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Opening Arguments

Crossing the lines

Pity the NFL. Stung by criticism of its fumbling of the Ray Rice controversy, it seems befuddled about how to handle accusations against Adrian Peterson:

Two days after announcing that running back Adrian Peterson could return to practice following his indictment last week on a felony child-abuse charge, the Minnesota Vikings reversed their decision.

The Vikings placed Peterson on the exempt/commissioner's permission list, preventing him from taking part in any team activities for an indefinite period, the team announced early Wednesday morning.

The Vikings previously announced that Peterson would remain with the team as he waited for the legal process to continue. After holding him out of Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, the Vikings reinstated Peterson on Monday.

The nationwide debate over revelations that he discliplined his son with a switch or a stick or a tree branch or whatever the hell it was seems to have settled into an all-or-nothing argument. Either corporal punishment is always wrong (kids who are hit don't learn whatever you're trying to teach them, they just learn about hitting, as this Slate article argues) or else the country has gone to hell in a handbasket since corporal punishment has been demonized and kids think they can get away with anything (the iseems to be the fallback position of talk radio callers).

But maybe there is a middle ground? Here is Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards, in an interview with WANE-TV

You talk with parents in our area and you’ll get tons of different views on how much is too much.  After talking with our county prosecutor, the bottom line is parents should never use excessive force or objects to punish their kids.

“People feel like you know physical punishment is illegal. Well, that’s not necessarily true,” (R) Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said.

From a legal standpoint, Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards says there are a lot of factors that go into drawing the line between punishment and abuse.  Things like age, physical and mental condition of the child as well as what they did wrong.

There are probably a few good rules to keep the punishment from crossing the line into abuse. Spank, don't hit. Use the hands, not "a foreign object." Never punish when you're angry.

I think I was punished physically twice growing up -- one spanking by my parents and one thwacking with a ruler on the back of the hand in school (in front of the whole class, which was worse than the actual phhysical act). I do not remember what my infractions were, but it is not true that I "learned no lesson" other than the hitting. I understood that I had crossed a line that I did not want to cross again.

I suppose if I had been punished more often, the punishments would have been less effective. Maybe that's another lesson. Punish seldom -- and make sure the kid knows exactly what line he has crossed.