ESPN’s Cris Carter sheds much needed light on culture of abuse

You don’t have to be much of an NFL fan to know that the dominant headlines these past weeks have had little to do with the action on the field. The latest involving the behavior of Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson. The NFL star decided that his four – year-old behaved badly enough to deserve to be hit with a stick repeatedly. If you have the stomache,  Google the images and you will see that this wasn’t a little tap on the behind.

Peterson has come out and said he didn’t intend to inflict that much pain. Really? What was your intention? To tickle the child? Justify it all you want, but the purpose of corporal punishment is to cause pain.

There are folks who will argue that spanking is a cultural thing and that it is the only form of discipline they know. Peterson alluded to his own upbringing in explaining why he hit his son. I think NFL analyst, and hall-of-famer Cris Carter had the perfect response. Here is a man who acknowledges that his mother did the best she could, but she was wrong.

Carter’s passionate stance against child abuse has helped start a conversation on how we treat children.

There are many who will argue that children aren’t disciplined enough and physical punishment is the only thing that works. I agree that children today are often coddled and handled with “kid gloves,” but there is a lot between being a passive parent and an abusive one.

Before you think I must be blessed with some angel, understand that I have had moments when I felt I could wring my son’s neck. And if you knew me before I had my son, you would have thought I was capable of hurting him. I certainly did. You see, I had (sometimes still have) an anger problem, and I was genuinely worried about what that would mean once I became a parent.

During my pregnancy, I made a conscious effort to stay as calm as possible and believe that I have continued that process long after I gave birth. Like most toddlers, my son has his moments, but for the most part he is a well behaved child. A firm “no” is usually all it takes to stop him from doing something inappropriate. My son isn’t special, I just respect that he is old enough to understand that it is my job to provide him with a safe, structured environment and part of that means letting him know what behavior won’t be tolerated.

As he gets older, I know I will have to take things further. I’m still not sure if I believe in the whole “time out” method. I haven’t been compelled to use it, and I’m not convinced that it works. Instead, I plan to take a page from my mom’s parenting handbook and use those moments of bad behavior as an opportunity for growth and learning.

My mom’s method of discipline involved lecturing my siblings and me on why what we did was wrong and making us write out an apology for our transgressions. This enabled us to process what happened and served to validate our feelings at the same time. I used to joke that a lecture from my mom was the worst punishment you could receive, and if you know my mom, you would agree, but now as a parent, I see how affective her methods were.

Want proof? How about three kids, who all with at least a college – level education, upstanding citizens, productive members of society and all around good people. Sure, we all had our moments, but we turned out Okay.

Last I hear, Peterson may not be taking the field any time soon. I hope he uses this time to reflect on his actions, as well as the actions of his own parents’ and ask himself what message he’d like to pass on to his own children. And I hope that those who feel they have no choice but to physically harm their children find the support they need to become better parents.

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