By Fred Goodall
While my teenage daughter and I were working on our Fantasy Football teams, news about Adrian Peterson’s indictment for spanking his son with a switch scrolled across the screen.
My daughter had watched Peterson rack up points last season in our Fantasy Football league, and she looked confused as she read the news.
“What’s a switch?” she asked.
I was glad that she knew nothing about switches.
When I told her and explained Peterson’s situation, she was horrified.
“Why would a parent do that to his child?” she asked.
That wasn’t an easy question to answer. While I don’t condone spanking with a switch, I understand how people’s upbringing and socialization can make them believe it’s an acceptable form of discipline. As I explained this to my daughter, memories of my childhood flooded my mind.
When I was young, people didn’t think twice about spanking children. It was an accepted form of punishment that few people questioned. I was paddled in school more times than I care to remember.
Although people used various items to spank their children—belts, shoes, paddles, extension cords—kids feared the switch the most. I always dreaded hearing the words, “Go get me a switch” —a request that could have come from a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or trusted neighbor. This added psychological level made the punishment even worse. Picking out my own switch seemed absurd. The person who spanked me with the switch should choose it.
I’d choose a brittle branch that had been lying on the ground for a while. I knew that these types of branches caused little harm. However, a branch breaking during the spanking only made things worse for me.
“Go bring me a decent switch or else.”
These ominous words sent me back outside to find something more acceptable. I knew exactly what type of switch they were looking for: supple and firm enough to make a slicing sound as it whipped through air.
If you’ve never been hit with a switch, consider yourself lucky. It feels like dozens of bees are stinging you at once. The switch will also leaves marks on your body, sometimes even cutting deep into the skin.
My mother, and other relatives, spanked me with a switch without question. I don’t harbor any ill feelings toward them because I know they never intended to do any permanent damage. They were simply disciplining their children in the way their parents had disciplined them. However, I realized that I had the power to end this cycle. Nobody deserves to be spanked with a switch; I can’t fathom hitting my children with a small tree branch. It does more damage than good, and there are much more effective discipline methods.
I shared my background and thoughts with my daughter, and it left her flabbergasted.
“Wow!” she said. “That’s terrible. I feel sorry for you.”
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” I said. “Those things are in the past. I’ve learned from them, and the lessons have helped me to be a better father for you.”
You may know Fred Goodall as Mocha Dad, thanks to his popular blog, MochaDad.com.