A mother’s perspective on Adrian Peterson and whoopin’

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Last night when I first heard about Adrian Peterson’s troubles regarding, in his words, his son’s “whoopin’” I was somewhat incensed about the zeal in which the media attacked this story, equating it to the abuse suffered in the Rice case. It’s as though the CBS reporter who wrote that the “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” went WAY overboard and did not understand the concept of “the whoopin.’”

When my dad was stationed in Georgia, it was not uncommon for me to hear parents say to their kids who were “showing out,” “I’m gonna whip your butt into next week” and “you stop that or I’m gonna pop your butt” — among other things. By the way, this was said by not only black parents, but white and Puerto Rican as well. And for those of you who say I should use the term “Hispanic,” well, most of the people of Hispanic ethnic origin on post at the time were Puerto Rican.

So, is it right or wrong?

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Well, it depends. Factors, like the parents’ upbringing (if they were spanked they tend to spank), stress levels, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status and region of the country.

When I was growing up, our neighbors on one side were mixed – the husband was American white and the mother was from Viet Nam. The eldest son at the time was very active and mischievous. The mother, Nim, tolerated that because “boys will be boys.” She was even proud of his size – having taken after his father, he was physically larger and thicker than she was and was a very good athlete. But I witnessed her make him hold out his hands and stand still while she delivered a number of swats on his hands from a “switch” for disrespecting her by raising his voice and saying something “sassy.” He was so mortified by his actions, it was a serious thing — the disrespect of the people who love and cherish you. He had welts but the pain was more in his heart. He graduated with honors and continues to honor his parents.

I asked my Chinese foreign exchange student Lin, about this and she told me you should never insult the people who love you and work for you.

Conversely, on the other side, we had neighbors who over-used the whoopin.’ There were no books, no diversion, no kind words. They had five children living in a small home. The kids had chores all of the time, virtually no books – save for a few magazines and the parents were obviously younger than average. They were always stressed, short of money but dressed well and went out often. The father was fond of the “tickle of the belt.” All of the kids had bruises from time to time for major or minor infractions which would include not ironing the father’s clothes, going into the refrigerator without asking (the punishment for this was particularly barbaric) or not cleaning up. This did not turn out well.

Where do you have a cut off? When do you cross the line?

As CBS reported, “Adrian Peterson’s son told authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities. He also said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.” He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”

Peterson, himself, acknowledged in a weird text message to the child’s mother: “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!”

So, temporary damage to the child’s scrotum was part of the story.

“Also noted were numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, and legs, 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.”

THAT was quite a session, especially for a 4-year-old child.

The truth is, we do sometimes swat the hind parts of our children sometimes to get their attention or deter them from bad actions. We sometimes say harsh words. No doubt, absolutely, that none of us should do anything that we intend to cause permanent damage — especially to our precious children.

But we do neglect to realize that each child is wired differently, even from us — the parent. I once asked my daughter why she did such a dumb thing. Two years later, she asked me why I think she’s “dumb” because after all, she gets good grades. As for Allen, he never wanted to spank his girls because he felt they’d get used to men striking them. “Mr. Softie” (aka Allen West) also apologizes after yelling – which amounts to speaking one small raised level over his normal quiet voice. Sometimes he just points and doesn’t blink. In other words, “I am the Terminator.”

I once asked my grandfather when he gave me one of the two spankings I received from him in my life (I probably deserved at least 20 more) “Grandpa, is this going to hurt you more than it hurts me?” God bless him, he was so honest, he said “No, this is going to hurt you more because you have hurt me by doing wrong things.” I didn’t understand at five, but I do now.

The bottom line is, Adrian Peterson went over the line. The punishment was excessive for the crime of “pushing” another child. And there should never be a special room for punishment – that sounds like a torture chamber. How much sense does it make to punish an act of violence by a greater act of violence? And won’t society punish that young man when later in life he gets shoved by his wife and retaliates by knocking her out and dragging her through a casino hotel lobby?

I am certainly not saying the government should decide how you raise your children, but:

Ephesians 4:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Further: You reap what you sow.

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