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Fayette-Mom: Wading into the spanking debate

Posted September 15, 2014 8:59 p.m. EDT

Jennifer Joyner

— I’m not much of a sports fan, and I know next to nothing about pro football.

I’m quite confident that before last week, I never knew anything about Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson.

Now, because of a torrent of press and social media buzz, I know a whole lot (some facts, mixed in with lots and lots of opinion) about both men, and I find myself drawn into what is becoming a national debate:  What limits should there be (if any) when it comes to disciplining one’s child?

(For whatever reason, I don’t feel drawn into a debate about Ray Rice. Not sure there is much of a debate there. Ahem).

I am a product of the South, and in my upbringing in Durham in the 70’s and 80’s, I was quite familiar with a “switch." If I’m being honest, I saw them being used on my brothers a lot more than they were used on me, and if we’re having a debate about what is fair, I’m sure they would appreciate my pointing out the boys got it way worse than the girls. (Although I did have my share of spankings on the bottom with parent’s hands or belts).

I guess what I’m trying to say here …. I know of what Adrian Peterson, and his supporters, speak: They believe in these methods as useful tools in disciplining children, and that belief in and of itself does not mean they are heartless, child-abusing monsters. I can assure you, my parents were none of those things.

But.

I can’t ever recall a time in which a spanking or whopping or switching in our home broke the skin, or really even left a mark. Sore? Yes. Feelings hurt? Absolutely. Maybe even humiliated? Quite possibly.

But never bleeding, never a tear of sensitive skin, and I’m pretty sure, never a switch on a four-year-old.

So, I don‘t quite buy into the argument that “I got whoopings as a child and I turned out fine … what’s the big deal?”

First, I would bet that most of our spankings didn’t leave that kind of damage. Two, I can think of a lot of things my parents did back in the day about which we now know better (leaving kids in hot cars, smoking while pregnant, not restraining kids with car seats or seat belts …the list goes on). Here’s yet another example where we learn from the past and do better as we go forward.

I certainly don’t think how we parent should be decided by committee. Families have to make these kinds of decisions for themselves, and those decisions are not always going to align with those of your neighbors. That’s OK.

But, to ensure the safety of all children, the most precious and vulnerable members of our society, we must set limits on what should be considered discipline, and what crosses the line into abuse.

Now, I’m going to wait for our system of justice to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. (I firmly believe that is why it is in place, and I trust it to do its job).

And I’m going to pray that at the end of the day, what’s best for our children wins the game.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. She writes about motherhood and family-friendly events in Fayetteville here on Go Ask Mom.