For a long time I’ve said that parents are the worst people to have children. That much seemed obvious. But the burning question remained. Why?
I was pondering the current state of the National Football League (NFL) when it hit me. On second thought, perhaps “hit me” isn’t the best turn of phrase in conjunction with the NFL these days.
First there was the Ray Rice video where he punched his then-fiancée in the face. That shined a stark light on the issue of domestic violence within the league. The video hasn’t changed the reality of what has always been a very serious matter but now, thanks to the virality of the video, the issue is finally being taken more seriously.
News media took the ball and ran with it. The journalists scurried to look under rocks and ask probing questions like, “Who else might be doing stuff like this?”
With the NFL under a microscope suddenly all bets were off. I’m not sure how but the next big thing in NFL umbrage was the Adrian Peterson who was arrested for child abuse after “whooping” his four-year-old son using a “switch.”
I don’t know the facts of the Peterson case. I looked but didn’t find any description of the alleged injuries to the child. Like most things in America, there’s seemingly a very wide definition of “corporal punishment.” It’s a very fine line between a swat that doesn’t break the skin or leave a mark intended to be corrective and physical abuse. Every year in this country children die at the hands of their own parents and their incredibly inventive forms of “punishment.”
The Peterson arrest was followed up by yet another NFL player revealing voluntarily that he uses corporal punishment on his one-year-old daughter.
I have a 1-year-old daughter, and I discipline her. Obviously, every person is different, and I definitely will use my best judgment to discipline her depending on the situation on what happens. I definitely will try to — obviously not leave bruises or anything like that on her — but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on, again, what the situation is.
–Reggie Bush, running back, Detroit Lions
One year old?! Don’t most new parents refer to that age as 12 months? Aren’t the ages of newborns described in months until they are at least two years old? Is 12 months old still technically a “baby?” Can the child stand up? Walk? Speak? I imagine all children are different but that seems pretty young, perhaps too young to know the difference between right and wrong, recognize danger and, perhaps most importantly, know the intent of the corporal punishment and draw the right conclusions. I’m certainly no expert so don’t listen to me. These are simply my own musings.
As I’ve learned since this story came out, 38* countries on this planet have banned corporal punishment. The United States is not one of them. In this country there’s a book called The Bible that is immensely popular and it states, among other things, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children.” Something like that can certainly fire up a little controversy on the topic, eh?
Corporal punishment … is defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.” The US has signed but not ratified the convention. Corporal punishment is legal in the United States, and laws governing it vary from state to state.
Nineteen states allow corporal punishment in public and private schools. In the domestic setting, the practice is legal in all 50 states.
In Texas, the state where Peterson was arrested, a parent is allowed to use “reasonable discipline.” Why does our society abhor ambiguity in all forms, especially in legislation, except when it comes to the infliction of pain? Only in things like that is a standard like “reasonable” allowed to exist. Go ahead. Let’s allow the widest possible interpretation. Remember, this is for the children. Life, such a beautiful choice.
I admit the issue of corporal punishment is highly complex. It’s not an exact science. Many possible viewpoints may have validity. But it does make me ponder. It does seem like the kind of thing where getting it wrong could be really bad.
Curious, I searched the internet for the phrase “corporal punishment science” and found this:
One of the most commonly practiced strategies used by parents to alter long term behavior of their children is corporal punishment, commonly referred to as spanking. But use of the term spanking is problematic in that how caregivers interpret it varies widely, and there is frequent overlap with what pediatricians consider to be abuse. Despite a great deal of evidence showing that spanking is ineffective, is a risk factor for greater forms of physical abuse and can negatively impact the behavioral and cognitive development of children in a variety of ways, it remains a controversial issue in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics and numerous other professional organizations have come down firmly against the use of physical punishment by parents, but unlike 34* other developed nations there are no federal laws banning spanking.
Source: Science Based Medicine
Peterson claims, and I see no reason to doubt his word, that using a switch is the same punishment that was used on him by his father and credits it with his successes in life. Even so, believing something doesn’t automatically make it true. My search for the science indicates the discipline technique isn’t effective at producing the desired result. If that’s true, then the practice just got a whole lot sadder.
My mom used to hit me with the wooden spoon. But when I was rearin’ my youngin’ I never saw the need. I never spanked or hit my son. Except that one time I told him, “Be careful now. Don’t drop that propane tank.” Which, of course, he promptly did and it landed on my big toe. I responded him by punching him in the arm but it was only reflex. Hot damn but he really hurt that toe! My punch, coming from a weakling human with no actual muscles, did no damage. It didn’t break the skin, a bone or even leave a mark. My understanding is that he seemed to get over it. As the only time I ever resorted to a physical response, it remains a memorable occasion.
If we accept that corporal punishment may not be the best route to what we want, namely inducing corrective action and instilling cloned versions of our own morals into our young, what then? How in the hell are we supposed to get that job done? I’ve got an idea: How about good parenting?
Fact: On average, Americans shop six hours a week and spend only 40 minutes playing with their children.
Source: PBS.org – Affluenza
Maybe, just maybe, and I’m hypothesizing here, mind you, maybe if parents were more giving with their most precious commodity, their time, there just might be less of a need for corporal punishment? These days it seems like it’s the “me” generation and people want kids but then don’t want to be parents to kids. That’s fucked up.
I see families in restaurants where the kids sit around bored and the parents play on their smartphones. For the entire meal! Something tells me those little brats are going to need a huge can of whoop ass. Right?
Shut up! I’m playing Farmville! Better watch out. I just upgraded my crops. And I ain’t talking about the farming kind. C’mere you filthy little varmint!
* Sources seem to vary on the exact number of countries where corporal punishment has been banned.