Monday, September 15, 2014

Adrian Peterson and Beating Your Kid

My wife's parents never spanked her.  My parents sometimes spanked me when I misbehaved.  So we are talking about 1970-75 level discipline.  I can recall once finding a book to shove down my pants so that when I got spanked it wouldn't hurt so much.

My dad once backhanded me across my face so hard I saw stars.  I was being annoying on a long car trip, and I probably deserved it.  My dad is the absolute nicest guy in the world.  I was probably 10-12.

I have never hit my kids.  Never.  God knows I wanted to, and God knows that they deserved it.  But I never hit my kids with a hand, a belt or a stick, or anything else.  They got "time outs."  I also gave them all of the psychological pain I could inflict - telling them how dumb their decisions were and how I was most hurt by the fact that they would misbehave, lie to me, and then think I was so stupid that I wouldn't catch them.

Anyway, in this country we have laws against child abuse.  Those laws against child abuse, however, do not include hitting your kid to discipline them.  We generally leave that up to the parent.  Now imagine this -- imagine if there were specific laws that said that if your wife or girlfriend pissed you off that you could hit them.  You are the husband, you may strike them with a stick no bigger in diameter than your thumb (the Rule of Thumb).  There used to be such laws.  Today, the rule is basically you cannot ever hit a woman unless she is actually beating the living hell out of you....and even then, you are better off to just take the beating.

But we do not have the same legal or societal rule for hitting your kid.  In Texas, for example, you can authorize OTHER people to hit your kid (the school system allows you to send in a note saying "if my child misbehaves, you may paddle them" - in a weird twist, you may also only allow same sex paddling.....think about that a little).  So we obviously do not treat kids the same as women (imagine, "hey, waiter, if my wife comes to your place of business and gives you a hard time, you may strike her").

We could make it illegal to spank or paddle or whip kids.  We generally have not done so.  Why?  Well, one reason is that society as a whole says that it is an acceptable practice.  I got spanked, I didn't expect my parents would end up in jail.  The other reason -- one I think is probably becoming the bigger policy reason that the rule hasn't changed -- is that we don't want the government involved in parenting every kid in the state.  I don't think you would find any psychologist who would deny that a parent being mean to a kid and playing psychological games with the kid can be a lot more devastating and do a lot more long lasting harm to the child than hitting them with a stick.  So, if that is true, then how many calls are county prosecutors going to be taking from young kids complaining, "My mom is mean to me." or "My dad sent me to bed without dinner."  or "My dad said I was stupid."   Are these actions CRIMES???  Will there need to be a 7-month grand jury prosecution where I will need to come and testify about exactly HOW mean I was to my kid?  Can I say, "I am concerned about your weight" but not "You could stand to lose a few...."?   Do we sit in a courtroom for a week and decide whether I am going to be convicted by a jury of my peers?

Peterson hit his kid and he says he hit the kid too hard.  Isn't that a child custody matter or a child protective services matter?  Take the kid away from him.  But if we allow the parents to discipline kids through corporal punishment, I think we gotta start drawing the line a little more clearly.  You can only use your hand, you can only hit the butt, you gotta leave their clothes on, you can never leave a mark.  If you do that, then your average parent has notice of what is and is not proper and a criminal prosecution is justified.  But I do not believe that society can have it both ways.  In Texas, you cannot allow paddling in school and then turn around and say, "You accidentally hit your own kid too hard - that is a crime."  Decide, Texas.  And I think if you put it to a vote in Texas, they would decide that they will give the parents more leeway. 

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