A Thin Line

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images Adrian Peterson's season is likely over after arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of the NFL.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Adrian Peterson’s season is likely over after arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of the NFL.


Yesterday evening an arbiter sided with the NFL in the case of Adrian Peterson and upheld the decision to ban him from playing for the remainder of the season.

I am satisfied with this resolution and with the fact that the NFL seriously addressed this incident. I can only wish that Adrian Peterson also felt the same gravity of the matter. I’m not yet aware of any about-face that he’s made, but in the beginning at least, he did not appear to be any bit of remorseful, stating publicly that he felt conviction in his actions and that this was how he was brought up. I understand that in so many cultures, particularly that of the black American community, the history of spanking runs deeeep, more so than I can ever begin to address in this post. Nonetheless, I get it. I know where it comes from and I understand the thought process behind it. But I do feel that we’ve got to stop hiding behind this door of an excuse that “that’s how I was brought up”. That may be so, but that doesn’t particularly make it ok.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that parents shouldn’t spank their kids. I’m not necessarily a proponent of it, and sure, in a rainbows and unicorns world, it wouldn’t exist, but ultimately I believe it is a personal family decision. Both Hubs and I received spankings as children, and for the most part I think we both turned out ok. We are law-abiding adults that both have good relationships with our parents. Neither of us are prone to violence. But could the case be made that our history of receiving spankings has lent a hand in having short tempers and experiencing anxiety and bouts of depression? Maybe. Even if I were not aware of those potential links, I would likely have wanted to steer away from spanking anyway; philosophically, because it doesn’t make sense to me that we would use on our own flesh a practice that was barbarically inflicted on our ancestors, and logically, because what good comes from intentionally inciting feelings of sadness and rage in a child? On both accounts, it does seem rather counterintuitive.

Now that we are parents, we are choosing to employ alternate means of discipline as our first line of defense, but the truth is that we have at times delivered swift spankings to covered bottoms if such a situation felt warranted. It is not at all my preferred method of discipline but I can understand and agree with the truth that sometimes you do need to get your point across both immediately and effectively. If the parent can retain a level head throughout the action, and the discipline is followed with an age-appropriate discussion to ensure the child understands the reason and rationale, then I can understand that sometimes this approach is what works in the moment, even if it is not the best approach overall.

But to use as a means of (purposefully) injuring a child, that’s the part I can never agree to. Even if it wasn’t a parent’s intent, but they simply are not responsible and capable enough to always be cognizant of their own physical power and to keep their emotions in check, then that is a compelling enough reason why it’s not the best option for most parents to utilize. The slope can just be too slippery and the line too thin between an acceptable spanking and inarguable abuse.

Even on the occasions I have attempted to spank, my children like to tell me later that “it didn’t hurt”.  And the truth is, it probably didn’t, because I didn’t intend for it to. I can’t ever imagine approaching small, defenseless children with any type of brute force. A quick swat on their bottom from me mostly delivers a moment of  shock and surprise to steer them into corrective behaviors immediately, but not to inflict pure pain. To leave marks, cuts, and bruises on your child’s flesh, on his scrotum, so severe that he needs medical attention? If that allegation is true then Adrian Peterson more than crossed the line. That is not a spanking. That can only be classified as child abuse. I sincerely hope he uses his time off the field to recognize the difference and reevaluate his methods.


4 thoughts on “A Thin Line

  1. Cristina, this is really well-written and reasoned, and I was thinking about your post as I went out & about today. I’m not familiar with the case beyond what you wrote and your link (I don’t follow sports and somehow missed hearing about this). I was particularly struck by the connection you drew between the abuses of slavery and a black man beating his child today (i.e., how *could* he). It occurs to me there is a thread of commonality there in that both are about *owning somebody.* Too many abusive parents take the attitude that they own their children and are therefore entitled to do as they please with them. They say “I brought you into this world and I can take you out” or ” I own the air you breathe.”

    I have a hard time believing – and I don’t know that it’s the case here – that anybody could truly claim to have missed the message that society will no longer allow parents a “free hand,” or that children have rights under the law. “I was raised that way” may have flown 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, but the climate has changed dramatically, particularly with high profile abuse cases played across the media.

    Thanks for this reflection-inducing post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thanks for the comment, Colette. I wonder if the even larger connection to slavery is simply that of it being an ill holdover from that time. It makes sense that it would become ingrained in one’s culture if it’s the only form of discipline witnessed and experienced in a new and foreign land. Old habits die hard and such indoctrination is hard to overcome after being the status quo for over 400+ years. During Reconstruction many parents used it as part of childrearing to keep their children “in line” and to stay out of trouble so that they did not become victims of lynchings, or lose them to such ills as street gangs, which became more prevalent in some communities as the 1930s and ’40s progressed. The thought process, if somewhat backward, is at least understandable that parents were whipping their children with the *intent* of instilling fear–you *wanted* your child to be scared of making a misstep so as to avoid becoming the next Emmett Till.

    You’re right that the climate has changed, and as such, it’s definitely time to start rethinking methods. Of course, now many parents worry about preventing their kids from becoming the next Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, but times have at least changed enough so that parents have the knowledge and understanding of alternate ways of reaching the same goal. And its not just black Americans, as studies have shown spanking is practiced across all races,cultures, backgrounds, and economic statuses. I don’t know that spanking will ever be eradicated, but as long as there is a spotlight on the abusive parents that are clearly crossing the line and the message is getting out there that such punishment is unacceptable then that is at least a start.

    Liked by 1 person

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