Adrian Peterson switchI’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.

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Denene Millner

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.

41 Comments

  1. Do I think whippings are the best form of discipline in every situation for every child? No. Corporal punishment and showing your kids love are not mutually exclusive. To say Adrian Peterson took it too far is an understatement, but Charles Barkley is dead on when he says you have to be careful in telling or judging the way others discipline their kids. I nursed, I didn’t co-sleep and I let mine CIO. A lot of ppl would have strong opinions about my choices but I am doing what I feel is best for my child.

  2. Thank you for saying this. I support you 100%.

  3. This post is spot on! I am so tired of hearing people justify what is essentially child abuse by saying that they’d been disciplined that way and they turned out fine. That’s BS. I was switched for discipline (and part of the punishment was that we had to go find our own switches, many of which were rejected until they were thin enough). I might look fine on the outside and have had a successful education and career. I am a good mom, but I am not fine. I have struggled because of the “discipline” my whole life. A man who has a switching room in his house is not fine either.

  4. Your story is right on. It is not that the child needed to learn to share it is how a parent is trying to teach him how to share. Spanking is not wrong, but this is over the line for a 4 year old child. Yes we do need to teach our kids how to do what we say, this at 4 or any age, but their is a better way. And Charles Barkley needs to shut the h… Up.

  5. Peterson may have went overboard, bit if a kid does something that warrants a whipping, a whipping is what they will get

    • Mo, what warrants a whipping? Did the 4-year-old crash the car? Burn the house down? Rob a bank? What, exactly, warrants an adult man to think it perfectly reasonable to strip a child naked and whip him with a tree branch 10 to 15 times with all his might, leaving welts all across a pre-schooler’s little body? Do tell.

  6. I agree with MO Spare the rod and spoil the child. We have made a society of children who are irresponsible, and in accountable for there actions. They blame others for their mistakes and there are no consequences for there actions. No, I don’t believe a child should be beaten or abused but a swift Crack on the ass or pop on the hand can go along way. Time out has it place when it works.

  7. I parent how I see fit. If corporal punishment comes into play then so be it. I’m interested in your credentials. What makes you an expect on child rearing? What is your criteria for deciding what is asks is not good patenting or loving parenting? These ate not rhetorical questions. I’m truly curious why you are better to take advice from than any one else. I don’t agree the punishment meted out to the four year old was appropriate but I opt not to sit in judgement with the the “eye roll” on black parenting styles as slave mentality.

    • The criteria is research AND education Einstein. Are you saying you enjoyed your whippings?? No wonder black people are always last. LMAO. We whip them when they are young so the men whip their women and they try to play the thug. I think I despise you as much as my Mum and her deep lack of self awareness. I swear some of us blacks have a missing link….empathy.

  8. Oh the joys of spell check…. please allow common sense to ease the typo burdens. …

  9. I appreciate your intent but the sake of the child remove those pics. Your not helping this child by exposing their wounds to the internet.

  10. I am not a fan of spanking (I think I swatted one of my kids once with my hand and felt worse than they did) but regardless, what Adrian Peterson did was abuse, plain and simple. Leaving visible marks and injuries is NOT spanking, nor is it even a “whooping”, it is abuse. And by the way, “spare the rod and spoil the child” is not Biblical, it from a satirical poem by Samuel Butler, referencing what to do to a boy who wants to have premarital sex with his girlfriend. And the similar quotes from the Bible are from Proverbs, written NOT by God but by King Solomon, who beat his son, who eventually became the most hated and evil king of Israel in history. Facts count.

  11. I often hear comments such as Rob’s. “I agree with MO Spare the rod and spoil the child. We have made a society of children who are irresponsible, and in accountable for there actions. They blame others for their mistakes and there are no consequences for there actions.”

    What I don’t understand is if whipping the children works so well, why is there such a large number of inmates between the ages of 31-35. That would be the generation I grew up in and we were whipped. I was no stranger to the belt, the switch, or the tub of water that I was to soak the welts off in. I never even considered that there was another way until I began educating myself on the topic about two years ago. I was spanked, and most would say I turned out wonderfully. Mostly yes, except that I grew up thinking it’s appropriate to hit children. That’s not okay.

    80% of inmates were spanked, if it was so effective, why didn’t those inmates get the point? The majority of the country spanks. So where is the evidence that shows that spanking is indeed the best way to discipline a child. That’s a problem too. We’re so stuck on disciplining them that we’re forgetting the point is to TEACH them. Stop being lazy and resorting to hitting because you’re frustrated. That’s what children do! Surely you have more tools to deal with anger, frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment than a child does! If you don’t, then pick up a book and learn!

    • Of the 80% that were spanked, how many grew up in single parent homes specifically without their fathers? That’s probably the more significant factor.

      • But DJ why would you rather inflict fear and pain, then to talk and guide? No child brought up with emotional education has turned out badly-EVER. They can find work; don’t turn into angry abusive black women or egocentric aggressive black men.

        Why would you choose to be mean, then be nice? Dear god.

        • That’s what I’m saying emn4cw. Why on Earth would one want to make a case for hitting a child? A tiny human!? With an underdeveloped brain!? Instead of being nurturing and patient with children as they learn, just beat all the children!

          If there is a better way, why not use it? All these parents say they do it because they love them, because they want the best for them, but if there’s BETTER out there, why aren’t they willing to step back and reassess and actually give them what’s best for them; give them time, understanding, room to mess up and learn. This is not rocket science people.

          You’re an adult. Your brain is fully developed and yet, you mess up. No one is allowed to hit you for it. If they do, they can go to jail. Stop being hypocrites.

  12. I think she is trying to help the child by showing the pics. Some people may have heard the story and thought, “whipping – big deal”. When a whipping leaves lasting marks like these, the point in showing the pics is to educate that this is too far. Also, you don’t have to be an early childhood psychologist to know in the year 2014 that kids brains are not yet fully developed for the higher functions of reasoning and emotional regulation until early adulthood. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am constantly tempted to physically dominate my kid if I feel they are disrespecting me. Then I think of MLK, “The first man to raise a fist is the one who has run out of ideas.” I take a breath and think what quality am I trying to bring out in my kids? You know if you’ve ever lost your mind when you are angry at your kid that you feel out of control. You know what I’m talking about. Where you’re even scarring yourself a little? Imagine how your kid feels! Haven’t you ever overheard a parent whooping their kid, or seen them get slapped and felt pain or deep sadness for that kid? Then why do you think it’s somehow different when you do it to your own?? I’ve been fortunate enough to travel some in my adulthood and have found that in Africa and South America – people love kids way more than we do here. Something is seriously broken here in the US (history that was never atoned for) and I don’t know what it would take to repair it at this point. Thank you for this post.

    • The problem with the pics is two fold, they were illegally leaked and are part of a legal investigation, and they compromise the child’s privacy. Now this poor boy has to live knowing that there are pics of him in his underwear showing his scarred legs everywhere. Think about it, if this were your child would you want their semi naked wounded legs on the internet? She makes good points but we still have to be careful of the visuals we use in cases like this for the sake of the person in the photo.

  13. What could a 4 year old have done to warrant such a violent outcome? Clearly this athlete is far much stronger than his child. Such abuse is disgusting!

  14. I respect the heck out of your words. So much that I want to stand up and cheer. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. I have heard too many times that “they were whipped as a kid and they turned out fine.” Maybe, maybe not. Teaching our kids to solve a problem with violence is not the answer.
    THANK YOU. That poor child; the photos turn my stomach.

  15. Although i agree the bruises on this child was too much but your approach feels like you adapted to a Caucasian style of parenting and i dont agree with your advice .

    • A “Caucasian style of parenting”? Maaaaaan, listen: if you’re still THERE, I can’t even consider engaging in a thoughtful, intelligent conversation on parenting with you. Seriously.

      • Oh my gosh, thank you, Denene. That’s about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. “Caucasian style of parenting”? So what is essentially being said here is that blacks shouldn’t assimilate in such a way that causes us to deal with our children gently and respectfully. That’s the whole premise of this article! Leave the slave mentality behind! Wow. Just wow. I have so many thoughts going through my head that I can barely get it in into this response clearly!

        • This obviously isn’t the website for me my internet grammar isnt that of a scholar major so I can see a lot of the black women trying to make me feel less then like De -ne-ne did with her comment but i have an opinion so I’ll voice it.

          White parents give their children control , which is why they talk and behave the way they do towards them . Parents these days are trying to be their childs friend , the biggest mistake you can make as a parent . Im not your friend lets make that very clear . Children are smart and adapt fast you all should know that since you all apparently went to school for child behavior of some sort let me guess taught by the white man ? Lol
          They are the master manipulators, they know what they are doing and if not careful will run your life . So I do not parent my kids the white way , the good ol black way does just well in my household and yes my kids still get plenty of love and attention.

          • No one is critiquing your grammar nor claiming to be a scholar. I’m just a regular old parent. Stay at home mom, working from home, husband who works, five children who drive me batty. I was spanked. I use to spank. I just happen to find myself around a group of women, black, white, and in between who gently introduced me to peaceful parenting.

            Parenting has no color, so lets just clear that up. No snark. It seriously doesn’t, so we can’t think of it like that. The parenting method you speak of is called permissive and you are correct. It can be damaging. Likewise, authoritative parenting (and hitting) can also be damaging. Are there adults that arrive on the other side “okay” by normal standards under each of these? Of course. Does that mean that they are what’s best and what we should strive for? Certainly not.

            Once you’re able to move beyond your current understanding of child development and parenting styles, then perhaps one could engage in a discussion about how to move beyond hitting and to other methods of teaching/rearing children.

            It has to start with the desire to find another way. Unless one has the sincere desire to refrain from hitting, to teach a child without resorting to pain, there’s little left to reason with.

            I hope that one day, you’ll have that desire.

          • First: it’s DENENE. No dashes necessary. I’m not in the business of making fun of anyone because of their grammar, and I can’t “make” anyone feel less-than. YOU choose the way you feel. And I choose not to engage anyone who equates my refusal to beat the hell out of my kids with “acting white.” That type of mentality is too weak and idiotic for me to waste brain matter on it. Thanks for your comment, though. I guess.

            For all others reading, I hope that parents, especially Black ones who parent from a place of fear, restriction and brutality, are taking just a second to consider that there are other tried and true, incredibly effective ways to raise and discipline children. Yes, you can go to school to learn those ways. Or read a parenting book or two. Or Google it. Educating yourself is nothing to be ashamed of. It only makes you wiser. Stronger. And your kids will be all the better for it.

      • You’ll have to excuse me because I see your one of those “black women ” but since you dont want to engage in a conversation with me then my comment is in agreement with an earlier comment krystal miguel . Where did you get you parenting method from ? Im raising my kids who are african american to be tuff this world isnt easy , I also have boys its important that they get whoppings and strict discipline so they grow up to understand there are consequences to their behavior. Since your some pop “rock” type black women I’m not sure if you know who eddie Griffin is but on his dvd dysfunctional family he has part where he talked about his mom whopping his ass , that most parents these days choose not too and thats why our children are out of control you should watch it , its comedy but he speaks the truth.
        Now I didn’t also discipline my children with whoppings but when my kids started hitting me , never listening, slamming doors and showing no type of respect I had to get out of that ” white ” method of parenting . Time outs , repeating myself 6 and 7 times yea that stuff doesn’t work . These are my kids im going to raise them the way i want and thats what that football player did and as crazy as Barkley sounds hes right .

        • Wait: you’re dispensing parenting advice gleaned from a comedic stand-up routine called “Dysfunctional Family”?

          *long blank stare*

          Oh.

          • No advice de -ne-ne im just stating my opinion on your opinionated article . Since when did black women blank stare ? Lol i just cant bring myself to continue to respond to a black woman fighting hard to fit in the white world , girl you are as black as they come . Have you seen a mirror lately? Good day let me go click around your site and see if you have something useful to relate too .

  16. ^^YES. That’s absolutely it. I want to be a white woman.”

    *said with about as much sarcasm as I could possibly muster*

    And on that note, I’ll simply say to Lena, “Bye, Felicia.”

  17. Beating your child is sick and wrong for all the parents who thinks its fine lep me hit you a couple of times with a power cord and let’s see how you like your “whooping”(:

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