Fear is not respect

This morning I’m reading the latest news from the NFL. Sort of. I’m reading the latest news of controversy involving an NFL player.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted this weekend on charges of “reckless or negligent injury to a child and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.” (ESPN) Peterson called it “tough love” – same as he got when he was a kid. Tough love is sending your kid to bed without dessert because he or she didn’t finish their dinner. A 4-year-old with bruises and bloody abrasions caused by a switch (that’s a slim end of a tree branch for my non-hillbilly readers) isn’t tough love. It’s assault.

My dad was born and raised in Texas. He was the one to mete out corporal punishment in my childhood home. It only happened a few times, for very serious offenses. The actual offenses are vague, but for such a serious punishment, I’m sure I must have been very, very, very bad. I mean, I wonder what it would take for me to beat my child with a belt. Is that the proper punishment for wetting the bed? playing in the street? lying? Surely the crime has to be extremely severe for such a punishment – burning down the house, for example. FYI, I never burned down anything.

See, I remember lying across the bed, as instructed, my bedspread bunched in my hands, while my father took off his leather belt, doubled it, and struck my bottom with force several times. I remember wondering how he could do it. He was supposed to love me and help me – not beat me. My father became less of a man in my mind after these events.

And before I get a whole bunch of comments about how you were spanked and came out terrific, let me just call bullshit on that. When my granny sent my cousin out to get a switch, she wasn’t doing anything positive. She was mind-fucking the kid. “I’m going to hit you with a stick from a tree. You go get it and bring it to me. If you don’t get the right kind of switch, I’ll send you back out for another one and the punishhittingment will be worse.” I am NOT making this up.

Hitting another person is about power. Too often it’s about anger AND power. What could a 4-year-old child do that could warrant a “whippin'” from a 200-pound professional athlete?

The granny I mentioned before was my mom’s mother. Granny taught my mom well how to strike out of anger. At age 7 or 8, I saw my mom slap my older brother’s face so hard, his glasses flew across the room. I suppose he was lucky she didn’t have something in her hand. I mean, it takes a while for a red handprint to fade from skin, but it takes even longer for a shoeprint to fade. (Hey, the slipper was right there. She needed to hit me. The slipper was handy.) I hated it when she hit me in front of my friends.

So what’s the moral of the story? First of all, it’s not 1970 or even 1870. We’re supposed to be more civilized. We’re supposed to know right and wrong. We’re supposed to be enlightened. And just because your mother hit you doesn’t make it ok for you to hit your kid. It doesn’t. Corporal punishment, whipping, spanking, whatever you want to call it breeds fear, not respect. And if you want your child to fear you, you’re a sad, sad human being.


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