Everyone knows the old maxim of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, no? It’s a shorthand guide to human behavior. I don’t want someone to shoot me, so I won’t shoot anyone (never mind that I don’t own, and have no intention of ever owning, a gun). I don’t want someone to run me over with a car, so I won’t run over anyone with a car. I don’t want someone to spit in my food at a restaurant, so I don’t spit in other peoples’ food. Apparently a Minnesota Vikings running back never got the memo to follow that rule-he was recently indicted on charges of negligent injury of a child:
According to law-enforcement sources, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beat his 4-year-old son with a tree branch as a form of punishment this summer, an incident that allegedly resulted in multiple injuries to the child. According to reports, Peterson has been indicted in Montgomery County, Texas for injury to a child.
The “whooping” – as Peterson put it when interviewed by police – occurred in Spring, Texas, in May. Peterson’s son had pushed another one of Peterson’s children off of a motorbike video game. As punishment, Peterson grabbed a tree branch – which he consistently referred to as a “switch” – removed the leaves and struck the child repeatedly.
I deplore the use of violence to solve problems. It doesn’t actually solve the root problem in most cases, and often perpetuates more violence. In addition, corporal punishment is a means of behavioral adjustment with questionable efficacy. Furthermore, it instills fear of a parent in a child and is often taken to extremes. Such was the case with Adrian Peterson:
The beating allegedly resulted in numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands. Peterson then texted the boy’s mother, saying that one wound in particular would make her “mad at me about his leg. I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch.”
Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”
In further text messages, Peterson allegedly said, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”
In what world is that not going overboard? Is it only extreme if you put your kid in the hospital?
I have another issue with corporal punishment: it denies the agency and humanity of children by treating them as property. If you get pissed off at another adult, you don’t have the right to grab a stick off a tree and beat them. You don’t have the right to take your belt off and beat someone if they talk back to you. Yet for some reason, this is seen as A-OK to do with children, as if they don’t have rights. As if they’re the property of their parents to be treated in the fashion they choose. I’m sure most parents have their childrens’ best interests at heart, but that doesn’t change the fact that such violence against children would not be acceptable-it would, in fact, be a crime-if committed against an adult. Why isn’t corporal punishment considered assault and battery? I’m not arguing that children should have every right an adult has, but when it comes to issues of bodily integrity and autonomy, corporal punishment is a clear violation. Denying children the right to their bodily integrity is a violation of their human rights and should not be tolerated. Yet it is. Widely. Perhaps universally. That doesn’t make it right. Neither do arguments from tradition.
Adults aren’t allowed to beat their friends or spouses. Why do parents get this special right when it comes to their children? Children are harmed, sometimes even killed by corporal punishment, yet so many people cling to the idea that it is somehow a necessary tool for parenting when it ought to be abolished. Children are some of the most vulnerable members of society and we ought to be protecting their rights, not violating them.