How do you feel about corporal punishment?

Adrian Peterson. File, Charlie Neibergall / AP “Allegations that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson injured one of his sons by spanking him with a tree branch are reviving a debate about corporal punishment in a country where it is on the decline but still widely practiced in homes and schools,” reports the Associated Press.

In every state in the country, a parent can legally hit their child as long as the force is “reasonable.” What’s considered reasonable varies from place to place and in many instances the question is left up to a jury in a kind of community-standard test. Generally, though, the law draws the line when the force causes an injury. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defines it as any physical punishment intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.

In Texas, where Vikings Peterson is accused, punishment is abusive if it causes injury. While a blow that causes a red mark that fades in an hour is not likely to be judged abusive, a blow that leaves a bruise, welt, or swelling, or requires medical attention, could be judged abusive.

Today’s Question: How do you feel about corporal punishment?

  • KimB

    If you have to hit to teach respect, you aren’t parenting. It’s the lazy way out for parents who don’t know how to talk to, or otherwise discipline, their kids. Not spanking/slapping/beating kids doesn’t make them misbehave. I have 3. I’ve never spanked them. They are respectful, well-behaved, they work hard, they get along with everyone, they do well in school, they are happy. There are better ways.

    • Oma

      I agree. And it does not matter what we think or feel personally. Medicine and data show that violence toward children is never, but never called for. The only force a person should use is to prevent them from injuring themselves, such as burning themselves on the stove, etc.

  • PaulJ

    Sanctions are better, but not everyone has access to that method at all times and everywhere. On the other (open) hand, it seems violence is usually dolled out by someone who has lost their temper (acting childish).

  • Jamie

    Discipline is not violence towards children. Discipline is multifaceted and can range from rewards for good behavior to frank discussions of cause and effect to a slap on the hand to a beating (no longer good discipline.) You can’t really have a frank discussion with a 4 year old. It appears that Mr. Peterson crossed the line by quite a ways, but there is some middle ground where a slap on the hand or the bottom is definitely effective and occasionally called for. I’ve seen plenty of children who could use a firmer hand.

  • Jennifer Diane Wright

    Spanking, for me, should only be used in extreme situations. I was walking four children to the park and one of the boys thought it was funny to walk in front of moving cars. He slipped out of my hand and tried to walk right in front of one. The car was only going about 5 miles an hour an stopped completely but it was still the fact this kid didn’t fear moving cars. None of my usual tricks worked because he kept doing it so I spanked him. It worked so I can’t say spanking can’t be affective it just shouldn’t be taken to far or used to often.

  • Kevin Huyck

    Everyone seems to think that their kids are well-behaved, having never used any corporal punishment, Can you seriously look at our society as a whole and say that the behavior of young people is better than it was before we started this misguided, self-esteem based parenting foisted upon us by Spock, Brazelton, etc. beginning in the 50’s and 60’s? Don’t get me wrong. I am not condoning child abuse, and Peterson went too far. The mistake most parents make in implementing corporal punishment is doling out punishment while they are still angry and upset with the child. That’s what AP did. The purpose of a swat is to get the child’s attention in an immediate way. Young children are talked to, cajoled, yelled at constantly by friends, parents, strangers, TV, etc. I becomes the WAA-WAA of the old Charlie Brown cartoons. A different method is required to focus them on the issue at hand. I don’t think Adrian Peterson is a bad parent. I don’t think he is an abuser. I think he does not have a lot of parental interaction with any of his kids, and he is paid handsomely to react quickly, and with ferocity, I think he needed to be introduced to the idea that there are more appropriate ways to discipline. Mission accomplished. I don’t think this means he should lose his livelihood. He is a good man who made an impulsive choice, colored by the way he was raised himself. Our society seems to have lost any sense of grace and forgiveness (Chris Carter, Boomer Esiason). This “bury him under the jail” mentality smacks of the same knee-jerk reaction they criticize Peterson for. Do you really think this is a behavior he will continue to engage in? I don’t.

  • CarlMN

    “Generally, though, the law draws the line when the force causes an injury.”

    So, what constitutes “injury” to a child? Some laws try to define or describe what that means in a physical sense, based on outward appearance. Outward appearance does not reveal internal damage – to the body structure, to organs, to the brain.

    And physical injury is not even necessary in order to cause emotional or mental damage that may manifest later in life – typically as social maladjustment and through perpetuation of the abuse on others.

    Not everyone is going to suffer physical emotional or mental injury because of corporeal punishment, but many do, and many perpetuate this low level manner of dealing with inappropriate or undesirable behavior. Some actually turn out much better because of it – and learn other skills for dealing with behavior issues, but that’s not a reasonable justification for corporeal punishment.

    We, as a society, need to develop, teach, promote, encourage and reward more skillful parenting and more skillful interpersonal relationships in general. We’re all in this together, intimately and inextricably interconnected and interdependent. May we all learn to recognize and embrace this, and learn to behave accordingly.

  • Jon

    A society that (still…) accepts capital punishment will inevitably fail to bat an eyelash at corporal punishment

  • Observe

    Parents raise kids for the most part in the manner they were raised. Welts & bruises are just part of abuse, sometimes the lesser part. Laws are but the crudest attempt to protect kids and direct parenting, but by no means represent a sufficient redirection of parenting methods.

    The thing about Peterson is that he comes out of a different culture than we do in Minnesota and he would never be convicted by his peers under normal circumstances (even given the definitions above). That’s the rub in this situation.