The NFL is in a tight spot right now. They don’t want to lose their talent and the dollars that might come with a championship. But they are in danger of losing their image. Domestic and child abuse are ugly topics, when they surface. They provoke intense emotions. It’s been difficult to watch the different reactions. There have been many tough, but critical, debates surrounding these incidents.
What has been especially troubling to me has been the difference in beliefs, on the part of some, towards Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. As a society, we pretty much despise domestic abuse, of course, but corporal punishment, not so much. Children, however, cannot usually run. They are stuck in situations that leave them open to abuse that could endanger their lives. Some like Boomer Esiason and Cris Carter have spoken out passionately on this.
NBA Hall of Famer and Turner sports analyst Charles Barkley demonstrated the different thinking between domestic and child abuse that I am referring to. I disagree with him, but I respect his honesty. He was glad to see the issue of domestic abuse discussed, but as far as hitting children: it’s a black Southern thing. That is the way many parents feel. Leave the way I discipline my kids alone.
In the meantime, America’s public schools are silent. They should be offering advice to the NFL about different methods of discipline relating to children that are more appropriate than hitting. But they can’t, because many of them think hitting kids is fine. Many schools in this country resort to corporal punishment.
In fact, America is one of the only countries left in the world whose schools still make it a practice to hit kids. Don’t look at charter schools to display good disciplinary guidance either. Many are proud of their chain gang strictness.
How do you discipline? If you aren’t going to spank what do you do to help your child learn how to behave?
The reality is children don’t pop into this world gift wrapped. They don’t come with a self-help manual. Parenting is damn hard. Children can be darned annoying at times. How do you control your temper? Or, how do you change from hitting to a gentler method of discipline? And let’s not forget yelling. Yelling can be damaging in its own right.
Children often seem to know how to push a parent’s buttons. Or there is always the element of danger, like when they start to run across a busy street, or you walk into the kitchen and they are sitting on top of the refrigerator. I once watched a young boy starting to balance himself on a wall near Niagara Falls! His mother grabbed him just in time.
Put these kinds of shenanigans together with parents who are stressed with hundreds of serious problems, who believe in their religious upbringing, or their parents’ way of doing things, and a swat on the behind looks easy. It seems right. And when it escalates into something worse, who will judge? Most aren’t as well-known as Adrian Peterson.
The problem discussing child hitting is that spanking is terribly engrained into the belief system of many people, mostly the south (but not exclusively), and African Americans. It is also tied into religious beliefs and the Bible, although there are powerful arguments against the literal interpretations of training children with the rod.
Several years ago I stumbled upon a website that might be helpful HERE. It is focused more on the New Testament’s treatment of children and not the Old. The Center for Effective Discipline is another. HERE.
Our schools should lead the way in demonstrating a variety of disciplinary actions that are gentler but which work better. Teachers should practice good disciplinary techniques. It should be a part of what they learn in their college programs.
Schools offering support groups for parents—all parents—to provide guidance and share ideas about children and teens and their development might be helpful too. What works? What doesn’t?
For example, how many of us wouldn’t mind advice about how to swim through the teenage years? We all need to learn and update ourselves on the changing struggles that face our children every step of the way. It should bring communities together. How about talking to the students themselves? What makes them think about their behavior?
Instead, schools administer corporal punishment, or they debate it at school board meetings over and over again. Or they blather on about the importance of rigor and Common Core or the 100 more tests they will administer to children—ignoring behavior altogether—or controlling it. They pretend the serious issues don’t matter. They sweep them under the rug. It is like a terrible broken record with no innovation or change to uplift the American family.
Schools should be places that, by now, have evolved into institutions that support parents, that assist dads like Adrian Peterson to learn better methods to help children learn good behavior. Instead, in North Carolina, where Peterson is from, there are no laws about corporal punishment in schools.
So many parents and teachers go on believing schools have every right to paddle children. Some parents want it. Several years ago I met a woman at an education function. We got onto the topic of corporal punishment. She chimed in how she had given her daughter’s high school principal clearance to paddle the girl anytime they wanted. She needed it, she said. And so on it goes.
School leaders should be leading the way to take a real stand for children, involving the NFL players, providing actual solutions. They should be in on this conversation, supporting parents and their children and their needs. Other countries have schools that reject hitting. So should we. And we should go one step further. We should show that our schools really do care about the students they are supposed to serve.