When Is Corporal Punishment Too Much?

Adrian Peterson beat his 4 year old son with a switch that left marks. Its been said that he knew he had injured the boy’s testicles while doing it saying:

“Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”

Apparently the boy was punished because he got into a pushing match with one of his siblings over a video game.

Is this a case of child abuse? Or was it merely a father sternly disciplining an unruly child?

There is no way for us to know what kind of challenges the parents have in raising this boy. I know many mothers out there are horrified at the sight of physical injuries like the ones pictured above that were inflicted by Adrian Peterson on his son, but do we know anything else about the dynamics of this child and his behavior?

In a world where we criticize fathers for not being present, when one actually is present and is taking part in reprimanding their child, should they be immediately branded abusive? I don’t like seeing the injuries the child received. I don’t like having to wonder about the horror in that child’s mind as daddy forcefully beat him. But I also don’t like what has happened to our modern youth, and how far they’ve been allowed to fall.

Beating with a switch is too severe a corporal punishment because it causes physical injuries. The practice of making a child go find their own switch with which their parent will beat them with is taking disciplining to a level that isn’t necessary. This brand of punishment goes beyond wanting to teach a child a lesson. It’s become about anger and aggression.

Anger can be functional at times in the context of raising children. Overt aggression while angry is not.

I was raised in a family where the mother ruled the house, and the father dispassionately stood by and allowed “mother” to tend to the discipline. She never used switches on us. That would have taken too much time. She grabbed whatever was closest if she felt her hand wasn’t going to be severe enough to get the job done. When she kept breaking things over our asses or thighs, she decided that using my father’s college fraternity paddle would be better. It was sturdy. It never broke. It was never just one swat. It was multiple blows which seemed to grow more forceful with each smack. Mother seemed to become energized the longer she hit. 4, 5, 6 blows… By the time she was done she was out of breath, and oddly giddy.

I don’t have good memories of my mother. She is still alive but I think of her in terms of being dead. She wasn’t loving. She didn’t teach me things. I look upon her as a horrible monster where no comfort can be found in her embrace. I recoil when she tries to touch me. The sound of her voice makes me nauseous.

It wasn’t only the beatings that helped me to arrive where I am now in my views of her, but they are the larger cause of our estrangement. When she beat me, it never came with a lesson. Mother was mad, and she was going to share her anger with me physically. She never taught me to stop doing something, because I never really understood why she was beating me so often. She never taught me to do good things because I was never rewarded for doing things that were good. Her brand of disciplining didn’t help me become a well adjusted adult, in fact it caused the opposite.

To this very day, the thought of my mother coming for a visit causes enough anxiety that I end up loosing sleep. Sometimes I become physically ill. The visits never go well. If my mother never visited me again, it would be fine with me, but I have family close by that still want to spend time with her. I’ve never tried to discourage this. The relationship they have is different from the one I had with her.

I was the kind of parent that used corporal punishment on my child if he was doing something that either could potentially cause him physical harm, or if his behavior was so out of sorts that to not give a quick firm swat would be negligence.

If he was about to touch a hot stove, he got a firm swat to the hand. If he was in a restaurant and started throwing a loud fit, and wouldn’t stop, then perhaps throw a spoon or something similar, I would march him to the bathroom, and give him a swift firm swat to the backside, then explain to him his behavior is not acceptable, and that people don’t go out to eat so they can hear a child screaming, and that he must behave like a gentlemen while out so as not to offend other people who are trying to enjoy their meal. I never swatted without explaining why he was being disciplined.

I always checked myself and my anger level before I used corporal punishment. I rarely used it – in fact it was rare that a situation presented itself requiring such measures. I started guiding his behavior from the beginning, set limits, and was consistent in handing out discipline so that he would know what to expect.

I would never beat a child like my mother or how Adrian Peterson did. I don’t care what the child did; there is no justification for putting marks on a child that young as seen in the above photo. There are other means to get the point across even if the child is obstinate. The use of a switch is an old method, but it’s one that has gone by the wayside for the most part for a good reason. The potential for causing unnecessary damage to a child is too great. We shouldn’t be aiming to damage our children. Our aim should be to teach them right from wrong.

Because of the beatings my mother issued me on a regular basis, I consider myself damaged. I am damaged to the point where I don’t think it will ever be reversed. For years I’ve tried to reconcile what she did to me, and forgive her. I cannot. The mere sight of her, and the sound of her voice turns my stomach. I have trouble with relationships. Due to her inconsistency and lack of lessons taught, and because instead of teaching me to be a confident, trusting, lady; from her I learned to be self conscious, suspicious, and overtly masculine.

Adrian Peterson may have used methods to discipline his son that were used on him growing up, but wrong is wrong. Stern and consistent discipline is necessary, but beating with such force with a weapon is not. It doesn’t teach a child, it damages him or her. This damage could become permanent. In my case it sure has.

I’m sure there are stories of adults who were subjected to extreme corporal punishment who claim that it made them better people; that they are strong emotionally, or that it didn’t damage them at all. I’m happy to to know this, but all situations are as different as are children. Why would a parent want to take the chance of damaging their child using such extreme measures while disciplining them? It’s like playing Russian Roulette with 3 bullets in the chamber. The child that gets the bullet becomes damaged in some way later on in life. Is this a chance a parent should take?

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