As I was sitting down at my kitchen table to do some journaling and write my posts for this week, an article in my Twitter stream grabbed my attention. As I read it, a flurry of words rushed to my lips in response, and I knew I had to push aside my original post for today to share my thoughts on this. The article, which you can read here, articulates a lot of my feelings regarding the Creflo Dollar child abuse case. For those unaware, mega church pastor Creflo Dollar was arrested last week after an altercation with his 15 year old daughter. From all of the reports I've read, a few things appear to be consistent
- His daughter wanted to go to a party and Dollar said no
- An argument ensued and escalated
- A physical altercation took place; In his statement to police, Dollar claims he grabbed his daughter by the shoulders when she became disrespectful, wrestled her to the ground, and spanked her. Both the daughter involved in the altercation and his older, 19 year old daughter who witnessed the altercation claim Dollar grabbed, choked, and hit the 15 year old.
- The daughter who witnessed the fight initially gave contradicting stories to police, with her written statement differing from what she verbally told police. When confronted on the discrepancies, she rewrote her statement, saying that her parents being with her at the time caused her to give a statement corroborating Dollar's claims about the incident.
Now....there's a lot that bothers me about this, and let me start by making one thing perfectly clear: this is NOT a smear campaign against Creflo Dollar, I am not "hating" on him because of who he is, or attempting to vilify him in any way. I personally could care less about the man or what he preaches. I don't listen to his messages, buy his books, or ascribe to his particular brand of gospel. But what I DO care about is the fact that a grown man is justifying whatever his behavior was that night because his daughter was being "disrespectful."
This is where the article I read this afternoon comes in. (Again, you should read it here) It pretty much summed up what bothers me about this case: in Black Culture there is a prevailing and acceptable perspective that letting loose on your child when they disrespect you is ok, and that getting a back hand to the face or some other form of physical force is the same as disciplining your children.
In our culture, disrespect is just not tolerated. At all. No back talking, sass, attitude, lip smacking, none, zilch, nada. We're brought up in a culture that says if you even THINK about pursing your lips to say something out of line to your parents or an elder, you're catching a world of heat. And that heat will land anywhere from your behind to your face, depending on how close within reach you are to the one you've offended. Slaps & smacks to the face are common, as are spankings or "gettin beat," as we call them.
For me, growing up, I learned early on if I even looked like I had something negative to say, there would be hell to pay. My father was one of those people who took spanking to the extreme. He didn't just swat me on the behind when I told a lie or looked like I was rolling my eyes (which I never dreamed of doing I was so petrified of him) or didn't do something to his liking. He literally did whatever he could to beat the life out of me. And his punishments? Forget it. Textbook child abuser, that was my father.
But aside from being out of his mind, that's how my father was raised. He was raised getting beat for whatever he did wrong or for being disrespectful. He grew up "old school" as the older folk call it. He lived under that whole "spare the rod, spoil the child," mentality that older generations of (black) parents took as license to discipline their children however they saw fit, even if it meant excessive physical force.
Even when I moved in with my mother and step-father, I wasn't abused but spankings with a belt did happen as did a back hand or two if any disrespect was given or even perceived.
So it's no surprise that when I became a parent, I thought discipline equaled physical force...after all, that's what my background and culture had taught me. Brennan didn't really go through the Terrible Two phase, but when he did have a meltdown or tantrum, I spanked him. Not more than a swat on his behind but I spanked him nonetheless. I remember my parents telling me that I needed to "keep a firm hand" on him and make sure he knew I was the parent, and that there would be consequences for getting out of line...consequences that involved physical contact. I even remember being told to spank him if that's what was needed to get him potty trained.
So I did. I spanked him from time to time when he was acting up, but every time I did, I just didn't feel right. All it seemed to do was make him scared of me, which I hated. And it didn't seem to correct anything. So I had a very honest talk with myself and decide that while I wanted to establish healthy boundaries and rules for him to abide by, I didn't necessarily want to make physical contact a part of my discipline strategy. The same goes for Alex. As he's entered toddlerhood and is proving to give Terrible Two's a new meaning, both myself and his father have had to find creative ways to discipline him and not let him "rule" us without spanking him.
I regret spanking my children because I know that coming from my background it's just not a good idea. I'm adamantly against perpetuating the cycle of abuse in my family, and for me, that means I have to go against my cultural norm and choose to discipline my children in other ways. And while I'm finding that it doesn't work for me, I'm not judging those parents who feel it does. I'm not the one to question how you choose to discipline your child....
Until something like what happened with the Dollar family takes place. As I read numerous responses & comments from his supporters and those who claim you have to "do what you need to do to keep your kids in line," I can't help but wonder how healthy it is for parents and their children to think that physical force is an appropriate way to deal with someone who's disrespected you. And even if you do think spanking is appropriate, is it at 15? I don't know if he choked or punched his daughter as it's being claimed, but he openly admits that things "escalated" and that he wrestled her to the ground and spanked her. Is wrestling your children to the ground because they are upset you won't let them attend a party the best way to handle "disrespect?" Is that really teaching them how to respect anyone, especially those in authority?
Somewhere along the line, we've started to equate force with discipline and fostering respect. I think that too many of us as parents (especially black parents) forget that in order to get respect you have to give it, and that our children model what we do, whether or not we're willing to admit it.
How we treat our children impacts not only how they treat others, but how they will treat their children when they become parents as well...This incident with Mr. Dollar leaves me wondering how this will affect how his daughter treats her own son or daughter when faced with the difficult aspects of parenting.
I think it's time to start sending a different kind of message....do you?
You can read more about the alleged incident here, and listen to Mr. Dollar's statements regarding the case below...
- Creflo Dollar and When A Child-Whoopin Doesn't Work (clutchmagonline.com)
- Creflo Dollar Makes Statement on Arrest (theroot.com)
- Mega-church pastor Creflo Dollar says arrest unwarranted (bizjournals.com)
- Police report: Creflo Dollar choked daughter (thegrio.com)