Over the past two weeks I’ve been listening to accusations of child abuse involving NFL running back Adrian Peterson and his four-year old son.
The allegations go way beyond a slap or swat on the rumpus. Word is that the boy sustained welts and bruises all over his body. Some of the wounds supposedly drew blood.
Last Wednesday, whilst driving to practice Tai Chi, I turned on the radio and instead of music, I listened to a call-in show. Guess what the topic of conversation was?
“Should you spank your child and if you do, when does a spanking cross the line and equal abuse?”
Both men and women rang the station. The announcer himself talked about how he got beat regularly by his parents – and even told how he doesn’t just threaten his children with “the belt” – because threats aren’t sufficient.
Yep, at times he takes off the belt and gives his children an unspecified number of lashes.
Although i was only listening for about 40 minutes, I didn’t hear a single parent say that spanking your child is wrong under any and all circumstances.
Neither will I.
But what I will say is what was taught to me long ago by an Aikido martial arts master.
To paraphrase the story:
One day an Aikido master saw a father angrily beating his child. As he hit the boy, the father yelled and screamed.
The master interrupted the scene and pulled the boy’s father to the side. In typical Zen fashion, he did NOT condemn the father for his actions. Instead, he gave him another way of experiencing life with his son.
“You can hit your son anytime you want,” said the Aikido master. “But ONLY under one condition.”
“What’s the condition?” the man asked.
“When you hit him, you cannot do so with anger. You can only spank him if you feel love in your heart for your child.”
The next time the boy stepped out of line, the father remembered the master’s advice. Instead of hitting him, he rid himself of the anger and replaced it with love.”
Surprisingly, after doing this, he felt no need to hit his son. He spoke to him instead – taking his time to teach him right from wrong.
The father did not hit his son that day. Or any other day thereafter.
Because it is almost impossible to hit or spank a child when you are not angry with him. If you take the time to clear your anger and replace it with love, chances are you’ll rethink how you handle your interaction with your child.
Now, you might think the above is “just a story.”
It’s not. It’s real life.
There are many parents who actually believe if they don’t hit their child, the child will NOT respect them. Or obey.
There are many ways to win the respect and obedience of your children without spanking them. And no, I’m not talking about “timeouts.”
I’m talking about challenging them in a physical way that highlights “who’s the boss” without hurting anyone.
For example, is it plausible that Adrian Peterson could lightly wrestle with his son to get the point across?
Come here, son. You don’t want to listen? Okay, let’s wrestle for a few minutes and if you can beat me, then you call the shots.
I’m betting that it would be a great match. Adrian’s son would squirm and maneuver with all his might – yet be controlled with light pressure. I’m also willing to bet the match would end with laughter and a very different level of respect.
No belts necessary. No switches. No punches, hits or slaps.
Just the tentacles of a giant human octopus (that’s what he’ll feel like to his son).
Yes, I realize a lot of parents think they aren’t physically fit enough to wrestle with their children. But an NFL football player does fit the mould of someone who can.
Controlling your child with the least amount of force necessary makes a lot more sense than whacking him with your fist – or hitting him with a belt or switch.
As I’ve observed, parents who feel they must spank their children, rarely make a lasting impression. That’s why so many of them feel the need to spank their children so often.
Having a heart-to-heart with your child may not feel very easy for you. Using a belt or switch might seem like it’s much faster, quicker and easier.
As a parent, I can tell you that the word is mightier than the belt. Your children will remember your words and use them to make themselves better, if you choose them wisely.
About all they’ll remember from the beatings is the desire to “pass it on.”
Here endeth today’s lesson.
Matt “Coach” Furey
P.S. Theatre of the Mind is filled with many stories and examples to help any parent become better than his or her parents ever thought of being. Grab your copy NOW for $40 off the normal retail amount.