Did Peterson’s “whooping” of son cross the line?

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OKLAHOMA - It's been fiercely debated for years.

Is spanking your child simply a form of discipline, or does it go too far?

Last week, former OU star, and current NFL star, Adrian Peterson came under fire after disciplining his four-year-old with a tree branch, or switch.

The Minnesota Vikings running back spanked his son in Spring, Texas in May after the boy pushed another one of Peterson's kids off a video game.

He was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child.

Peterson described the spanking as a "normal whooping."

Some of his fans on the OU campus agreed.

"I've been spanked with paddles and switches," one student said. "It's just a parent's decision, I think."

"That's how I always grew up and everything, but I guess that's abuse to today's time," another student said.

However, the pictures of the "whooping" revealed cuts and bruises to the child's back, buttocks, ankles, legs and hands.


"It depends on who's looking at it," criminal defense attorney Mark Bailey, of M.K. Bailey Law Offices, said, "because one person's switch is another person's limb."

Bailey says times have changed with regard to spanking.

"I would have assistant football coaches doing life in prison these days for the paddlings that we received," he said.

The injuries to Petersons' child, he says, will eventually decide if corporal punishment - the parent's right to discipline their child - crossed the line.

"The line looks different depending on who you talk to," Dr. Steven Sternlof, a family psychologist, said Monday.

Research indicates physical punishment of a child can lead to that child becoming aggressive themselves, Sternlof said.

Peterson told police that he was spanked like that as a child.

"This is how Mom and Dad solve their problems. If they're easily frustrated or uncertain about things and they're spanking me, this is how I should also solve my problems," Sternlof said.

Research also shows it's more effective to reinforce positive behavior, he added, than it is to spank a child.

Praise them for doing the right thing, Sternlof said, and take away video games or TV time if they misbehave.

Peterson apologized in a statement on Monday for "the hurt I have brought to my child" and said he will testify in court that he did not intend to harm his son - and is, "without a doubt, not a child abuser."


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