Adrian Peterson’s 4-year-old son did not cry. According to law enforcement sources, as reported by CBS Houston, the boy said that his father, a Minnesota Vikings football player, put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with a switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson, who was barred this morning from the team, “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.” His father estimates he hit him with a switch “10 to 15” times, but he’s not sure because he doesn’t “ever count how many pops I give my kids.”
The skin broke. The little boy bled. He had injuries on his back, hands, bottom, legs, and scrotum. Yet according to his father, he did not cry. In an interview with Houston police, Peterson expressed regret that his son did not cry — because then, Peterson said, he would have known that the switch was hurting his son more than intended. He later made a public statement, saying, “… deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.”
What Peterson did is not called discipline. It is child abuse. It is wrong. The photos I saw brought tears to my eyes. It’s not natural for a child to be harmed that way and not cry. I’m familiar with kids who have been repeatedly abused: they often learn not to cry so their abuser won’t become more angry or hurt them even more.
I understand Peterson wanting to teach his child a lesson. I understand the anger he felt when his 4-year-old boy pushed another boy. I understand the frustration when dealing with young kids who refuse to do what you tell them to. But as the adult, you are supposed to know when you’ve gone too far. Even if your child is not crying out.
Yes, there have been times I’ve wanted to hit somebody or something when my kids were misbehaving. But I know better and I made the conscious effort to stop myself. The one day I almost lost it with my daughter, I simply carried her while she was kicking and screaming to the shower and turned on the cold water. Fully dressed, we got soaked, but it cooled off both our tempers. It wasn’t my best moment as a mother but to this day I am proud of my self-control. As I dried my daughter off and changed her into dry clothes, I knew she had learned a lesson. It’s been five years since then, and she never again threw a tantrum like that one.
Adrian Peterson justifies striking his children by saying that it’s necessary to do so in order for them to grow up to be good people. He drew blood from a 4-year-old thinking it’s an act of love. Well, I’ve never spanked my kids and they are doing fine, thank you very much. They excel in school. They help others. They make me proud.
There are rules in my household, and there are consequences when my children break them. At times they might shed tears when they’re punished, but not from physical pain that will leave a lifetime of scars. Most importantly, I know that by choosing to not use corporal punishment, when they grow up they will be less likely to use it on their own kids. I want to teach them that there is discipline without violence, a lesson that hopefully will carry on to all their relationships.
There’s a fine line between disciplining and abusing your child. For me it’s simply not worth taking the chance that the human beings I love the most will endure lifelong emotional pain or that they’ll think hitting is how you show love. There are so many different ways of teaching kids to behave and enforcing your values. But hitting them until they bleed is definitely not one of them.
Image courtesy of Getty Images via ABC News
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