Last week Adrian Peterson’s son lost his life after being beaten by his mother’s boyfriend. He was two years old. People and supposedly reputable news sources across the Internet speculated on the details of the tragedy. Some reported that when he went to visit his son in the hospital it was his first time meeting his son (although he only recently found out he was the father thru DNA testing) as if that really mattered. A lot of people debated whether or not the child’s mother was to blame. What was lost with all the blame games (looking squarely at you Don Lemon) that went around was that an innocent child lost his life and what exactly could be done to prevent something like it from happening in the future.
The fact that Adrian Peterson was his father this child meant that this story naturally had more than if his father wasn’t a famous athlete. The story tugged at the heartstrings of the nation but in reality this happens everyday. It happened the day before and it will continue to happen unless something is done to stop it. According to ChildHelp, on average four children die everyday from child abuse. Also, approximately 80% of children that die of child abuse are under the age of four 1. Children are fragile beings who should be protected and sheltered. When an adult beats on a person whose body is not fully developed and is a fraction of the size of said adult things like serious bodily injury, brain damage and even death can occur.
I’ve always maintained that if I were fortunate enough to become a parent I wouldn’t beat them. This has long been my philosophy because I was abused as a child. At the time I really didn’t think I was abused. I just assumed that’s how all parents disciplined their children. Most people who have parents who are immigrants from West Africa or the West Indies know the harsh definition of “spare the rod, spoil the child.”
The other day I was having a discussion with my two of my brothers about what we thought we endured was normal in fact wasn’t normal (This is what inspired me to write something). We ended asking each other if we remembered certain events that happened when we were growing up. It was something of a therapy session, which was out of the norm because a lot of black people don’t like rehashing events and/or feelings that may explain why things are a certain way.
There was one time when my mom was mad at my dad at my dad for a reason my brothers and I were too young to understand. We were running thru the house playing tag or some other game that young boys play. My mother happened to be cooking at the time and after she told us to stop running in the house one time too many she took at frying pan that she was washing and threw it clear across the living at us. The frying pan made direct contact with one of my brother’s foreheads. At the time she was remorseful even though my brother didn’t have anything worse than a welt. Even then I knew what the repercussions could have been if my brother were more seriously injured.
My mother is a good person. She’s not malicious or intrinsically violent. That day she was frustrated with my father with whom they had their own domestic violence issues and in a moment of unsuppressed frustration she turned her anger towards her children instead of the alternatives. She could have sought therapy. She could have talked things out with her husband. She could have punished us in different ways that didn’t include physical violence. From I can remember till I turned about 10 or 11 my parents preferred method of punishment was beatings. This sometimes involved beating us with objects including shoes, extension cords, fists, etc.
Eventually as we got bigger than our parents (I was bigger than my Dad by the time I was in middle school) they used more unorthodox methods of punishment. Sometimes we had to get on our knees and keep our arms out to our sides for an extended period of time. Another favorite in our household was to start from a standing position and use my left pointing finger to touch the ground while balancing my right foot in the air behind me. This position was also held for an extended period of time.
Although my parents are African and beating children comes second nature as a punishment even they grew out of it. I thank God that it happened before any of us became a statistic. I have personal experience with being abused. It helped shape my views on it today and it’s led me to believe that beating children is lazy. Children misbehave and it’s a parent’s job to train their children to become fully functioning adults. There are plenty of alternatives to physical punishments. The jokes that “timeouts” are for white parents are detrimental. My brother uses this method with my niece (she’s seven) and it’s very successful. In a perfect word a stern look would be enough to cause a child to behave. In absence of that taking away privileges and maybe the twisting of an ear or slapping of a wrist could also work.
In the wake of the death of Adrian Peterson’s son and with it being domestic violence awareness month I hope more people take the time to think about the effects that violence in the home can have directly on those living it in it. Click here to view some of the effects of domestic violence where children are present in the home.