I don’t have kids yet, but I’ve already been thinking about ways in which I’d parent them for the last couple years now – and even moreso in light of the current Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice controversies.
When issues like these come to the national spotlight and attention, it makes me not only want to talk about them (in intelligent and nuanced ways), but it they also make me reflect on how I would act and what I would do should I find myself in similar situations. And after marinating on it and having some great conversations with close friends…
I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t think I’m going to spank my kids.
Other people have written great, thought-provoking pieces about this, too. This is not an attempt to repeat what has been said ad nauseum, but instead an effort to come to a better understanding of how I’ll approach parenting should I become one in the future.
Now – full disclosure here – my brother and I were spanked as children. So, I’m quite familiar with this form of discipline (as are a lot of my Black peers). And honestly, I think he and I turned out pretty great. So, this isn’t about blaming or villianizing my parents or any other parents that do choose this form of discipline while parenting. (My parents were great to us. In fact, I wrote before about how awesome both of them are/were) .
But I do think that when I have children, I’ll do things differently.
Oftentimes when events like these make headlines, many people automatically go into defense-mode, defending the choices and methods of their parents (and even their own choices) with the catch-all logic of: “my parents did __________ and I think I turned out fine,” or some iteration of: “if folks got a video tape of my (insert parental figure here) raising me, my whole family would be in jail.”
But that’s not the point, and that line of reasoning can be a dangerously myopic way to structure the narrative. In fact, that’s often how we get stuck in family pathologies that turn out to be damaging for future generations, because what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander.Finally, this kind of logic shuts down intelligent conversation, when really, if we don’t talk about (and work through) this stuff, we’ll never progress. It’s like we’re limiting ourselves from evolving by defaulting to previous generational methods of parenting. And that doesn’t have to be.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Adrian Peterson story, he’s an NFL player indicted by a Texas grand jury, after spanking his young son with a “switch” (a thin tree branch) after he refused to share a video game. The reports noted that the young boy had welts and bruises on his butt, back, ankles and scrotum. Peterson has since been placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list and ordered to stay away from Viking team activities until these legal matters have been resolved. Now, there are rumblings of him injuring another son.
Ray Rice is another NFLer who was videotaped punching his now-wife (then-fiance, Janay Palmer) in an elevator earlier this year. Video of him surfaced as he was dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator, resulting in both their arrests on simple assault charges and a 2-game suspension handed down by the NFL for Rice. However, in more recent days, the full video surfaced, showing him delivering the blow to Palmer’s face, her head hitting the elevator rail and him finally dragging her body out of the elevator. As a result of public outcry, Rice has been suspended indefinitely.
I mention these two cases in tandem because they are more related than some many think initially. But, a little more on that later…
As I’m coming closer to the conclusion about my proposed parenting and discipline methods, I realize there’s really a few key reasons why I don’t think I’ll spank my kids (and it doesn’t stem from liberal, mumbo-jumbo):
1. I never want them to equate fear with love.
I want to raise intelligent, emotionally mature, critical thinking, disciplined, healthy and autonomous human beings. And since there are only ever two emotions, fear and love (all other emotions are sub-components), I’d rather choose love and ditch the fear as much as possible.
That sounds all tree-huggy, but I’ve thought deeply about this.
I realize that I don’t have to pass down confusing messaging to my kids by raising my hands to them one moment and declaring that I love them (either in word or in deed) in the next in order to raise healthy, well-adjusted, well-accomplished children.
The last thing I want to do is cause cognitive dissonance and confusion with the logic that, “I as your mother can spank you or inflict trauma upon you but bet’ not nobody else (who doesn’t claim to love you) touch you.” That’s inane to me. But, in my mind, that’s the way I’m starting to see what we often show and tell our kids – especially in the Black community.
And while that’s a gross simplification of what parents who choose to spank their children often do, it’s the simplest way I can put it.
I don’t want my kids to fear me. I don’t want them to fear anyone, for that matter. I don’t want to keep my kids “in line.” I don’t want them to do what I say simply because “I said so.”
I want to my kids to respect me. I want them to respect others. I want them to know right from wrong. I want them to understand the logic behind the rules my future husband and I have set forth for them to abide by. I want them to be autonomous beings that have the self-discipline and power to think and be themselves.
I really think there are healthier ways to raise children than by spanking them with my hand or any other tool (like a belt or a “switch”). I don’t want to associate a form of violence like spanking with love, which would ultimately result in them fearing me. This dovetails with my next reason…
2. I don’t want to raise “Little Slaves”
This is bound to get some side-eyes, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how I truly believe spanking – at least for those of us in the Black community – as a method of parental discipline is a psychological by-product of slavery.
Many have heard and are familiar with this logic – slave mothers and fathers would often “whip” their children as a way to discipline them, thereby training them to submit to their masters, and prevent those masters from beating those same little beings within an inch of their lives for the simplest infraction.
While reading various opinions on discipline and child-rearing, Twitter user Kim Love‘s reasoning resonated with me particularly. She said she wanted to raise “future leaders,” not “future slaves” – children who choose to obey her as a parent instead of obeying out of fear. It makes so much sense to me and I feel the same way.
She made some other great points, including the fact that children require great patience and it’s best to teach them right from wrong over the long haul instead of resorting to short-term fixes. Also, she noted that many in the Black community often dismiss alternative styles of parenting that don’t involve spanking and associate those methods with whiteness, which is true. She mentioned something else particularly salient, too – “we brag about how ‘ours’ don’t kill parents. They kill each other.” It’s true. Why? Because they have to take that resentment of years being beat into submission out on someone. It may not be parents, but other folks in the community, instead: their own children (Adrian Peterson), intimate partners (Ray Rice), friends and peers…and those are not better alternatives.
And while many in the Black community, specifically, take pride in the physical disciplining of children because that’s the way “it’s always been done,” and we often theologize spanking by using the Christian bible verse, Proverbs 13:24 or “spare the rod, spoil the child,” we all know that tradition isn’t always right or the best way to go. That’s the beautiful part about being human. We get to choose growth and better methods of doing things.
Also, did we forget that back in October of 2013, one of Adrian Peterson’s other sons died, succumbing to injuries after literally being beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend?
We in the Black community often talk about the “slave mentality” and the necessity of climbing out of it. In fact, we’ve been so mentally scarred and traumatized as a community that it’s no surprise many of us still adhere to this method of child rearing. But, I think this is one way we can continue to shed the mentality of the dark past – by choosing to evolve our perspective on parenting from raising little “slaves” or blindly submissive men and women acquiescing to every authority figure without question – simply because “they said so.”
We all want our offspring to be future leaders. I think that’s something we can agree upon. But how will they get there? That’s often a point of contention among people. They can’t do that if we’re raising them as slaves. They can if we give them the tools to think critically, make conscious decisions and become empowered beings.
Again, I don’t have kids. I know that parenting – while an incredibly rewarding experience, is also very difficult. So, my perspective may change once I do have children, but for now, I don’t think so…
So, what say you about this? I’m curious to know your thoughts.