Is All Spanking Child Abuse? Why the media wants to tie reasonable parents to the Peterson case

corporal-punishment-800

A lump formed in my throat as I listened to a man describing his son being shot. As a ghost writer (or more accurately “celebrity collaborator,” since my participation is not secret), I hear all kinds of stories. But this one got me. I write in first person, so I had to imagine the scene from the dad’s perspective. I couldn’t shake the feeling of sorrow as I went about my daily life.

It just so happened that my “daily life” at the time included obtaining a Tennessee carry permit later in the week with my husband.

“I just feel nervous about guns,” I told David. “After hearing the story, I’m anxious.”

When I confided this fear to my friend Anna at lunch, she crooked her head slightly and said, “You know weapons prevent violent crimes, right?”

But it didn’t matter what statistics I heard — or even that I’ve shot guns my whole life and my son has been on the trap team — my heart had been pricked by the story of a lost life. When I had gone through the carry-permit class in Paris, Tenn., I asked my instructor how many crimes had been committed by permit holders since the law was first enacted in 1993.

“Zero,” he said, “though once we had trouble with a guy who kept flashing his gun at Wal-Mart.” That’s out of thousands of carriers in that county. I knew getting a permit was not irresponsible, it was responsible.But when a business trip took me to Montana instead of the permit class, I was secretly relieved. That’s the thing about stories; they capture the listener’s heart, sometimes leaving the head behind.

This is precisely what is happening with the Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who was recently arrested for reckless or negligent injury to a child. His crime? He spanked his son with a switch, causing welts and cuts, which a doctor reported.The issue, of course, has grown into a larger, cultural question: Is spanking a legitimate method of discipline?

People weighed in. When I talked to a mother from Boston, she was aghast that there was any conversation around it. “This is a clear cut case of abuse,” she told me. In the South, where spanking is more prevalent, parents were more hesitant to either condemn Peterson or dismiss his actions.

In the midst of the media’s ongoing condemnation of Peterson, there was one notable exception. NBA commentator Charles Barkley defended the running back, saying if spanking were abuse, “every black parent in the South is going to be in jail.” (Later, he added, “A lot of my friends who are white and Italian sent me a text last night saying, ‘I don’t know why you’re making this a black thing. Our parents spanked the hell out of us, too.”)

And so, the conversation rages — on Twitter, Facebook, and around water coolers across America.

Please enjoy the rest of this article on National Review, where I discuss what precisely is wrong with the cultural conversation happening today.

Read more on the Patheos Faith and Family Channel and follow Nancy on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Spanking, Circumcision, Guns, and Stigmatizing Each Other into Oblivion

Earlier this week, my kids and I pulled up to an old Jeep decorated with political stickers, some of which can provide amusing reading at red lights and some that might evoke the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes when Kathy Bates repeatedly smashed into a Volkswagen after someone stole her parking spot.  [Read more...]

I Spank My Kids: Come and Get Me, Judge Longoria

When I lived in New York and Philadelphia, I was cautious about publicly disciplining my children, since I knew mothers in liberal northeastern cities differed greatly with my approach. For example, I once was chided by a mom in a library for getting on to my daughter for wandering off while I was trying to check out her books.

“You get back over here,” I said quietly, and my daughter began to throw a bit of a fit. In my urgency to avoid a public confrontation, I lapsed into the very unoriginal but still effective, “Keep it up, and I’ll really give you something to cry about!”

Another mom, ever so gently, pulled me aside. “You know, you really needn’t be so sharp with her,” she said. “The girl is obviously just trying to read books, and you will intellectually stunt her.”

The only thing I was trying to stunt was her defiance of basic instruction — a battle I fight with all three of my children. My insistence that my kids actually obey me put me at odds with friends who laughed when they saw me correct the kids at the playground. My friend Rene once said memorably, “I don’t use the word ‘obey’ with my kids, because it sounds so … Biblical.”

Incredulous, I asked her, “What do you do with the speed limit?”

I thought of these incidents over the weekend when a Drudge headline caught my eye. Apparently, a mother was convicted of a felony for what the prosecution called a “pretty simple, straightforward spanking case.” A belt wasn’t used, and no bruising occurred.

Where did this mother live? Berkeley? Manhattan? No, Rosalina Gonzales lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, where, by the way, it’s still legal to spank your children.

The Texas law states “Abuse does not include reasonable discipline by a parent/guardian/managing or possessory conservator if child is not exposed to substantial risk of harm. … Parent/stepparent/person standing in loco parentis to child is justified to use non-deadly force against a child under 18 when and to degree the actor reasonably believes necessary to discipline, or safeguard or promote child’s welfare.”

Nevertheless, Judge Longoria shamed the mother about her discipline before sentencing her to five years probation, a fine, and parenting classes.

“You don’t spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel,” he scolded. “You don’t spank children. You understand?”

This “legislating from the bench” makes me wonder if the worst problem Texas faces is an excess of parents trying to teach their kids how to behave.

As the mother of a toddler, I think it’s important for moms to come forward and quit being afraid of discipline that’s been tested by time. Moms tend to keep this a private matter, to avoid conflict or hard discussions with other parents. However, the Gonzales case should cause us to speak out in protest of an overreaching court.

That’s why I’m saying that I’ve spanked all three of my kids, and they aren’t raised yet. Spanking is far less emotionally manipulative than twenty nagging reprimands, it’s fast, and it’s certainly effective. And by the way, it’s legal.

So, Judge Longoria, come and get me.

This article first appeared on — and got lots of comments at — NRO.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X