Jobseeker's Diary: Thin line between disciplining, abuse

Fans of American football, and especially the Minnesota Vikings will know about their star player, Adrian Peterson's legal woes that started in September when the 29-year-old beat his four-year-old son with a "wooden switch", leaving the boy with cuts, marks and bruises on the thighs, back and one of his testicles!

Fans of American football, and especially the Minnesota Vikings will know about their star player, Adrian Peterson’s legal woes that started in September when the 29-year-old beat his four-year-old son with a “wooden switch”, leaving the boy with cuts, marks and bruises on the thighs, back and one of his testicles!

Peterson says he never intended to harm his son and was only disciplining him in much the same way his own parents had raised him. He has since pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault, effectively avoiding a child-abuse conviction.

Instead, he will pay a $4,000 fine, serve 80 hours of community service, take parenting classes and spend the next two years on probation. As expected, some people are not happy he’s off the hook. They wanted him to go to jail and many have used some colourful language to describe him, including caveman, idiot, animal and molester.

They wondered why a man would be so cruel to a child. Others advised him to “pick someone his own size”, “stop taking steroids”, “get a mental check”, “grow up” and even “get a vasectomy.”

Some want child services to take custody of the boy. Many want Peterson banned from the National Football League to deter other parents and caretakers from using corporal punishment.

I detest violence of any kind, more so against children and women. But at the same time, I think parents have a right to discipline their children. At the end of the day, it’s you who lives with this boy or girl that you clothe, feed and take care of until such a time they become independent and live on their own.

Why then should other people dictate your disciplinary choices? It’s not like what works in one home will automatically get children everywhere to behave better! I’m not saying we should look on as parents beat their children unconscious but I don’t think we should be quick to judge or crucify them for attempting to correct their own children.

I don’t think there are many people above 20 who weren’t beaten either at home or school, at least here in Africa. Personally, I was a good kid, for the most part. I usually had good grades, never escaped to go to a night club and I really stayed away from boys as my parents stressed I should and I can proudly say I never gave them reason to punish me severely.

I got a few slaps from my mum though but only because I was kind of lazy and sometimes didn’t want to do housework. I heard stories of naughty kids in the neighbourhood. Some stole money from their parents and others disrespected elders or stayed out late—behaviour that warrants caning. In many schools, corporal punishment is ‘normal’, at least it was where I studied and we were caned for everything; from speaking vernacular to talking in class or missing prep. We hated it but it kept us in line.

So would I beat my kids? Honestly, I don’t know. I’d like to think I wouldn’t because I just hate seeing children cry but parenting is one of those things you can’t be so certain about. Until you have kids, you can’t know the challenges they present. So while I feel bad when a neighbour slaps her three-year-old for breaking another kid’s toy or doing anything deemed terrible, I’ve learnt not to be so judgmental about parenting styles.

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