Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Separates Adrian Peterson From Ray Rice?

When the news of Peterson's "discipline" of his child came out, there was a certain reticence to lump him in with Rice.  Rice cold-cocked his fiance and dragged her around a hotel lobby.  That was malicious.

Peterson applied the disciplinary standards that he grew up with a child.  You misbehaved, you got a whupping.  Presumably what he did, he did out of a need to discipline his child.

And I think part of me said, "Well, there are certain cultural expectations in African American families about discipline that..." and I looked at my shoes.

The thing is, it's not OK to beat a child.

As the article states, there simply is no good reason to whip a child with a switch.  It produces - perhaps - short-term fear and compliance without creating an understanding of proper behavior.  In fact, just the opposite.  As Adrian Peterson and others have said, "I got whupping and I turned out fine."  Uh, no you didn't.  You turned into a man who beats his child with a stick until you raise welts and break the skin.

You didn't turn out all right.

Admittedly, you probably came out better than most African American men who grow up in difficult circumstances, but that probably has a little to do with your freakish athletic ability than with the beating you got as a child.

Now, every single parent out there I imagine can recall a time when they wanted to hit their child.  They can perhaps recall a time they resorted to corporal punishment.  Personally, I once swatted Thing Two's behind as a reaction to something he did (threw a glass bottle I think) when he was two.  And while I've been physical with Thing One - mostly holding him tightly when he was upset - I never struck him.

But there have been countless other times when I WANTED to physically discipline our boys.  But my wife - wisely - laid down the law.  No spanking.  We have found other, more effective ways of creating disciplinary consequences.  This isn't about discipline or no discipline.  It's about effectively teaching someone to behave properly.

We can hope that we have a more serious discussion - perhaps especially in the African American community, but really across the board - about the harm that comes from relying on corporal punishment to create compliance.

Adrian Peterson has largely owned what he did, as Ray Rice did.  But unlike Rice, Peterson still doesn't understand what he did was child abuse.

So who's the bigger monster now?

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