A recent exchange with a family member had me reminiscing about my childhood and how I was reared by extended family and…got me thinking about Adrian Peterson.
Peterson’s recent off-field activities have landed him in hot water with the law and on the wrong side of public opinion as it relates to child rearing. His detractors emerged quickly as did his supporters.
The ass-whooping is lore in the black community and many of us have comical tales of having to procure our own switches and belts to aid in our corporal punishment. There was something about having extra time to think about your transgressions and come to grips with your inevitable thrashing. We have, over time, romanticized and accepted corporal punishment as a part of our hardcore upbringing. If you’ve ever seen a stand-up routine from comedian DL Hughely and others, you have undoubtedly heard them joke about the subject. Former NBA star, Charles Barkley, famously spoke out about the Peterson situation and claimed that it was an accepted fact that hind-parts were not off limits in addressing adolescent mischievousness if you were a southern black.
And it’s not just a black thing. CNN reported that in a 2012 national survey, that half of women and three-quarters of men in the U.S. believe a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking”. But there are physical and emotional consequences with each swing of the switch. In that same report, CNN reported that numerous studies showed detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development, increased aggression, a decrease in cognitive ability, and decreased levels of gray matter. We aren’t simply beating the shit out of our kids, we are also beating the potential out of them.
The emotional effects are equally damning. We don’t know how every swing of the belt, swat of the paddle or bare hand whacking shaped the relationships that we have, or don’t have, with our elders. I often think about how envious I am of friends and associates who have very close relationships with parents, grandparents or other care-givers. I wonder if my own relationships might be closer and more fulfilling had a different approach to discipline been used.
The day that the Peterson story broke, my social media timelines were flooded with comments like “I got my ass whooped as a kid and I turned out just fine.” Hell, I think I may have written something similar. The truth of the matter, though, is that we have no idea what or who we could have become had a different parenting approach been taken. For the record, I have no doubt that AP loves his children. He just needs a different approach to raising them.
My own approach to child-rearing in general and, more specifically, disciplining, differs vastly from my own upbringing. Love, encouragement, and currency has been the general rule of thumb in the Lee household. And I suspect, indeed hope, that the yield will be long-lasting, love-filled, close relationships with my girls.
What do you think? Does/did your parenting style differ from that of your elders? Do you agree or disagree with the research? Have a funny ass-whooping tale to tell?