There's a rather intense debate happening now, pegged off a compelling footnote in the Baltimore story: a viral video of Baltimore resident Toya Graham smacking her teenage son who was getting ready to participate in the riots occurring there. Frankly, both sides have excellent points, making this a difficult topic to cover. That said, what's being missed by those condemning Ms. Graham's actions and, by extension her defenders as well as any other parent who spanks their child, is that the applause for Ms. Graham's behavior isn't an endorsement of child abuse or violence. In that moment, with those stakes, and with the eyes of the world watching, yes, she was entirely justified in what she did.
“That's my only son and at the end of the day I don't want him to be a Freddie Gray," Graham told CBS News and she's damn right.
In the video, Ms. Graham smacks her son three times, tries to remove his hood and grabs him by the scruff of his neck to lead him away from the rest of the group. That's the extent of it. But listening some critics, you'd think she did a lot worse. (For a different perspective, read this excellent post by my friend Pat Perion, who's a child abuse investigator.)
Before we continue, I'll qualify my personal background with parenting. I raised a step-daughter from age three to age 18 with my ex-wife. I'm remarried now, and my step-daughter herself recently married a responsible, respectable husband. But many years ago, as a 6'4" 215 lb. parent of a diminutive child, I never doled out any spankings myself. Personally, I was uncomfortable with it, though I participated in other forms of parental discipline (I could be quite loud when necessary). In terms of spanking, though, I never thought it was quite fair for a large man to exercise corporal punishment on a small girl and, at the end of the day, I was self-aware of the potential to be seen as the Stereotypical Evil Step-Dad. But I never objected when my ex-wife gave her a well-timed spank on the butt -- a reaction that was always a last resort and never casual. The spankings were usually unexpected by our daughter during one of many typical childhood tantrums. Sometimes kids (most kids) do something so serious or behave in such an uncontrollable manner, the only solution is to shock the child back to reality.
Ms. Graham, in that moment... CONTINUE READING