Recently, for banned book week, I wrote a rationale for a young adult book. I chose Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Crutcher’s books are sometimes “labeled” as adolescent. However, I am well beyond adolescence and I was captivated. Furthermore, my classmates (which consists of late twenty-something’s to late sixty something’s) enjoy his books too. Crutcher is a therapist, lecturer, and writer who has won numerous awards and designations. A few of those include; the American Library Association’s 100 Best Books for Teens of the Twentieth Century, Booklist’s Best 100 Books of the 20th Century, ALAN Award, NCTE SLATE Intellectual Freedom Award, Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, Writer Magazine’s Writers Who Make a Difference Award in 2004.
Crutcher is no stranger to banned book lists. He shares some hard and politically incorrect truths about what occurs within the hallways of our public schools. He goes further and shows how those conflicts spill over into everyday life. Bullying is real. Domestic violence is real. Racism is real. Sexual abuse is real. Crutcher chooses not to sugar coat incidents and explicitly reveals the cruelties, ignorance, and pain that adults and young adults create and experience. He also shows the individual and collective strengths of those who can survive the abuse; those who choose to stand up against the abuse, and through those efforts affect positive change. Without hope, there is no future. Crutcher gives us hope; something we must each have to move forward with each day.
Aware of Chris Crutcher’s background, it came as no surprise when he weighed in upon the current news about child abuse and domestic violence in the NFL, or that he put it into a broader perspective. Crutcher further enriched his own commentary by wisely including a video clip of Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter‘s candid commentary on this subject. Please read through Crutcher’s entire article, including the addendum. I leave you to view and hear the powerful words of Chris/Cris.
Whacking Your Children
Man, the National Football League can’t catch a break. First Ray Rice punches out his fiancé, followed by two more players with domestic violence cases pending and another benched until his case is adjudicated. And now Adrian Peterson, an even bigger stud running back than Rice, gets hauled in on child abuse charges for “spanking” his kid with a switch. Geez, you’d think these guys run around getting hit in the head all day.
Running our debate about violence toward other human beings through the National Football League is a little like commissioning Fox So-Called News to lead a national debate on fact-finding, and anyway, it’s a mistake to enact laws or base our judgments on high profile cases. Keeping Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice et al off the football field will do little to stem the problem of family violence in this culture. In fact, other than the matter of public visibility, it’s no different than demanding an Idaho lumberjack not go back into the woods or a West Virginia coal miner not go back underground if they’re involved in a domestic violence situation.
But the Peterson situation has ignited an old debate about whether or not it’s okay to hit small children, and by small children, I mean anyone smaller than the person doing the hitting. Texas, where Peterson is from, and many other states have laws that draw a very thin line between physical punishment and abuse; so thin that for some it’s invisible. BUT IT’S CRAZY THAT WE’RE EVEN HAVING THIS DEBATE. Discipline and hitting are not the same thing. Peterson’s childhood coach said Peterson has told him stories of his father being a “firm disciplinarian.” His lawyer says he was parenting the way he was parented. One great failing of this culture is how cavalier we are about misnaming things. What his coach should have said is that Peterson’s dad hit him.
Discipline is not hitting, and fear is not respect and until we understand that as a culture, we’re not going to get it about disciplining our children. We hit them not for their own good, but because we’re mad and frustrated and don’t know what to do, so we revert to what is familiar. What we DON’T seem to know at that juncture, is anything about child development. You can be a firm disciplinarian without laying a hand on a kid, and in so-doing give yourself a better chance of an open relationship with them as they grow, one where you can have actual meaningful conversations, during which they learn through interaction with you why you want them to behave as you do. There are things you can take away and let them earn back; toys, privileges; later on, drivers’ licenses. They learn empowerment. I can fix what I broke. If they act the way you want them to act they can regain what they lost behaving as they did in the first place. It lets you be proud of them, and them to feel that pride. It establishes the value of your approval.
And it lets them learn in a safe environment.
When you hit a small child you’re telling that child that the person who is supposed to protect them from harm, will, in fact, inflict that harm. Because that is not your intention, does not stop it from being so, IN THE EYES OF THE CHILD.
In my experience the Adrian Peterson’s of the world have a much better chance of making changes. As flimsy as his attorney’s declarations sound, it appears he really MAY BE a product of his environment and there are a significant number of people who, when they know better, do better.
There are many credible studies showing that punishment, particularly physical punishment, has the least efficacy as a parenting tool. It stops the behavior quickly but has almost no lasting power and a lot of downside in terms of relationship. There are no studies, unless done by belt companies or the makers of wooden spoons, that depict physical punishment in a more positive light than the use of strong boundaries through relationship. The statement, “My old man beat MY ass and I guess I turned out okay,” is the one I’ve heard uttered most often in anger management and child abuse groups. Go figure.
I feel compelled to add to what I posted yesterday about Adrian Peterson’s “discipline” techniques. Somewhere in that post – and it should be just below – I said I thought there was some chance that Peterson was one of those people who might do better, once they knew better. At the time I hadn’t seen the pictures or heard the accounts of the damage inflicted, or heard his son’s utterances about having leaves stuffed in his mouth and about being afraid to tell what happened for fear of it happening again. I had also not heard Adrian Peterson say “I am not a child abuser. I feel bad.”
First off, Adrian, lots of child abusers feel bad. Child abuse isn’t about how you felt. It’s about what you did. What you might have said was, “I am a child abuser. I feel bad and I will do whatever I have to do to become NOT a child abuser, including making a promise to the God I point to before every game that I will never lay a hand, or a weapon, on a child again. Ever.”
Again, I don’t care what the National Football League or the Minnesota Vikings do with Adrian Peterson. I’m sure that down the line they have enough money to pay enough P.R. people to make this look very different than it was. For my money, I’ll never take Adrian on my fantasy football team and I’ll never watch another Minnesota Viking game in which he participates. Believe me, that means dick to the Vikings or to Adrian Peterson but as Gandhi said, “There is so very little we can do and it is so important that we do it.”
Adrian Peterson didn’t “discipline” his child. Adrian Peterson tortured his child, and ESPN and the rest of the mainstream media need to call it by its name. If these exact measures were taken on a kidnapped American or an American prisoner of war, it would be decried as torture. If our government were to take same measures against an “enemy combatant,” they’d go off-shore to do it.
The dictionary definition of “spank” is “to slap or smack with the open hand, especially on the buttocks.” You don’t spank a person with a stick.
Charles Barkley said on a pre-game show yesterday, that’s how black folks in the south “discipline” and by these standards every black parent in the south would be in prison. I’m a big fan of Barkley and I’ll defer to him any time on the actions of black folks, even though I know southern black people who are absolutely appalled at Adrian Peterson’s behavior. Best I let THEM take Charles on. But this isn’t a racial thing. Barkley needs to defer to me on the actions of white folks. I grew up in rural, lily-white Idaho and this shit was all over the place. I ran child abuse and anger management groups for twenty years in Eastern Washington and those groups were ninety five percent white and we had waiting lists. Adrian Peterson may have learned his techniques from a mean black dad, but I can match mean white dads, dad for dad, with anyone who wants to take the challenge.
In his first public statement, Peterson said, among other things, “I’m not a perfect parent.” Who in the WORLD thinks we’re talking about perfection here? How about we take that word out of the conversation.
Adrian Peterson says he’s a Christian. I wonder, if in his WILDEST imagination he can picture Jesus bruising an cutting a four year old child with a stick.
In case Adrian might consider advice from another black football player who came up hard – a Hall-of-Famer – I give him Chris Carter
Re-posted with permission of the author.