Parental discipline lasts a lifetime

Published 9:23 am Monday, September 22, 2014

Another writer may have said it best this week: this is a case of the whoopin’ that took a beating.

It’s the Adrian Peterson-corporal punishment-of-his-son situation that I’m a little torn over: the latest in what’s becoming an all-too long line of domestic abuse misdeeds by NFL football players.

It’s also got me a little torn-up.

Part of me is on the side of Charles Barkley, the loquacious former NBA star and current TV analyst, who says “whippings” are something every black parent does to a child in the South. Well, Sir Charles, those “whippings” don’t have to be racial nor regional.

Yes, I got my share – and probably someone else’s – of whippings in my younger days.

Sometimes it was a switch off a bush, but in my eyes it was something the size of a California redwood.

Sometimes it was a thin leather belt, but in my eyes it was the size of a barber’s razor strap.

Sometimes it wasn’t “whippins”.  It was a spanking from a wooden paddle; it was sometimes even a hard open-palm slap across my face.

Did they leave welts? Yes, and sometimes it took more than a day for the pain to ease away.

Did I have to listen to what in that day were the standard clichés of punishment?  ‘Hurts me more than it hurts you’… ‘if you weren’t so hard-headed I wouldn’t have to do this’…‘you’ll thank me for this one day’….

Yes, and I believed none of it!

I even threatened at one time to go to Windsor and have myself declared a ward of the court, so I could be ‘legally’ protected from this ‘cruel’ punishment.

A few of you may be smiling at this recollection, and I suppose a few of you are repulsed by it; and I guess that’s where the tough part for me comes in.

Years later, I administered spankings to my own kids, and never thought twice about it.  In truth, these were more those slaps across the behind and a small – repeat, small – switch from something no wider in circumference than, say a sprig of grapevine.

As an adult I also bought into the idea that this was merely ‘tough love’ and that if I didn’t administer some worthy punishment then there would come a time in their lives when someone might dole out something much, much worse.

I can’t agree with ‘scientific’ evidence that says now that repeated spanking has long-lasting negative consequences, ranging from increased likelihood for psychiatric disorders to poor academic performance.

I don’t know what Peterson used on his sons other than what’s been reported (yes, turns out he punished not one, but both his boys this way); and because of that I can’t fairly say if I agree or not with the public flogging he’s undergoing now – to say nothing of the fact that he may lose his job, his livelihood: that chance to provide for those same kids.

I will stand on this, and I guess repeating what sounds to me like Peterson’s best defense so far when I say this: “The way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.”

I wasn’t water-boarded, no one locked me in a closet for long periods of time, and looking back: maybe those straps and switches weren’t so big after all.

I’m hardly perfect – now or ever – and I can’t say the day won’t come when I’ll have to face some tough moral choices and my morality compass will go a little haywire; but there is something about those “whoopins” that I’ll always take with me.

And I’m not just talking about scars on my behind.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7211.