Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Spare The Rod
Even if you don’t follow sports, you’ve probably heard the news about NFL super-star running back Adrian Peterson being indicted in Texas on charges of “reckless or negligent injury to a child.” Since that news came out, it’s been reported that he had also injured another one of his kids in the past. The league and the Minnesota Vikings have been confused about what to do, but apparently once the money (sponsors) started talking, the NFL and the team listened. Peterson will not play this season. And I think that is the right call.
Peterson is a lot younger than I am but it sounds like he grew up in a similar culture where “whoopin” your kids to make them behave was just part of responsible parenting. I guess I was lucky. My folks weren’t much on “whoopin”. I can remember a few spankings, but nothing major. I got one belt spanking from my Dad when I was 7 or 8 years old and it was for something I did not do. After the truth came out, he was crushed and he never laid a hand or a belt on me again. But even that “belting” did not leave any marks and as I recall, it didn’t hurt much. I was more pissed off and hurt by the injustice of it than anything else. However, I did a lot of other stuff that deserved punishment, so I figured this was just evening out the scales. It did leave me with a strong inclination to investigate accusations before jumping to conclusions. So I guess it turned out to be a good life lesson.
I knew other kids who got a lot of “whoopins”. From what I could tell, it did not do much good and probably made them even worse. And I can remember when teachers and coaches regularly “paddled” kids or gave out “licks” for misbehaving. Men paddled the boys and women paddled the girls. Everyone wanted to get a few licks now and then just to fit in and I got a few, but not often. And if it was really serious, they told your parents. I only had one instance where my parents were brought in and I was already in high school by then. It wasn’t that bad. Some of us cut class, “borrowed” a boat and went out drinking beer at the lake. Actually it was epic and one of my prouder moments for which I really got my tail-end busted by the high school principal. He was a former coach and football star who was strong as a mule and tough as nails. Those licks left marks for awhile. Although it was painful, it was over quickly and didn’t really cause me to see the error of my ways. A couple of months of picking up trash on the side of the highway would have probably made a longer, more lasting impression.
There may well be a time and place for “physical intervention” with kids, but it’s rare and it should not be violent or delivered in anger. Some of my Christian brothers and sisters quote the Bible about corporal punishment being ordained by God and if you love your kids you’ll spank them when they misbehave. I call B.S. on that and remind them that the Bible also calls for stoning a disobedient child (Deut 21 v 18-21). Pretty sure that’s a felony these days. So let’s not quote scripture to justify “whoopin” our kids.
On the flip side of the argument, I fear that the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction. We are now reaching the point where any level of physical punishment or even raising ones voice to a child is considered abusive. Basically, anything that is “negative” or makes the child “feel” bad about themselves is potentially abusive. I don’t think the touchy-feely, time-out, talk about it, let’s process it and understand why you’re being a little asshole approach is in the best interest of the child or society in general.
Like most things in life, the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. Adrian Peterson has become the poster child for one side. But let’s not stand by and allow another generation of children to become undisciplined, self-absorbed narcissists with no sense of right and wrong and no boundaries. There are enough of those out there already. I think the Bible gets it right when it comes to that reaping and sowing stuff.