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Beverly Godfrey: No use for abuse

"You're gonna get a whoopin' " sounds so much cuter than "I'm going to beat you," doesn't it? You could substitute any euphemism for "beating": spanking, paddling, lickin'. I see no difference. A lot has been said on the topic of child discipline...

Beverly Godfrey
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune columnist and copy editor. You can reach her at bgodfrey@duluthnews.com.

“You’re gonna get a whoopin’ ” sounds so much cuter than “I’m going to beat you,” doesn’t it?
You could substitute any euphemism for “beating”: spanking, paddling, lickin’. I see no difference.
A lot has been said on the topic of child discipline this past week. We’ve all heard by now what Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is accused of, what he admits to and how he said he feels about it.
I feel bad for him. I really do. I feel worse for his child, of course, the innocent victim of what I believe was a sincere attempt at discipline.
I’m encouraged by the ensuing debate. There still are a lot of people who think a child must be hit to grow up well, and maybe the debate will make them rethink things.
I encourage parents to research the topic. Doctors, psychologists, social workers, teachers and parents like me will all say you don’t have to hit children for them to learn respect and responsibility. Look up what Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff has written after 15 years studying corporal punishment as a professor at the University of Texas.
Can anyone honestly say the most successful people in the world were the ones whose parents hit them? Make a list of the virtues you’d like your child to have: honesty, kindness, integrity, empathy. These qualities are taught by example, love and conversation.
I believe spanking fosters bad behavior, such as:
* Lying, because not getting caught is better than being beat, which will happen if you tell the truth.
* Violence, because walking around feeling hurt and frustrated will make a kid lash out in anger.
* Apathy, because you feel like your good intentions make no difference.
* Depression, because the person who should be protecting you is the one who’s hurting you.
If you whip a 4-year-old with a branch because he pushed his brother off a video game (as Peterson reportedly did), where do you go from there? If the punishment should fit the crime, how can you punish that child worse for a worse offense?
Peterson’s son would have felt bad if his father had expressed his disapproval and told the boy he couldn’t play the game for the rest of the day. Tell him firmly, “We don’t push or hit each other in this family.” Make him sit by himself for a few minutes to stew in it, and then have him apologize to his brother.
Sentence served. You can get on with your day, happy as before. The event shouldn’t even have been a speed bump in the road - more like driving over a paper bag in the road - because 4-year-olds normally act like that. It’s just the way they are.
Discipline can be firm without being cruel. Set reasonable expectations, be consistent in enforcing the rules, and everyone can enjoy a happy and peaceful home.

Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune columnist and copy editor. You can reach her at bgodfrey@duluthnews.com .

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