I’ve never been a fan of Charles Barkley; his habit of saying foolish stuff—whether to get a rise out of his audience or just out of sheer stupidity—makes me want to fight air and shoot darts at my own flat screen TV. Such was the case this weekend when, on the CBS pre-game show The NFL Today, he defended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s right to beat his 4-year-old son with a switch.
Be clear: the “whooping” Peterson meted out on his baby—supposedly for refusing to share a video game with another child—was so severe that the child was left with welts and open wounds all over his butt, legs and even scrotum, the likes of which compelled the child’s pediatrician to alert child services, which in turn called the cops. While in custody, the boy said his father hit him in the face, stuffed his mouth with leaves while he whipped his naked body with a tree branch, and has a “whooping room” with a lot of belts “he doesn’t like.” Peterson was booked and indicted on negligent injury to a child charges, and released on $15,000 bond. When interviewed by police, according to CBS Houston, he allegedly said he cares for his son and only “whoops” his children as a last resort because he wants them to do right.
Enter Charles Barkley, telling a national audience on one of the biggest sports platforms in the country, that not only does a 6′ 1″, 217 lb professional football player have the right to beat a 4-year-old with a wooden stick so severe that it leaves open wounds on his testicles, but that every Black parent in the south does the same thing and should not be judged for it. “I think we have to really be careful trying to teach other parents how to discipline their kids. That’s a very fine line,” Barkley insisted.
*insert dead fish eyes here*
I’d argue that these two lunkheads have gotten hit one too many times out on their respective playing fields to be trusted with sane, rational arguments when it comes to disciplining kids, but then a simple perusal of comments sections all over the internet show that the world is full of Black folk still relying on those old, tired tropes to justify abusing children: “I got hit when I was a kid and I’m just fine”; “If I don’t beat my kids now, the cops will later”; “I’m the parent and they need to learn how to obey”; “I whip them because I love them,” blah blah blah. And here, not only is one of the NFL’s most respected players embracing and defending those barbaric child disciplining practices, one of sport’s loudest talking heads is using his platform to advocate it and blanket stereotype the rest of of Black southern parents who’ve long decided to leave slave master tactics on the plantation and embraced a more sane, rational, effective mode of disciplining our children.
Simply put: despite what Barkley yells into his microphone, the fact of the matter is that we absolutely should be going out of our way to teach parents how to discipline their children. Because all-too-many of us are still leaning on violence and anger to parent our children, rather than taking the time to understand childhood development and disciplinary tactics that actually freakin’ work.
Maybe I could get us all on the good foot and start with some simple, basic child discipline rules—you know, to help with the cause.
Don’t hit kids with tree branches.
Don’t hit kids with shoes.
Don’t hit kids with belts.
Don’t hit kids with wooden spoons.
Don’t hit kids with electrical chords.
Don’t hit kids with iPhone chargers.
Don’t hit kids with brushes.
Don’t hit kids with wire hangers.
Don’t hit kids with open hands.
Don’t hit kids with fists.
Don’t hit kids.
Do love your kids enough to know that a four-year-old needs to be taught how to be a loving human who shares his toys.
Do love your kids enough to know that maybe your kid is hitting other kids because you hit him.
Do love your kids enough to know that explaining why what they’ve done is wrong is infinitely more knowledge than any knowledge you can mete out with the tip of a switch or the business end of a belt.
Do love your kids enough to hug them.
Do love your kids enough to listen to them.
Do love your kids enough to read a parenting book or two to understand basic child development and know what to expect as they grow and test boundaries and learn how to be.
Do love your kids enough to understand that if your parents beat the shit out of you when you were a kid, they were wrong and it is your job as a parent not to perpetuate the falsehood that, in those moments, they were practicing good parenting.
Do love your kids enough to find alternate ways to get them to do what you want them to do without having to resort to violence.
Do love your kids enough to know that you are the parent and, therefore, smart enough to know how to get them to do what you need them to do without having to hit them.
Do love your kids enough to know that if you set high expectations, they will meet them and be completely torn apart when they fail to do so and know they’ve disappointed you. No hitting necessary.
Do love your kids enough to know that refusing to hit them does not make you weak. It makes you a better, more educated parent.
Do love your kids enough to be better parents than Adrian Peterson and Charles Barkley.
Love your kids.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.