I come from a Latino household where physical punishment is common even though my parents tended to only use physical discipline as a final resort. Growing up, I would do my best to control my behavior because I was afraid of being punished with la chancla or el cinto, or a sandal and a belt. My parents would always warn me a few times before getting la chancla, and I would always calm down out of fear. Personally, I think physical punishment worked for me and never considered it to be abusive.
Awareness for child abuse has dramatically increased in the past weeks because of All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson’s recent indictment on the charge of reckless injury to a child.
Adrian Peterson was raised in a home where corporal punishment was the norm. He grew up thinking physical discipline was a correct way to control a child’s behavior. He claims that he didn’t mean to hurt his child the way he did, but he did need to discipline his child. Peterson could have reacted differently, and he acknowledges that.
Like Peterson, many parents continue to use corporal punishment to control their children’s behavior. Some parents use only their hands for discipline, and others use objects to discipline their child. However, there is a concern as to how far physical discipline should go. There are mixed opinions about the use of physical punishment, and the opinions are heavily influenced by the way someone is raised.
Children don’t like corporal punishment, but sometimes when they get older, they might not necessarily consider their punishment as abuse. There are different definitions of abuse based on culture and older perceptions of what abuse is.
Denise Sarno, a Long Beach mother of one, expresses that “back in the day parents could do anything to their kids and no one would care.” Now, parents realize that they can handle situations differently.
Sarno expressed that, “[parents] should take parenting classes because to be a teacher you have to take classes. The most important job is to be a parent, and education is needed.”
Parents also have different definitions of what abuse is. Sarno believes “child abuse is hitting your kid with a closed fist and hitting a kid with something other than an open hand like using spoons, broom handles and things of that sort.”
Teens might have also experienced physical discipline as children, and their experiences may influence what they do as parents. VoiceWaves asked youth in Long Beach: What do you think constitutes abuse and when does discipline cross the line to abuse?
“It depends on the situation. Coming from a Hispanic culture, physically disciplining a child is normal. For example, when a child that is being disrespectful to someone else and hitting the person or pulling their hair. If the mom has told the child several times, in an assertive tone of voice, that they need to stop and the child continues to do what they want, in my opinion that’s when the physical discipline is used. Children are children. They may get a bit annoying at times but when parents begin to beat the child for common child actions such as asking many questions or trying to play with their parents, that’s when it crosses the line. Physical discipline has to have a valid reason or situation in order to be used.” – Jocelyn Espitia, 17
“Well, there are different types. There’s physical, emotional, neglect, and sexual abuse. In most cases, it involves the lack of genuine care for a child. In other situations, its malnutrition, and the most severe abuse is the physical aspect because children have died as a result. Well, I believe that discipline goes to a certain extent. When a child is bleeding, bruising, or getting extreme scars from a parent’s ‘discipline,’ that’s too far.” – Harmony Kalolo, 17
“Child abuse is when a child is not being treated correctly in a physical, mental, or emotional way. It depends what the reason is. Most kids today don’t get enough discipline leading to the rude, disrespectful kids we see on the Internet today, but some get too much and causes them to have mental and emotional problems. When the child begins to show signs of fear at the sight of their parents or when the kid begins to have scars and bruises is when it should be considered abuse.” – Harold Caylao, 17
“I think that hurting a child physically, mentally, or emotionally in any way shape or form can constitute child abuse. If a child doesn’t feel safe at home due to abuse, that’s when it becomes a major issue regarding class behavior. I would consider [physical discipline] child abuse because although it can be viewed as ‘punishment,’ you’re still hurting the child. Because physical harm of a child is abuse in general in my opinion, so I do not believe that there is such a thing as ‘discipline’ if it is physical.” – Eddie Infante, 17
“I think that mistreating a child, to extreme levels, of physical or mental abuse, constitute child abuse. As long as a parent doesn’t cross the limit while disciplining their child, I think disciplining your child isn’t considered child abuse. When the child fears the abuser is when it crosses the line, and shows signs of abuse: bruises, marks, cuts, swelling, and pain, anything that discomforts the child. I think that [parents] do, what they were taught to do. Some are smarter about it, than others however.” – Jerry Hernandez, 17