Domestic violence has been in the news recently because of several incidents in the NFL. I didn’t understand how prevalent it was until I donated money to a local women and children’s shelter during my good tournament run ten years ago. I wasn’t allowed inside the shelter because I was told many of the women are terrified to see men after what they have gone through. Most of them are at the shelter hiding from their abusers. There aren’t nearly enough beds in shelters across our country for these victims.
Often women stay with their abusers because they don’t have the financial means to support themselves and don’t have family to take them in. Some could survive outside the shelter, but fear their abusers would hunt them down.
Almost everyone agrees that it’s not right for a man to hit a woman. I’ve heard some people say that a woman deserves it if she initiates physical contact. Others have said that a woman can provoke a man to physically abuse her.
In the past, I have been provoked by my female partners, including one who even hit me in anger. They can provoke me to be mad, they can provoke me to raise my voice, they can even provoke me to leave, but I could never be provoked to strike a woman. I’m sure there are plenty of women strong enough to hurt me in a fight. UFC fighter Ronda Rousey comes to mind. I would take off and run if she was attempting to hit me. However, it’s obvious that none of these NFL players were in physical danger. They abused their partners because of their superior physical strength.
Recently, the headlines have drawn attention to the case of Adrian Peterson, a great and previously beloved football star who “whupped” his four-year old son with a tree branch to discipline him. Police photos revealed the child was badly scarred as a result. Peterson claimed he disciplined his son in the same manner he had been disciplined as a child.
My dad spanked me when I was a child, however I was never bruised or badly hurt. I only remember my mom hitting me once and she hurt her hand doing it. I told her, “Mom, I’ll do what you want. I’m afraid if I don’t, you’ll hit me again and hurt yourself.”
I actually didn’t mind getting spanked as a punishment. It was quick and I could take the small amount of pain. My dad only used his hand, not a belt or branch or another weapon as many parents do. The punishment I really feared was being grounded. I was an active child and always had things to do and places to go.
Children who are hit at home are often the ones who fight the most and grow up to be abusers themselves. Violent behavior is taught and passed down from parent to child.
The usual justification people give for copying abusive punishments toward children is, “It was done to me and I turned out OK.” This is not a logical statement. There are many things that help form us as we develop from child to adult. People in our environment and circumstances we face will affect our development. Maybe you became who you are despite some bad decisions by your parents. Maybe you would have become an even better and more caring person without the violence. There is also a good chance you would not have continued the chain of violence to your spouse and children. Perhaps you would have even become educated enough to see the logical flaw in your conclusion that you turned out OK so anything that was done to you must have been a positive influence.
The most insidious side of a “whupping” coming from a black person is tracing where the practice came from. Slaves were whipped and this brutality was passed from them to their children and so on through modern day. This is one vestige of slavery that needs to be completely eradicated.
I spanked my two oldest children a couple of times and my third child, who kept getting into trouble, about twenty times. After I thought about it, I realized that I spanked my children because it was a way to release my own anger. Discussing the situation with my children only made me angrier when I heard their lies/excuses/reasoning, so I hit them. I hit them because I would have been hit under the same circumstances when I was a child. I hit them to teach them a lesson. However, the lesson I was teaching them is that a stronger person can hit a weaker person to control them and there’s not much the weaker person can do about it.
I’m sure I would have spanked my three oldest boys more often if I had been with them since birth. They are my stepchildren, and I didn’t come into their lives until they were 3, 5, and 7 years old. Ironically, I didn’t think it was right for me to hit them until they trusted me as their parent. It’s also ironic that children are the only people we’re legally allowed to hit.
Spanking is a quick, violent method of administering discipline. It takes a lot less time than discussing the problem and explaining why their bad behavior won’t be tolerated. The discussions with my children often seemed to go well, but the bad behavior was invariably repeated. When you spank a child, it solves the problem in the short run. Even if the child repeats the behavior, he’ll usually learn to be sneaky and avoid getting caught. He won’t learn the real reason to behave well. He’ll learn not to get caught because it’s painful when that happens. The kids I grew up with who were punished the most were often the sneakiest and had the worst relationships with their parents.
I made a lot of mistakes raising my children, but I decided not to spank my three youngest children. I think this helped build the trusting and caring relationships I have been able to share with them since they became adults. Not coincidentally, the one who talks to me the least is the one I hit the most. Your children will appreciate you more when they grow up if you take the time to talk them through the troubled times during their childhood instead of lashing out.
Most of us want our children to be tough, but the notion that you have to be physically violent with them to make them psychologically tough is misguided. It can be confusing if the person who is supposed to comfort and nurture you is someone who hurts you physically. Some may rise above the abuse but others will be broken by it. I tried to make my kids tough by not babying them. On average, I think I was unsuccessful, but I think hitting them would have weakened them much more and would have destroyed our relationship.
We’ve heard some people say that without violent punishment they wouldn’t be who they are today. What they really mean is without discipline and structure they wouldn’t be where they are today. It doesn’t have to be violent. On second thought, if they have become next-generation abusers of their spouses and children, their assertion might actually be correct.
I got divorced when my two youngest children were four and five years old. I had nannies watch them while I worked. I was uncomfortable with other people disciplining my children, but I usually went along with the program of discipline the nanny would suggest. One nanny, named Lois, would take a toy or book away from my youngest daughter Melissa whenever she misbehaved. I bought Melissa lots of books and Beanie Babies that she kept on shelves around her room. Melissa often got into trouble with Lois and frequently when I got home I would need to remind Melissa not to misbehave.
One day I said, “Melissa, you have to obey Lois when she says it’s time for bed. If you don’t, we’ll take one of your books or toys away from you.”
Melissa said, “No Daddy, you can’t.”
I said, “I don’t want to, but I will if you disobey.”
She said, “No you won’t.”
I said, “Melissa, I’ve never seen you talk back to me like that. Why are you acting like this?”
She said, “Daddy, you can’t take any more books or toys away because Lois has already taken all of them!”