Mac Engel

Peterson overdid it, but he’s no abuser

It is well documented that Adrian Peterson wants to be a Dallas Cowboy, and now it is well documented that the best running back in the NFL is labeled a child abuser because he smacked his 4-year-old son with a switch. Often enough and hard enough to leave cuts.

Late Monday afternoon, news from KHOU in Houston reported that AD has been investigated by Child Protective Services for smacking another 4-year-old son, by another mother, so hard that it broke the skin. This is what we call a dangerous pattern.

The Minnesota Vikings have decided that the Oklahoma alum from Palestine is not a child abuser, and that he is not going to be traded to the Cowboys or any other team.

One day after he was inactive for the Vikings’ game against the Patriots because of an indictment that he abused his son, the team reportedly is keeping Peterson and plans to play him Sunday. The team, however, had made no statement since the second allegation hit the Google machine.

What Peterson did strictly comes down to where you stand on corporal punishment, because there are a lot of good people who administered similar whuppins before, even breaking the skin, and generations who turned out fine after having received them.

What Peterson did could qualify as abuse, but that does not make him an abuser.

To label this man a child abuser is irrational and incorrect. In doing so, it would be an indirect indictment of millions of well-meaning moms and dads everywhere, past and present that accidentally cross the fuzzy line.

To label Peterson stupid feels more appropriate. He has at least five children with multiple women, and at a minimum is ignorant of his status as a visible public figure. Why was the second allegation leaked now? It doesn’t excuse what he did, but it feels a little like piling on.

What Peterson has done is push and cross the line, but we better be 100 percent sure before we brand him with a label that will never fade, even in death.

His mistake was failing to recognize when to stop disciplining his misbehaving son(s).

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Peterson’s defense is that he was basically doing the same thing his father did to him. And he credits that with making him a success as a football player.

In a statement Monday, Peterson said: “I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day.”

Corporal punishment is a four-letter word to a lot of people, but there are still a lot of good parents who practice it.

While my own house chooses not to use corporal punishment, I have no problem with those who do. It’s your kid, and you are guessing just like the rest of us.

And to all of those parents who are convinced Peterson is an abuser and tell yourself your way is the right way, don’t tempt fate. Keep your mouth shut. Do not delude yourself into believing that over-indulging your little Princess McPerfect does not have its own consequences, and no adorable pic on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram will change that.

There is no Parenting Playbook. It’s more like a Parenting Prayer that says, “Please, don’t let my kid be as stupid and screwed up as I am.”

What does exist is unconditional love and the devotion to the responsibility to raise your kid right, especially when that adorable little creature begins the inevitable process of screwing up, thus aging their parents exponentially in a matter of days.

Kids are just as wrong today as they have been in every single previous generation. The biggest difference isn’t the kid but the parent.

This isn’t to say what Peterson did was right, but it’s certainly not an indictment on the parents who use a firm spanking as a means to say, “Listen, when I said no, I meant no.”

Sometimes a kid earns it. Part of our job is to tell that kid how to act, and being a strict disciplinarian is not the sign of a cruel parent.

Author Amy Chua, who wrote the controversial bestselling book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was both crucified and celebrated for her Chinese parenting methods that, while not violent, some perceived as abusive. By American standards, this woman was ruthless to her two daughters, both of whom were reportedly accepted into Ivy League schools. Personally, I wonder if she would have written this memoir had her daughters attended UConn or some other state school.

There is a point near the end of this book where Chua admitted that as much as she pushed, there was a line with her youngest daughter. Not everybody’s line is the same. She admitted that the same methods she practiced caused her own father to seldom ever talk to his parents.

From the looks of those photographs of Peterson’s kid, dad crossed the line. Now it’s on him to recognize he can’t go over it again.

As moms and dads, we often forget our own strength compared to a little kid. If you believe in grabbing a switch, a paddle or using an open hand, it doesn’t take that much to make your point on a little one.

The older they get, however  …  sometimes it’s a wonder my parents didn’t take a Louisville Slugger to me, or any of my older brothers.

Monday, we learned we won’t be calling Adrian Peterson a Dallas Cowboy anytime soon.

While we’re at it, we should hold off on calling him a child abuser, too.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/

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