Abusing Versus Disciplining Your Child

The recent controversy surrounding NFL football star Adrian Peterson has sparked a serious discussion and debate on how far can a parent go in disciplining their child. Many feel this is nothing new, while others feel this has brought a necessary conversation to the forefront.

“I’m sorry, but although my mother and grandmother thoroughly whipped by behind, some of the things they did then I now see as a abuse,” says Barbara White, a family counselor in Dallas.

“I think we have to set limits because we as parents can go to far. And in today’s climate, there is only so much you can do before you end of facing legal matter. I’m not pointing fingers at Adrian Peterson or any of the celebrities because in truth this goes on every day in our community. It sadden me to see the images of his son, but I see a lot more than you could imagine,” said White.

Peterson was indicted on September 11 by a Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child that occurred in May of this year. He is accused of beating his four-year-old son repeatedly with a tree branch, causing severe welts and bleeding on the child’s back, legs, buttocks, genitals and ankles. In their initial response, the Vikings deactivated Peterson for a single game but have now been banned from any team activities until the legal matter is resolved.

“I want everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child. I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates. I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son,” said Peterson in a recent statement.

He continued, “I have learned a lot and have had to reevaluate how I discipline my son going forward. But 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. I love my son and I will continue to become a better parent and learn from any mistakes I ever make.

I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser.”

“This is nonsense to me the way Peterson has become somewhat of a poster child for child abuse when we no good and well people have done worse. And Black people have been getting spankings for a long time. I got plenty of them and I didn’t see it as abuse,” said Chris Franklin, a father of three sons in Houston.

Franklin, whose sons are now teenagers, believes that spanking is very necessary and that a parent has a right to discipline their children how they see fit. “We don’t know everyone’s circumstances and some people are doing the best they can. I think it’s unfair how society can now limit the rights of the parents in disciplining they child and even send them to jail,” he said.

“I’m a single mother of two boys. I’m far from being a perfect mother but I refused to let my sons run over me. So sometimes it took going upside their heads to get their attention. Was it right? Some may say, “no” but what’s worse: Me getting on them or the police busting them in the head?” asks Jennifer Reed, who resides in New Orleans.

“I spanked all of my children but I think Adrian Peterson went to far. I never spanked my children when I was real angry because I knew I could potentially hurt. We have to know limits and not abuse our children. But we have a right to discipline our children as parents,” said Harry Granger, who resides in Southwest Houston.

Even former pro athletes have weighed in and are divided in their thoughts about the controversy.

“I’m from the South. Whipping, we do that all the time. Every Black parent in the south is going to be in jail under those circumstances. We have to be careful letting people dictate,” observed former NBA great Charles Barkley.

NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter, who played for the Minnesota Vikings, said, “My mom did the best job she could do raising seven kids by herself, but there are thousands of things that I have learned since then that my mom was wrong. It’s the 21st century – my mom was wrong. She did the best she could but she was wrong about some of that stuff she taught me and I promised my kids I won’t teach that mess to them.”

Some people are even saying the culture of spanking in the Black community is rooted in what we experienced during slavery.

For me as an African-American, the question is where did you learn that from? Is that learned from the slave master? Getting the switch? Being beaten?” CNN host Don Lemon asked during a recent segment.

“The belief is that Black people began whipping their children out of fear that the overseers and masters would whip them worse. If so, it’s easy to empathize with parents who made that choice. But if those parents inflicted the same punishment that the slave master would have inflicted, how is that punishment a good thing? Is there a difference between a hateful beating and a loving one?” wrote a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Does the latter feel less painful than the former? Does the skin heal differently? Were the slave masters wrong when they desired to whip young children? If they were, how could it have been right to do what those slave masters would have done?”

“I think to try and connect this to what Blacks went through in slavery is pointless. Just because they whipped the hell out of us on the plantation does not excuse us from the abuse we’re doing to our own children,” opined Rebecca Wilson, a married mother of four. “I’ve done much harm to my babies and much harm was done to me when I was little. I just think we need some mental health counseling across the board instead of trying to blame slavery.”

“We as a people suffer from Post-Traumatic Slavery Syndrome and a lot of our behaviors we learned from the slave master. So the fact that we connect whippings to Black culture bears witness that we are acting out another learned behavior,” said Vince Granger, a history professor at community college.

“Let’s not pretend like we’re not still a sick people in need of a mental cleansing from the trauma of what the slave master did to us. We’re sick and abusing one another because were abused. Plain and simple.”


According to the non-profit, Child Help:

A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds

More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse.

It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.

Approximately 70% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.

More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.

Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.

In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 is $124 billion.

According to more statistics, of the 702,000 cases of substantiated child abuse in 2009, 44 percent involved White children and 22.3 percent involved Black children. Latinos made up 20.7 percent of the total population of abused children. The rate of abuse among Latinos children was proportionately higher than that of Whites but lower than that of Blacks.

The overwhelming majority of abuse cases, 78.3 percent, were categorized as neglect; 17.8 percent were labeled as physical assault; 9.5 percent, sexual abuse; 7.6 percent, psychological abuse; and 2.4 percent, medical neglect. Another 9.6 percent were listed in other categories that include abandonment, being born drug-addicted or being threatened with harm.

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