Well I wanted to take a break from my Medieval blog series to address a popular topic in the media right now, Adrian Peterson’s recent legal troubles regarding disciplining his son. If any of you don’t know who Peterson is, he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL and plays for the Minnesota Vikings. He’s one of the most fun players to watch play the game, and until recently, has been one of the “NFL good guys.” ESPN posted an article which stated that Peterson experienced “Whuppings” as a kid and therefore was disciplining his son the way that his own parents disciplined. In the article Peterson credits being disciplined harshly with his current success in football. While there’s no denying how successful he is in the NFL, his recent troubles shed light on a debate that has been ongoing for many years: is spanking/ hitting your children okay?
Now, I want to preface this discussion by noting that I do not have children, nor do I have any real experience disciplining them (babysitting my nieces and nephews doesn’t really count). However, as more and more of my friends begin having children, I get to see how they discipline them when the kids act out. I haven’t seen any of them use spanking or any type of physical discipline, and it makes me wonder how I will chose to discipline my children someday, but that’s a discussion for another day. What Adrian Peterson is showing us is that simply using the discipline structure that you received as a child isn’t always the best course of action.
True, the man is obviously driven, focused, and a hard worker as he has reached the top of his profession. But is continuing a cycle of violence the best way to teach your children? Will a 4 year-old boy know learn how to behave from being hit repeatedly with a tree branch? Or will he simply learn that violence/ beatings come from his father? Will he learn the meaning of hard work and dedication from being hit, or could he simply look at his father as an example of being dedicated and learn that way?
I pose these questions as a fan of the NFL, as someone who really is sick of the domestic and other off-field violence that is running rampant among the league right now (see the Ray Rice saga or the Greg Hardy case), as someone who plans to be a parent someday, and as someone who questions the prevalence of violence in our culture today. I wonder can parents affect change in society by avoiding violence in disciplining their children? While I think that most people would agree that Peterson went too far (using a tree branch as a switch is inappropriate, and two doctors independently deemed it to be a case of abuse), what about spanking? Is spanking going too far/ abusive? How can we break the cycle of violence in our culture? Does a violent game (Football) perpetuate violence in the lives of the people who play it?