Head Coach Tony Dungy have came out and publically supported Peterson and the right of parents to give their children a “whooping”. They have claimed this is some sort of a cultural or ethnic entitlement. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, has claimed the demise of behavior in America is directly attributed to “the lack of whippings with switches.”
Again, I will point out, this was not reasonable discipline. This four year old child had welts all over his body. If you are a person who thinks you have to hit a 4 year old boy over and over again, to the point that you open up his skin, and leave permanent scaring in order to teach him a lesson, you suck as a parent. You are also a horrible human being. I don’t care what your parents did to you or what you think is acceptable in your culture.
Many of us grew up in a time in which corporal punishment was more acceptable. My parents unquestionably did things to me as a child that would not be acceptable today. I remember getting backhanded several times by my father for having an “attitude” when I was 12 or 13. I saw much more serious abuse in my immediate friends and family growing up. I remember a friend of my parents who had a small plaque up in their kitchen with Proverbs 13:24 proudly displayed. I was there when their 10 year old son was caught smoking, and they made him smoke the whole pack, putting the last one out on his knee. They did this all while believing they had a God given right and responsibility to teach him discipline. My wife talks about as a 12 year old being punched repeatedly by her mother for a reason she can no longer remember. She does remember having to hide the bruises the next day in school.
None of us are better off because we endured this abuse.
The sad reality of the Adrian Peterson case is it has given a voice to those who feel an obligation to continue generational violence. Peterson himself has tried to claim that he is the man he is today because he received “whooping” from his parents. Apparently, we are supposed to believe that Peterson is some kind of great “man” because of his amazing skill on the football field.
However, he kind of “man” Peterson is one who has at least 7 children by 5 different women and one who beat the living hell out of a four year old child. Yes Peterson, you’re whooping did make you the kind of man you are today and that is exactly why you should never be allowed to be alone around children again.
For those of us who grew up with the accepted abuse from yesteryear, it is not too late to change the cycle of abuse. It is okay to love and respect your parents and change the way you discipline your own children. It is okay to realize the effectiveness of alternatives to corporal punishment without thinking you are too lenient on your children. Even if you choose to spank your children, become comfortable with other forms of discipline and never, ever allow yourself to be in a situation where you might cross the line.
If you are trying to break the cycle of generational violence, it is also ok to reach out for help. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are confidential.