Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No, Adrian Peterson. It is Not OK to Beat a Child With a Stick

Last week Adrian Peterson, Running Back for the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted by a Grand Jury in Texas for Child Abuse. While discussing it with various people, I have been absolutely stunned by those putting up a defense. Not just defending Peterson, but actually defending the practice of beating a child with a stick.

“You don’t understand because you don’t live in the South.”

“I don’t understand why it is OK to hit a 4-year-old child with a stick?”

“Yes. It is a cultural thing.”

“A cultural thing? What does that even mean?”

“This is how we were brought up.”

This is an actual conversation I had this weekend. In 2014. Now, I fully admit to not being from the South and lacking a regional and cultural context in which these things happen. And by “these things” I mean a child – a 4-year-old child – being beaten with a stick until his legs are bloody. And from what I have heard, this practice isn't exclusive to the South. But maybe, just maybe, my “lack of perspective” in this case is a good thing. Because instead of seeing context. Instead of seeing tradition. I see this:

And I am angry. I am disgusted. Not just at Adrian Peterson, but at any context in which this becomes acceptable and defendable. It is not. No child should endure this. If we did this to a prisoner it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment. And yet, because it is “tradition” it is OK. In some families it is OK to beat a child with stick.

No. It isn't. It is dehumanizing. It is cruel.  And if you think it is OK, you are wrong. If your parents did this to you, they were wrong. I’m not saying you don’t love your kids, or your parents didn't love you. We are all fallible. Good intentions do not guarantee good actions.

I understand that a lot of parenting is done in the margins. There isn't some set prescription of how to raise a good human being, and the soul can survive and thrive in spite of many things. So maybe some of you were whipped when you were a child when you stepped out of line. And maybe some of you turned out just fine. But that doesn't mean you deserved it. You did not deserved a “whooping”. I know you think you did, and that is a part of the damage that has been done. When a wife goes back to her husband with two swollen eyes because she thinks “I shouldn't have provoked him” do we nod and laugh and say, “Oh yeah you had that whoopin’ coming!” No. We don’t. We shouldn't. And yet, we hear stories of our parents taking their belts off or sending us into the back yard to pick a switch and look at it with a grin and nostalgia.

“But what about spanking? Is spanking OK?”

I don’t know. We don’t spank our kids. I know plenty of folks who do. I imagine it is easier to scale back an open handed smack to the rear end than it is to adjust how hard you hit a kid with a stick, but just typing that sentence feels ridiculous. I know where the line is for our family. We don’t hit. Other families set that line other places. But we, as a society, set lines too. They are called laws. It is time for beating a child with a stick to be set on the other side of that line, whether it results in bloody lacerations of not.

“But Adrian Peterson said he took it too far. He admitted that.”

Do you even realize how ridiculous that sounds? He was hitting his child with a stick and just got carried away? Oops?

No. He got carried away by picking up a stick in the first place, and no argument is going to convince me otherwise.

“But his mom did it to him.”

This child was beat with a stick until his legs were bloody.

“But children aren't disciplined enough these days.”

This 4-year-old child was beat with a stick until his legs were bloody.

“But that is just a part of the culture.”

No. That is not an excuse. Culture can change. I can think of plenty of horrible, dehumanizing "cultural" things we've done in this country that were deemed unacceptable and eventually outlawed. This one’s time has come.


EDIT: A reader on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page shared this comment:

First things first - I agree that hitting with objects is never okay. I also think this article does a good job of providing some of the context that you are trying to write off as unacceptable and/or wrong. - Eric

This is the article he shared. It is worth reading.

The racial parenting divide: What Adrian Peterson reveals about black vs. white child-rearing


  1. And by his own tweets to the boys mother, he 'got him in the nuts' too. This child, baby really, had leaves stuffed in his mouth, defensive wounds on his hands and was beaten bloody... Those pics are a week after.... He didn't discipline his son, he brutally assaulted and tortured him..... Shame on him. Shame on the Vikings for putting him back in the line up. Shame on the NFL for not banning him for life.

    1. Pretty sure they brought him back because the day before they did they lost a game 30-7. It's ridiculous that they care more about points on a scoreboard than what he did. Sickening really

  2. Hadn't seen the pictures yet. It was wrong before then and it's even more wrong now that I've seen them. I am a very easy going cop, but were I to see a man beating a boy with a stick and the boy looked like this, he'd be in handcuffs pretty quickly.

  3. I had not seen the pictures either. I'm with you on this. no excuse and no situation will convince me that this is okay. ever. We also don't spank and I have my reserved thoughts on that but spanking certainly does not equate a stick or belt or insert-object-of-choice bloody beating! and a bloody beating a child never deserves. period. ever.

  4. Culture only goes so far because when I see blood and bruises I can't get behind it.

  5. Sad but true that this is happening with other culture. Sometimes they resort to beating to discipline a child. I am fortunate that I was brought up without having a struck of anything on my body. Maybe they just don't know the proper way to bring a child up and what communication means.

  6. Southerner's perspective...I was spanked. My grandmother even made me do the same thing and go get a switch from the willow tree outside. Does that make them abusive, NO. Did he take it to far? We don't know-these photos do not show the child's face. I am not defending him in anyway because you should never cause a child to bleed, but consider the source, the INTERNET. I also spank my child, heck they still do it in some schools down here. I am also not saying we hand out spankings every time. Time outs, and loss of privileges also works. But disrespect he will not it is not tolerated in our house. And I am sorry but little Johnny causing a tantrum of epic proportion just because, and your only way of "handling it" is to talk to him- obviously that isn't working.
    Again I am in no way defending him but to compare the "southern" tradition with what I do and what was done to this child is just a wrong. As parents we judge way to much on everything, to each his own. Lets let the legal system work this one out. And pay more attention to the future we are raising.

    1. Hitting a child, at all, with anything is ALWAYS abuse. You are an abuser.

  7. I hope this doesn't sound rude because I don't mean it to be. I believe this article was very well stated and actually kept more cool than I would have if I were writing about this. You may believe what you want but that doesn't make you right, my belief in the sun not rising tomorrow doesn't mean it won't. Child Development perspective... Studies consistently show that physical punishment of any sort (spanking or otherwise) weakens the bond a child has with it's parent. The bond a child has with a parent is most important to his development. So do what you want with that information. But that is evidence and not just someones opinion or culture.