If you’re hitting your kid, you’ve already lost the battle

I listened to Sean Hannity on Fox News last week talk about how his father not only disciplined him with a belt but also once punched him in the face when he was doing something wrong. Hannity claimed that he was just fine, grew up great, doesn’t need therapy, and is happy with the way he was disciplined. I’m betting the child he once was would have a different take on that. Mostly I wish he could have met my father.

Neither my father nor my mother ever really hit us. Oh we got the occasional swat across the bottom but it was just that. In fact, it was more of a “move it along” swat done with their hand over our clothes. And it happened so rarely that I barely even remember it.

Discipline in my family was handled through respect and love. My mom did most of it. She had a way of speaking loudly when she needed us to really pay attention. And pay attention we did. She never hit. She never threatened to hit. But we somehow knew that it was best not to push her.

The worse punishment that could ever happen though would be to have dad look at us and see disappointment in his eyes. It was devastating.  My father generally thought his children were pretty amazingly wonderful and we never wanted to do anything to cause him to think otherwise. Mom, on the other hand, was pretty sure we had our flaws and worked on us to iron them out.  But with dad it was a mutual admiration society. He was, and remains, one of the finest men it was ever my privilege to know. He never had to raise his hand to us because as kids and adults, we would have done just about anything possible to make him proud of us.

Adrian Peterson, the football player who was suspended from his team for a felony child abuse arrest, beat his 4 year old son with a tree branch so badly the boy’s body had welt marks and open lacerations on his thighs, lower back and hands. What in the name of all that is human could a four year old have done to deserve that? Yet Sean Hannity suggested that we are becoming a soft nation in which a parent cannot legally discipline their child without facing criminal charges. He added that he hoped that Peterson would get off on the charge and that it wouldn’t ruin his football career. I heard him make these statements and thought that maybe he should have gone into therapy because there is something very sick and sad in his statements.

If Adrian Peterson has any real interest in making a family with his children and raising them correctly, he should start by winning their respect and love through the way he lives his life. That’s what my dad did, and his values still reverberate throughout my generation. My two siblings and I are probably more honest and decent than anyone would have expected us to be and it’s because the man we grew up with was also decent and honest. I’m not trying to downplay my mother’s influence. This was the fifties and sixties. Men worked and fixed things around the house. Women raised the kids and cooked. My mother was always the active disciplinarian in the family and she still influences every part of our lives. But when we transgressed enough to be sent to our rooms, it was the look in our dad’s eyes that broke our hearts.

If you’ve reached the point when beating a child is the only answer you have to a discipline problem, then you’ve already lost the game. You have clearly so lost your child’s love and respect that they simply don’t care what the consequences of their behavior might be. And, most importantly, when you are talking about a four year old, you are talking about a child who has not yet developed to the point where a beating means anything other than pain and violence. The only lesson being learned is that one human being can inflict pain on another human being if they are bigger and stronger.

Yep, I wish Adrian had met my dad. Then he’d know how a good father raises decent children.